answers, assumptions, balance, being a teacher, twitter

Is Twitter a Cop Out?

I am a Twitter fanatic, if you ask anyone, in particular my husband, they will tell you how often I quote something that I learned abut from this social media or how this or that idea came from there. Twitter has enriched my life in ways that I would never imagined when I first signed on a few years ago. In fact, Twitter has radically changed the way I teach and the way I think. Not bad for 140 characters.

As I get more involved with Twitter and the people that I connect with though, I am starting to wonder whether Twitter to me has become the ultimate cop out? By reaching out through the internet, limiting myself mostly to blog posts (which are pretty one-sided) and 140 character tweets, am I shutting off real face-to-face collaboration? You see Twitter doesn’t talk back all that much or go to the teacher’s lounge and roll its eyes. Twitter doesn’t go to your principal laughing at the new hare-brained idea that was just presented. In short, Twitter doesn’t make me take a risk. If I offer up an idea I seldom get negative feedback, instead some people take the time to praise it and often comment. I do the same for others, in fact, I hardly ever discuss something in negative terms unless everyone else is. So Twitter becomes the ultimate safety net where we are not forced out of our comfort zones but instead selectively choose who we care to share with and listen to. But I wonder whether that is “real life?” Or does it even need to be?

It struck me today as I read one of my student’s blog posts about what was missing in 4th grade. Her comment was that she wished we did more with the other 4th grade classes. And she is so right; that is missing from this year. And not because we don’t want to, the initiative just never gets taken. Instead we create global connections which have been incredible parts of our school year, yet perhaps we forgot about our local connection in the bigger picture. bAnd yet it is those local connections that radically determine our day, it is those local connections that see all our flaws and strengths, that see us grow without a lens. Those people that can have the most profound effect on us.

At school when I have an idea I have to find people willing to participate in it, someone whom I trust enough to listen to me and who will then weigh their options. I have to make my case and put myself out there for possible rejection, and it hurts when something gets shot down. Yet it is through these awkward moments of self-selling that we become bigger people and a tighter knit school community. Let’s face it, it takes real courage to speak up at a staff meeting surrounded by your everyday peers. Does it take courage to speak up on Twitter?

So I guess I leave you with this question; has Twitter strengthened your local relationships as well or has it made it easier for you to forget about them? Are we all, in fact, just hiding behind our computers waiting for someone like-minded to come and find us? I am not sure anymore.

11 thoughts on “Is Twitter a Cop Out?”

  1. I would say that Twitter has done some to increase conversation in my own school. When I find something tweeted by someone else that might interest a teacher in my building, I send them a link. We almost always end up having a conversation about the link I sent. Sometimes we debate the value of it, sometimes we think about if it is something to use in our own work, sometimes we just agree or disagree about the link. But almost always we talk about it. I feel that Twitter has been some of the best PD I have done in a long time. Thanks for making me think about it. -Milena

  2. It is nice to be able to bounce ideas and gain information from great teachers. If you only hear ideas from your school you are missing out on so much! Maybe they don't all work out in the real world, but it gets me thinking. Then when I get excited about it there is a great chance I can get those at my school, or at least my class, excited about it as well.

  3. I think one of the best things about Twitter is that you are surrounding yourself (speaking in general terms, not about you) with like-minded, similarly motivated people (no matter what field or purpose). Of course, the downside of that is, as you said, everything is sunshine and rainbows and people are very hesitant to criticize within the PLN. At our own schools, many of us are met with such negativity that the connection possibilities aren't nearly the same as they are online.I never did think about whether anything I did for my kids online was at the expense of things in school. I guess it's important to find a balance.

  4. Blogging and Twitter have had the same effect on me as you're describing. The people in 'real life' who form my in-school PLN are the ones who have learned and grown in the same way that I have, through connecting with educators globally via social media. Sometimes at school I feel as if I am talking a different language and not only are there a few nay-sayers who roll their eyes, there are a few who suggest that those of us who are learning so much in this way actually have no life! But on the other hand, I have also gained a great deal of respect from my peers through what I can bring to them now. I agree with Milena about conversations which I have been able to start. I am gradually facilitating change across a variety of areas and I know that interacting with people in the global education community has given me the support and confidence to move forward in this way. And I don't always agree with everything I hear out there… It's just as beneficial to read and to engage with people who have different perspectives than mine! So in summary: Nice post which made me think, but not roll my eyes… even though I don't agree with everything you say 🙂

  5. I would have to agree that Twitter has changed my life and professional development ways i would not have thought possible two years ago. I am lucky enough to work with a few other teachers who also see the benefits of Twitter and we often share our ideas and inspiration. It has though also allowed me to connect in real time with other like-minded educators. Tomorrow I will hold the first ever Sydney TeachMeet with nearly 50 primary school teachers registered to come it promises to bean exciting day of putting Twitter names to faces and learning together.

  6. Interesting post. As others have said before me, i have learned so much more via twitter than I have from many professional development workshops/conferences. I agree that we are conversing, in the main, with like-minded people, but I think the "conversations" we have often give us something stimulating to take back to our workplaces. I have managed to convince a fair few people that blogging is a good idea, but I have yet to convince anyone at my school that twitter is worth a go. Yet, many of the tools and ideas that I share with them have come from twitter.I agree with Edna that some readings on blogs or twitter challenge my thinking, even if I don't agree with them. I suppose the difference is if people don't agree with you you don't necessarily know about it 🙂

  7. Hello everyone and thank you so much for all of your thoughtful comments Once again this post is me thinking outloud, which really most of this blog is. I am mostly excited about all the people who have found that magical balance between global and local connections, that is what it is truly all about it. This post is not to vilify Twitter, I love it too much, but rather wonder whether some people get so stuck on turning to their online PLN that they forget about the human one right down the hallway?I agree with so many points, particularly about how what I learn from Twitter ends up benefitting more than just me when I bring those ideas back to my school.

  8. I'm a newcomer to twitter – having participated for only the past two and a half months. While I signed on for access to professional learning and reading, I have been impressed by the unstated core values I find present on twitter – openness to new ideas, positivity, humility, and respect. I hope to find effective ways to relay these core values to my students as I teach digital citizenship and to my faculty as I facilitate the development of a collaborative professional learning community. To my own delight and surprise, I am finding twitter not only to be a source of information but a reminder of the quality of interaction that must be consistently cultivated among those with whom we interact in our own communities.

  9. Pernille,Thank you for the great post. I personally have found Twitter to be great at increasing the amount I speak with my colleagues about educationally related topics. Twitter provides the ideas that fuel conversations with my colleagues down the hall, and because of my PD involvement I am able to gather a large audience when sharing ideas.Several of the main sessions we offered during our PD days originated from ideas discovered on Twitter, thus giving my building colleagues a diverse set of information from which to work.I think at times I am guilty of checking with my PLN first, but that is mainly because I know what my colleagues will say even before asking. Twitter provides a much broader audience from which to learn.Great post!

  10. Pernille, I found your blog post after it was retweeted by somebody I follow. I immediately read it because I share the same concerns. I came to Twitter a couple of weeks ago full of skepticism, but am already enjoying the connections with like-minded people. I'm finding much more substance there than I've found in any other new media technology.Your concerns are valid. I agree with you that we are after balance. We need a sound media ecology, as proposed by McLuhan and Postman. Your blog post reminded me of an article published in the New Atlantis in 2008 entitled "The Myth of Multitasking." Check it out. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/the-myth-of-multitaskingIn the article, Christine Rosen tells of a 24-year-old woman who admitted in a New York Times essay that she regularly passes up human contact for the "more reliable high of smiles on MySpace, winks on Match.com, and pokes on Facebook". Rosen comments:"That she finds these online relationships more reliable is telling: it shows a desire to avoid the vulnerability and uncertainty that true friendship entails. Real intimacy requires risk—the risk of disapproval, of heartache, of being thought a fool. Social networking websites may make relationships more reliable, but whether those relationships can be humanly satisfying remains to be seen."

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