Twitter as a Learning Tool?

I reacted like most people when the subject of entering the Twitter-sphere came up. Why do I need to know what Paris Hilton had for breakfast or what that little Bieber kid has done now? Yuck! However, I was told repeatedly that my work depended on it; I would have to get involved, really involved. So, I plugged my nose and dove in.

I started by following people and organizations who seemed relevant to my Daveland interest: learning disabilities and education reform. I received daily postings from major education organizations and related thinkers. From these thought centers I began to see a pattern of conversation: mostly about the integration, access, and use of technology in and around the classroom. (And I still find that this trend increases and evolves each day.) All good useful stuff I thought, even though I still didn’t see its true power.

However, I quickly found myself distracted (one of the downsides of an LD person doing anything on the net) with the feeds from political satirists, economists, organizational change agents, and environmental scientists. Most of these people posted regularly, often providing links to articles they were writing or that merely caught their attention. I spent hours sifting through their recommendations and I realized something: How powerful is the tool that can push what’s on the mind of the top thinkers in any given subject on any given day? Whatever your interest or specialty, there are thought leaders daily opening up their mind for the taking, and these nuggets are pushed to our inboxes. Wow! It’s like having an expert seminar every day on your laptop. I also learned through tragedy there’s a timeliness to Twitter. Six days before the mainstream media reported the details around the Fukushima Daiichi electrical plant disaster in Japan, I received retweets passed on from direct sources at or near the plant in real time.

If I were to go back to the college classroom today I would require each student to create a Twitter account dedicated to our field of study. It would be like having the best possible guest experts in our collective pocket helping us learn. More importantly, it would help students learn how to use technology in a powerfully productive way.

As teachers embrace a changing role as technological guides and mentors rather than merely knowledge dispensers, finding productive uses for things like Twitter are essential. This is especially true for those helpers of the LD person who may be enthralled with all the activity of a Twitter account but blinded by its enormity. I could easily see a Twitter virgin pulled into the rabbit hole never to return.

So, do you have any great uses for Twitter that you would like to share?


About marty castleberg

I grew up on a farm along the banks of the Upper Mississippi River in Wisconsin. I overcame my school experience to earn a PhD in Organizational Learning at The Union Institute and University. I developed curriculum for adults and taught at a small liberal arts college. Consulting and research in organizational learning with a group that started at MIT segued into ten years of field research at Harley-Davidson, where I was their Learning Historian/Reflective Analyst. I left consulting to learn the craft of writing that went beyond academic studies, organizational narratives, and the occasional essay. I thought the result would be humorous travelogues and essays, but what eventually emerged was much different. With all the theoretical understanding that I amassed about living with LD, I still didn’t understand; that’s why Dave showed up. If you don’t count my eight guitars and four bikes, I live a very simple life in San Francisco.
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