Why I Love Twitter!

I recently was asked what my favourite Web 2.0 application was.   It did not take me a lot of time to share an answer.  The Web 2.0 application that I find myself going to each and every day is Twitter.  Twitter is at the heart of my Personal Learning Network … and here is why:

First and foremost, I have learned that Twitter is really all about building relationships. In the context of these relationships, I have learned that there are people who have expressed an interest in me and what I am involved in – what I am doing, what I am learning, my ideas, and my questions.   Twitter provides me with a simple forum to share with them.

Twitter has also allowed me to strengthen my connections with peers that I might only see a few times a year (such as conferences).  In the years BT (before Twitter), there were a handful of colleagues who I would only see a few times a year.  Unless circumstances allowed, there was very little chance for me to get to know these people beyond the professional level.  Twitter has provided the opportunity to grow our professional and social relationship ….  despite the limit of 140 characters.

As my relationships with peers have grown stronger through Twitter, my experience at the various events, meetings, conferences has also become richer.  Each meeting has also become an opportunity to meet with some of my fellow tweeps face to face.  These meetings have served to increase the overall value of the event itself.

Twitter allows me to participate (virtually) at many meetings, conferences and events that I am not able to physically attend. Like many people, my schedule does not allow me to attend each and every professional development opportunity in person.  However, I can count on those who do attend to tweet the ideas, questions and discussions using an appropriate ‘hashtag’.  When I am able to, I can search for the hashtag and catch the hi-lights.  There are even times when the backchannel has more to teach me than the actual sessions.

Twitter allows me connect with a much larger circle of educators – many of whom I would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.  Through Twitter I have had the opportunity to meet and share with educators from around the world.  We are joined by our common interests and are connected through Twitter.

Twitter allows me learn from all of the people in my learning network as they share what they are learning – news, ideas, questions, comments, reflections on blog entries.  The people I follow on Twitter are people who are asking the same questions I am.  They are sharing the answers they are finding.  I find it a privilege to read their tweets and learn from them.

Twitter extends my connections around the world and is available to me 24/7 so I can grow as a learner on my time when I am available.  I do not recommend that a person spend all of their time on Twitter.  I visit the Twitter stream when  I am able.  It does not matter when that it is.  The Twitter stream runs continuously.

Twitter allows me to filter (and focus) my learning through features such as saved searches and lists.  I agree that there is so much on Twitter and it could be overwhelming.  I also agree that a great deal of information (celebs etc) could be trivial.   However, using some simple filtering techniques, I am able to become selective with the tweets that I  am reviewing.

While I am not personally in the classroom, I have also heard of a number of teachers who are using Twitter as a tool for learning in their classrooms. I would love to hear (so I can share with others) how some are using Twitter in the classroom.

Twitter is incredibly simple to use. But I have found it to be a very powerful tool for learning.

FTW … Harry (aka  @harryniezen )

Moving Forward …

Last night I realized that I am in the midst of another FTW experience.  Normally, a biker  does not feel any wind on his/her face unless they are moving forward.   Professionally, I ‘felt the wind’ while I was privileged to be a part of a dinner meeting.  I expect to feel even more wind today when a number of us will be spending a full day learning together.

Before I can explain this metaphor, I need to provide a little background information:  Within our Board, I am one of a 3 person leadership team for a an initiative called the Futures Forum Project (FFP).  This is a system supported project that involves teachers and administrators from 7 different secondary schools.  The focus is to develop and implement a inquiry focused, technology rich course that fulfills the expectations for 3 secondary school courses – Gr 10 English, Gr 10 Career Studies and Gr 10 Civics.  The actual course will be offered in the seven schools starting second semester (This project will certainly be the topic of a number of future blog posts).

To prepare everyone involved in the project, our Board is participating in the Powerful Learning Practice (aka PLP).  Assisting us will be Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach.   It was during dinner with Will and Sheryl and the other key leaders in the FFP that I really began to feel the wind.

Our conversation covered many topics but one that will not leave me was the discussion on blogging.  I was intrigued by the comparisons and contrasts between blogging and twitter.

“Twitter is only scratching the surface”.

“You cannot meaningfully express yourself in 140 characters or less”.

“Blogging requires going far deeper”

I was challenged by Sheryl to go beyond simply using Twitter.  Not that I will leave Twitter behind.  I really appreciate the learning and networking that I benefit from as a member of the Twitterati.

However, to help me grow (and to help those who may take the time to read this blog), I was challenged to take more time to reflect – both professionally and personally – on my ongoing learning and on the work I am involved with.

The road ahead will likely have a lot of twists and turns (always a good thing for a biker).  Time for another great ride.  I do love to feel the wind in my face.

FTW, Harry