Twitter is a Tool not a Panacea

Who on earth would research TWITTER?

Just read an article over on Education and Tech entitled There is Not Research About Twitter ( a response to EdWeeks Article about Twitter in the Classroom.)

“There is not research but as more and more teachers start using Twitter in a variety of classroom projects, it seems the practice will be the only empirical foundation to let children get away with their multitasking and huge capacity to use social media tools like Twitter.”

I don't know where Milton has his facts about teachers using twitter in a lot of classroom projects, but I don't see it.  I see teachers using it to connect and create projects – USUALLY it is the teacher tweeting something out to get a response. I see a very very small few teachers like me using Twitter to allow their students to connect to experts in their field and each other as well as to understand online leadership and Web 2.0 networking. (I am the exception except for the profs doing this at the college level.) But as for wide uses of Twitter in the classroom – where is it?  We connect each other but is it in the lesson plans… I don't think so.  The stereotyping of students here and that somehow “letting students get away with multitasking” I find insulting to the teachers I know who use Web 2 in the classroom.  It is so not about “letting them get away” with something but more about getting learning into their brains.

Here is my response. 

Just one thought here.  To me, yes, there is something to be said ABOUT The tools but to point to the tool itself as needing research, to me is quite missing the point.

It is HOW the tool is used.  For example, a hammer is quite useful and essential for building a house but if I use it to hammer in all of the screws the house will fall down. 

Just as blogs and wikis are being seen as tools that can be used, the question here is NOT about twitter but the underlying technology of microblogging.  If you look at Edmodo and Youth Voices and how they are using microblogging, it is quite useful. 

Using ticket to leave in the classroom is one of the best researched tools out there (asking students to answer a critical question before leaving class.)  If this practice is done on paper or tweeted should be irrelevant – it is the practice that counts.

Twitter is certainly NOT appropriate in many cases but it DOES, however, network the teachers to help us put together projects and things in the classroom for the students.  There are cases  where it CAN be used with some older students but really, an Edmodo or other microblogging site like Plurk may be better suited in some instances.

This is SOOOO not about Twitter and it shouldn't be.  When researchers researched search engines did it focus around Google or around search engines?

Microblogging is the underlying trend and if it is something to be used in the classroom, the appropriate site should be selected based upon the PURPOSE of what they are doing, the local legal and school policies for safety and the specific objective of what they are trying to teach.

Twitter is 140 characters for goodness sakes it is good for something but certainly is only a small subset of what we use the Internet for.

I had a really good teacher one time who I recall saying.  “I will do whatever it takes to teach, even if it includes dancing on my desk.”  If it makes sense to me and it is a tool I can use, I'm going to use it and I hope that researchers are wise enough not to get trapped into thinking a company IS a technology it represents.

Google has rocked,but now a third of my students prefer Bing.  Second Life was cool but now OpenSim and ReactionGrid are where we have gone.

It is about how we  use the tools!  I'd like to pull out a quote that I left on the article from edweek where a commenter had said that the world “is becoming STUPID” about the fact that anyone would use Twitter in the classroom for anything.

“I use twitter for my classes all of the time and my students even use twitter. It is very useful. For example, if they are reading an author who is living, they can follow the author and ask questions and even get a response. Or, when we are using Reactiongrid and we have a question, the students can tweet the founders directly. Like anything it can have good or bad uses – distractions and also positives.

Twitter like all of these other items is just a conduit and certainly as we know about conduits they pretty much are a channel for whatever the humans put into them – whether a piece of PVC pipe carries the chocolate in a chocolate fountain or raw sewage – it isn't about the pipe but about how the pipe is USED. It is the same thing with Twitter, Facebook or any other tool: it is all in the use.

Some people, like James here, think it is dumb to use Twitter in this way – well he just uses his conduit differently but truly there are as many uses for twitter as there are for the telephone!”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Gwinnett County private schools October 31, 2009 - 2:10 pm


I’m still discovering benefits of Twitter, both in business, general networking, and info gathering. I can see how the latter could benefit the learning experience. I could also see opportunities for middle schoolers and up to follow approved Tweeters to develop an understanding of actual industries and businesses. Thanks for the great info.

David Hamburgh November 11, 2009 - 12:46 pm

Totally agree with this, there are many collaborative tools available avis the Web. Take a look at for example Zazew at which is a closely woven collaborative tool for the development of authored projects involving one or more authors where writers are able to reach out to other writers for contribution and peer groups for comment and feedback,. The final project when ready can be turned into a portable PDF for download and the site if totally free to use

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