Twitter Trials: What Are Its Challenges to Learning?

September 27th, 2012 No Comments Other

Twitter mobile

An article posted on September 10th by Academic Earth took a closer look at the role Twitter plays in education trends, initiatives, and information.

While many people find themselves lost in a sea of tweets (according to Twitter, over 400 million messages are sent out each day), the powerhouse digital blue bird can offer people a way to connect with other educational trendsetters. The key is to know how to navigate the application’s hashtag feature, which makes topical information easier to find.

So does Twitter really give educators the ability to access new ideas? Let’s take a closer look.

The importance of real-time information

Twitter has keyed into the secret of “real-time”. With its strict 140-character limit per tweet, people can easily scroll through pages of tweets all posted within the last hour.

For example, news companies and other press outlets know that Twitter carries some of the most up-to-date breaking information from the people on the scene of a disaster, and has fought to keep up with its popularity and edge on “breaking” news. So how does real-time information help educators and students?

There is nothing worse than searching on the Internet for an answer to a question that turns up pages and pages of outdated information. With technology playing an ever-increasing role in the classroom, teachers and students want the latest and greatest ways to study, learn, and teach. People want to hear from those on the front lines, doing the work today.

As an example, AcademicEarth wrote about the #gtchat on Twitter, an online discussion centered specifically on gifted children. Parents, bloggers, educators, and psychologists contributed to the discussion with ideas to help those students who show outstanding academic potential.

Where else can a mother homeschooling her child, weigh in with psychologists and teachers about the best curriculum or homework habits?

Understanding the Twitter language

Of course, this valuable information is not always apparent to the casual Twitter user. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter moves at lightning speed. Someone scrolling through a Facebook newsfeed can get the day’s events in about 15 minutes. To scroll through a day’s worth of Twitter feed could take a person hours!

In order to get at the information someone is looking for, there are a few rules to follow.

  • Twitter doesn’t assume that people follow “friends”, but rather a person follows their interests. Teachers looking to use Twitter for educational purposes, should stick to following websites, companies, bloggers, and writers that focus on education.
  • Understand the hash tag. With a bit of searching, a teacher can find hashtags that educators use when discussing new trends or initiatives. By placing these hashtags in their own tweet, they join the conversation of users that are participating. It also gives a user the ability to see what people are saying, even if they do not follow that particular person.
  • Pay attention to the scheduled conversations. Big-time Twitter users will announce a point in time in which an online discussion with a particular hashtag will take place. Following the Twitter feed during that time ensures the person will get the information they are looking for.

The benefit of collaboration

Twitter’s #Teaching2030 chat, as outlined in the article, boasted a robust amount of challenging and innovative Tweets for those in education. The ability to connect with others around the world is an exciting opportunity for new and creative models for learning. Imagine the possibility of a world where a teacher in Australia can impact an inner city schoolteacher in Detroit Michigan.

It would have been almost impossible just ten years ago.

Social media must be managed

As with any real-time platform, the chance for wasted time increases dramatically if the individual isn’t equipped with the proper tools for navigating the system. Twitter can be a chaotic noisy list of random information if the users don’t take the time to learn how to use it. For those that can tap into Twitter’s language, the possibilities are endless.

Students, teachers, parents, professionals, and business people can leverage the power of that little number sign, and participate in some of the most exciting and ground-breaking brainstorm sessions available online.

Will Twitter’s influence on society continue to advance the world of online learning?

Image by Steve Garfield


Julie DeNeen has her bachelor's degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of New Haven. She spent several years working for a local Connecticut school at the district level, implementing new technologies to help students and teachers in the classroom. She also taught workshops to teachers about the importance of digital student management software, designed to keep students, parents, and teachers connected to the learning process.

You can find out more about her @jdeneen4 and Google+.

Leave a Reply