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Twitter will ruin my life, or make it awesome, or, some sort of happy medium. I’m hoping for a happy medium.

What is twitter?

The way I explain twitter to the students is like this:

You know the ‘What am I doing right now’ on facebook?

Yeah…

Twitter is like that, but better. Facebook is dead by the way, it’s all about twitter now.

Last year you said MySpace was dead and it’s all about Facebook now?

And I was right, you have to move with the times kids!

But rather tragically the students can’t access twitter at school yet (YET!).

To people who don’t know what the what are you doing right now box on facebook is, or indeed what facebook is (I hate facebook) a better explanation is:

Twitter is a social networking tool that asks the question; What are you doing? and you answer in no more than 140 characters

140 characters may not seem like a lot, but it’s perfect, in fact according to Stephen Fry – Twitter Guru:

I love how Twitter confirms my all too often assaulted belief that most humans are kind, curious, knowledgeable, tolerant and funny. The absurd constraints of the 140 character tweet seem oddly to bring out the best in wit, insight and observation.

The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry

You update what you are doing right now, whether it’s making a cup of tea or perfecting the personal learning network, as long as you can cram it into 140 characters you can tweet about it. People can follow your tweets if you are interesting enough, and if you find anyone else interesting, you can follow theirs. It’s all very simple. Really!

Why teaching and twitter?

If there’s anything I would love for my students to be able to do it is work well collaboratively. It’s horrible hard work getting some of them wanting to be involved, and getting some of them to let go of all control and ego. It’s the same for teachers. At about 70% of the CPD events I’ve been to I find myself texting under the desk in the middle of some awful powerpoint presentation that Hell Is Other Teachers.

Which isn’t fair, but it sometimes seems like teachers don’t want to let go of what they have and *gasp* share! Or, they desperately want everyone to know how brilliant they are compared to everyone else. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m entirely exempt from this either. It seems to be a teacher flaw. Twitter seems to be able to cut through most of that, 140 characters leaves little room for ego, and a dedicated following makes you more inclined to share. I sometimes get the weird social outsider feelings on twitter, but I think that’s more to do with my own paranoia than anything.

I mostly follow teachers, science types, my housemates and Stephen Fry. I’m building up my follow list very slowly indeed because I don’t want to be overwhelmed by material. But so far, I’m getting a lot from the teachers.

There’s hundreds of excellent teachers out there who all want to learn to do this better, who are engaging in web 2.0 and a whole host of other whizzy shiny things, who want to use it effectively, not just for the sake of having a new shiny toy to show off, and who are a great wealth of help for the sorts of problems teachers come up against all the time.

Twitter is an ideas generator, a sounding board, and agony aunt and quite frequently a bit of fun. For teachers, I think twitter is a fabulous way of working with teachers you might never meet, who can refine your ideas and get the same back. It’s proving to be true e-collaboration.

Twitter for students?

If you are lucky enough to have twitter unblocked at your school (and I envy you) then there’s plenty of scope for things you can do with twitter in your classroom. Very simply I’d love my students to be able to follow Charles Darwin:

Darwin: Explorer and Scientist and Dude.

Darwin: Explorer and Scientist and Dude.

On a larger scale with a little imagination the possibilities for twitter are endless or nineteen at least.

How do I use twitter?

That’s up to you, there’s a massive number of twitter applications around at the moment. At school on my mac I use tweetdeck but for some reason this doesn’t work on the computer when I bring it home. I used to use Twhirl but tweetdeck has much more functionality, I can stream searches based on locations or subjects, I can monitor twitter trends to see what is current (a lot faster than waiting for the news to come on) I can group people I’m following and separate out direct messages. Tweetdeck is useful. There’s a billion (it seems) different applications for location, statistics, to help you find people to follow, to monitor who follows you, to tweet from anywhere, to upload photo’s to shorten url’s, to tweet from your phone if you like. Rather than list them here I’ll direct you to the twitter fan wiki which can tell you far more far better than I.

So I twitter, I’m a little addicted, but am finding it extremely helpful at the moment and hope it’ll become even more so as I figure out new ways to use it. Do you twitter?

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