More Than What You Had for Lunch: Defending Twitter as an Educational Tool

24 Sep

When Twitter entered the realm of popular culture I had a hard time imagining myself ever joining this movement. The entire concept seemed to only display the evolving narcissistic nature of our society where everyone seems to think they need to broadcast every mundane detail of their hapless lives. Really, what type of megalomaniac thinks anyone would care about this or this?

By the time I read Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter testimonial in Time Magazine I had enough. He likened the creators of Twitter, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, to Samuel Morse, Alexander Graham Bell, and Bill Gates, among others, for inventing “a stage for humanity and connection.” I decided Twitter was merely a fad and would go the way of the parachute pants and neon ball caps I wore in the early 90’s. There was no way Kelso from That 70’s Show could possibly know what he was talking about.

Turns out I had plenty to learn from Kutcher.

I’m supposed to listen to THIS guy??

My Adventures in Tweeting

I finally broke down and set up a twitter account after plenty of prodding from my girlfriend. She is undoubtedly smarter than me, so it usually benefits me to consider her advice. However, I still assumed I would try it long enough to appease her before stuffing it into a dark corner of my cyber garage. Then something funny happened. Twitter suddenly became useful.

How Twitter Won Me Over

I was about to enter my first semester of grad school and I decided to follow some of my professors. I figured I could pick their brain from a far to get a feel for what I would be dealing with once the semester started. Then I went through my syllabi and followed the guest speakers that were slated to come speak in my classes. After that I followed the authors of my textbooks.

The results of this were astounding. The people I was following were constantly posting invaluable information for someone in my field. They would post countless thought-provoking articles that they deemed essential reading. Any time one of these thought-leaders read something useful, they would tweet the link which would then show up instantaneously on my twitter feed. Every day I went to my twitter account to find my new required readings. Because of this I was able to transform from someone who was doubting my abilities to succeed in grad school, to leading class discussions because of the wealth of knowledge I picked up in a short time thanks to twitter.

How Can We Learn From Twitter?

The concept of using twitter as an educational tool is simple. Whatever your field, follow the thought leaders. Gain an understanding of their way of thinking. Study their actions. Read what they read. Any school-aged person is going to be heavily involved with social media. Why don’t schools just teach them how to use it as an educational tool? Everyone has interests and passions. Even if it’s a fifteen-year-old that is only interested in watching TV and playing video games, they can connect with people who made a career in those industries. They can take a hobby that many people deem a waste of time and learn how to follow a successful and enjoyable career path. All thanks to twitter.

It’s so simple. Find your passion. Find the thought leaders in that field. Then let twitter expose you to their thought process. Spend some time with something you love. Become an expert. Maybe I should listen to Ashton Kutcher more often.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/g646mx18fF93YXvJTxQKaw

Nah.

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2 Responses to “More Than What You Had for Lunch: Defending Twitter as an Educational Tool”

  1. Aubrey Haskins September 25, 2010 at 6:20 pm #

    I loved the post. I felt the exact same way about Twitter. When I switched my major from broadcast news to public relations, I heard the word “Twitter” countless times. I thought to myself, what would I ever use Twitter for? Who will I follow? Who would care what I have to say? To be honest, I felt the whole thing was kind of stupid. Eventually though, I realized that everyone in my classes had a Twitter account and if I wanted to succeed I should probably jump on the band-wagon. So I did, and I love it. It is important for teachers to teach Twitter from a standpoint of being an educational tool, not only to learn interesting things that professionals are posting, but also to network with those professionals who may someday offer you a job. This weekend I was able to attend a Worldcom Conference for public relations. It was an awesome experience. I don’t know how many times I heard speakers talk about the use of Twitter for its clients and campaigns and also to network. Students need to be familiar with Twitter and know how to use it in the simple case that they will use it when they get into the working world. It is essential to have a social media background. Great post!!

  2. Sarah James September 30, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    I too thought twitter was an egotist’s tool. After I got it, I found It was a good way to keep tabs on news articles and music news. And of course, I like trading dumb insights with my friends who go to other schools. I am glad that JMC is so insistent on using twitter in the classroom. I am interested to see where twitter will go.

    Well said.

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