Learning and teaching at the speed of Twitter

Afraid of drowning in a sea of urgent trivia, I had successfully avoided becoming an active twitterer until last week. But when my colleague Sandra invited me to join in a twitter session with a group of her students on the CALF project, I capitulated – and then immediately regretted it as I felt the addictive pull of instant gratification, when my first tweet garnered an unexpected response from a long-lost friend in France. So now I’m hooked.

I watched, intrigued, as my tweets contributed fleetingly to the Twitter timeline, and then unceremoniously disappeared out of view. As web usability guru, Jakob Nielsen points out, the timing of the messages you send to Twitter is critical, if you actually have something important to say. Clicks on links sent to Twitter by Nielsen’s team showed a high degree of ‘click decay’ after a few minutes, as the message dropped down out of sight.

While this has clear implications for the use of Twitter for marketing, what does it mean for learning and teaching? Perhaps we owe it to our students to give them the tools (both technical and conceptual) to select, annotate, filter, store and retrieve information – and rapidly. The same tools are needed for using RSS feeds effectively.  I think these are essential skills for learning, no less important than critical thinking, making connections, seeing patterns and asking questions, but often overlooked – perhaps because they appear so obvious.

By Gabi Witthaus

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  1. bdra

     /  August 31, 2009

    Twitter time passes ten times as fast as email time, says Nielsen. Heavens!


  2. Don’t concern yourself with the public timeline, it says nothing about the tool. Follow people who interest you, and contribute to the conversation (within your own personal network) – only then you’ll be able to get over the “trivia” stereotype and your tweets won’t disappear out of sight. It is all about adding value to a PERSONAL network.

    • bdra

       /  September 3, 2009

      Thanks Jennifer, it’s great to have a UoL student contributing to our blog. I’m following you on twitter 😉


  3. I don’t think a week is long enough to understand twitter. Try a while longer, learn how to use tweetdeck and hashtags and you might find a broader perspective…
    …it is a mega tool for education if used properly.

  4. Rena

     /  September 5, 2009

    Hey Gabi

    Long time no hear! 🙂 I too have recently capitulated on twitter! Though the torrent of “just watching the paint dry” posts does still do my head in (why, oh why, do people feel the need to post these messages?), I do occasionally stumble across some complete gems …

    I agree with cyberdoyle – a week’s not long enough, and in addition to tweetdeck I’d recommend Twitterfox (which I actually prefer to tweetdeck now as it doesn’t need the somewhat seeminly-bloated Adobe Air thingy … technical term! :D)



    • bdra

       /  September 14, 2009

      Hi Rena

      Thanks for the comment. I’ll go check Twitterfox… watch this space!



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