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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