Why and how I use Twitter

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This post is for Maxine Griffiths (@now_teach_this) but I hope others will chime in, in the comments or on Twitter, to support Maxine in her MA in Education. She writes in a comment on the Jenny Mackness page of this blog:

Twitter is the focus of my critical reflection, how it has affected my practice, my students and the community and my colleagues. Could I ask you how it effected you as an educationalists? What influence if any has it had on your Practice?

This is an interesting question to reflect on. I joined Twitter in July 2008, but you can see from my stats that I am not an avid Twitter user.

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I remember a friend who I worked with (but who has since emigrated to New Zealand) – Nigel Robertson (@easegill) – joined in 2007 and was enthusiastic. I asked him about it and he told me I needed a minimum of 50 followers to get going. But I kept looking at it and seeing 140 character messages on people’s meals, cats, children etc. etc. I just couldn’t see the point.

It took me quite a while to get going on Twitter (to the extent that I want to get going). Two things influenced me to use it a bit more. The first was learning about Tweetdeck. Once I had installed that (I can’t remember exactly when), using Twitter became easier. I realised that it was much easier to follow the hashtag of courses and conferences with Tweetdeck. Suddenly Twitter became a bit more useful and less random. It hasn’t encouraged me to tweet at conferences though. I would find that a distraction. I don’t know how people manage to concentrate on the speaker and tweet, but Twitter is very useful for following a conference from a distance.

The second was a personal connection – Frances Bell (@francesbell). I started doing research with Frances in 2014 and it was a revelation to me that she uses Twitter and the Direct Messaging on Twitter for most of her communication (or at least that is my perception). I realised that if I didn’t log into Twitter everyday, and see messages from Frances, I was not going to keep on top of this research. So from 2014 my Twitter use has increased.

I am never likely to be a big user of Twitter. It is too public for me. I prefer to hold most of my communication in private. For this the private direct messaging is useful – not least because it doesn’t confine you to 140 characters. But apart from following hashtags for conferences, twitter chat and courses, the only thing I find it useful for is links to useful resources and ideas. I don’t interact a lot on the public stream of Twitter, and I don’t share anything personal, but I will post or retweet, and sometimes comment on, a post or article that I think worthwhile sharing – and I will copy in colleagues and friends who I think might be interested or find the link useful. I also tweet my own blog posts, as I have realised that this is where many blog posts are found, rather than via Feedly or equivalent. And I tweet my research papers when they are published (via WordPress having first blogged about them). I know that social media has an impact on research paper visibility.

Interestingly none of my family uses Twitter. I have just asked my son why not (he’s in his late 30s). He thinks it’s an environment which incites negativity, anger, bullying and abuse. He thinks the same of Facebook, which he tried but came out of. He reeled off the names of celebrities who get nothing but a stream of abuse on Twitter. I know this can be true. I definitely use the ‘block’ and ‘mute’ facility that Twitter offers. The ‘block’ for offensive spam or people, and the ‘mute’ for people whose voices are too loud. In this way I can just about cope with Twitter, but it is not my favourite tool.

But Maxine’s questions were :

How has it effected you as an educationalists? What influence if any has it had on your Practice?

I think I have explained above what influence it has had on my practice, but I don’t think it has had any significant impact on me as an educationalist beyond what I have mentioned above. But then, I am past retirement age and don’t work with any students. I think Twitter might have had more of an effect if I had still been teaching a lot, although some of my closest educationalist friends and colleagues rarely use Twitter and not with students.

Of course Twitter is now in trouble  and it’s difficult to know what they can do about it. They introduced the ‘Like’ heart – which I have yet to use, and there has been talk of increasing the 140 characters currently allowed. Who knows what effects this would have, but surely the attraction of Twitter is the 140 characters, the fast pace and the ease of communicating quickly.

But these are just my perspectives. Some of my colleagues, like Frances Bell (@francesbell), Mariana Funes (@mdvfunes) and others are very active on Twitter and it would be good to hear from them. And others have published research on the use of Twitter. See for example Bonnie Stewart’s work (@bonstewart). This is one paper (2015).

Open to influence: what counts as academic influence in scholarly networked Twitter participation http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17439884.2015.1015547

I hope this has answered your questions at least in part Maxine. Feel free to ask more questions, or DM me on Twitter 🙂  And I hope you get plenty of alternative perspectives. Good luck with your MA in Education.

6 thoughts on “Why and how I use Twitter

  1. easegill May 24, 2016 / 9:36 am

    Jenny – Working with you helped me clarify the role and value of exploration and experimentation in digital environments. You gave me the space to know that testing and playing was OK in our work context. Without that I may have not started on a Twitter journey, on open conversation, on CCK08 and coming back round in a circle you may not have been writing this nor me responding to it! A butterfly flaps its wings and worlds change!

    With Twitter I have gained many things – ideas, learning, humour, emotion, etc – but the biggest thing for me has been friendship and connecting to people. Seth Godin said “Connecting people to people. Over and over again, that’s what lasts online. Folks thought it was about the technology and it’s not.” Those connections are wide and varied, many in education but not all. Without Twitter it’s unlikely I would have met George Siemens, Mariana, Grainne, Alan and many, many others. In #ds106radio, those connections are intimate and I often describe it as the global living room. Twitter is the glue that holds the radio, the broadcasters and the audiences together.

    We choose how we connect, communicate and interact in non digital spaces and we do the same in digital ones too. I might like meeting friends / acquaintances in the village shops, at the garden gate or in the local pub. We make the same choices online and choose the places to connect that feel comfortable to us, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, blogging, Flickr, etc.
    I am glad that our paths crossed and that we are still connected across the digital garden gate or in the global living room!

  2. jennymackness May 24, 2016 / 5:05 pm

    That’s a lovely comment Nigel. Thanks so much. I have also made some connections via Twitter, but probably not as many as you. Connection requires a positive outgoing action. I tend to be more of an observer, but occasionally stick my head over the parapet and ‘meet’ someone new, which is always a pleasure 🙂 I like your reference to butterfly wings and coming back round in a circle 🙂 Thanks.

  3. Maxine May 24, 2016 / 11:57 pm

    Jenny – you have dropped a pebble in the deep waters of Twitter and the ripple affect of ever increasing circles of connectivity has been like an energy boost in pulling together my MEd. assignment. Thank you to you and all those in your global living room. As well as the help and informative advice I have made more positive connections with like minded life long learners.

  4. stanzin22 November 14, 2016 / 5:52 pm

    Dear Jenny I cant read your entire post…i am only allowed to read the title and comments. Please suggest me to how to read your entire post.

  5. jennymackness November 15, 2016 / 11:36 am

    Hi stanzin22. Thanks for your comment. I have checked with WordPress and they say that this post is showing up fine for them as it does for me – so I am not sure why you are having a problem. Sorry not to be able to help.

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