Another Attempt To Explain Twitter

At Walden University, once a Ph.D. student is working on their KAMs or their dissertation they are placed into an online “course” in eCollege with their mentor and with other students who share the same mentor. There is a minimal requirement for participating in online discussion, and with my proposal and IRB documents already taken care of, I finally jumped in to participate on Wednesday night. Our advisor, Dr. Joe Nolan had posted this prompt:

For those of you who attended NECC, tell us about one new product, strategy, or game that you found that really excited you. For those of you who did not attend, what is the next big thing that has you going (for me its I-movie).

In response, I decided to try again to explain my experience with twitter. Here is my post, slightly edited since I first posted it in “class”:

Since Ryan didn’t already bring this up, I thought I’d mention that the one web-based “tool” that most impacted my NECC experience – and has most impacted my daily routine since then – was Twitter:

Twitter can be described in a number of ways, each of which only gets at a part of the experience (I apologize in advance for all the ed tech jargon). Twitter is…

  • … at it’s most basic, an opportunity for you to answer the question “What are you doing?” and share the answer with the world, or at least anyone who cares to follow you.
  • … like communal Instant Messaging. When you “tweet” (or post a message of 140 characters or less) anyone who is “following” you can see it – and respond to it if they like – and others will see their responses. It’s open and inclusive instead of closed and exclusive. Some people think of it as an evolution of the Instant Messaging “status message” – for example I set my status message to “Walden University” when working on my dissertation and then anyone who has me on their buddy list knows what I’m up to. The most important difference between twitter and traditional IM, though, is that no response is expected.
  • … like email, except again it is open and inclusive – and no response is expected. Each “tweet” is only 140 characters or less, so it is a rather efficient way to communicate and connect with each other without long messages (like this one).
  • … like a mini-blog, or rather, like a blog with mini posts. Also, there are no comments on individual posts (though they each have a “permalink” as they do on a blog), but others can respond by posting their own “tweets” back @ you. :)
  • … like reading RSS feeds in an aggregator (such as, NetNewsWire for the Mac, or FeedReader for Windows), except again the posts are shorter, and you are probably following fewer people than feeds. For me, if someone posts a link to twitter, I am more likely to follow it than if they post the link deep in a blog post somewhere. In that way, it’s a better filter of information than my aggregator.

But none of these things really captures the essence of twitter – the fact that it allows you to connect with a community from your computer (or phone) 24 hours a day. I’ve been following bloggers from all over the world for years, but now I have a better sense of the time zone differences between us and of the rhythm of their daily lives. I’ve even noticed my colleagues in Australia looking forward to Spring even as I look forward to Fall. From an educational perspective, this is my learning community… and it could be for students as well – and it could certainly help them develop a greater sense of global awareness in the process.

And this is to say nothing about what an amazing experience it was to be connected to the edublogger community while we were all in the same physical space at NECC!

A good deal has been written about the educational potential of something like Twitter (and there are competing services… Jaiku and Pownce for instance). I linked to some of the most illuminating posts soon after NECC here:

I just searched my aggregator for blog posts about twitter and it came up with 134 matches. Some go back as far as March 16th (though most posts that old will have been removed from my aggregator by now). All but 19 of them, though, were written since NECC was well underway on Jun 25. I can’t possibly link to all the good ones, but I can encourage you to explore… and to try it.

In fact, I just started using a Google Custom Search engine to search all of the blogs and other sites I am subscribed to. You might search for twitter there and see what is being written about it in the edublogosphere (and the blogosphere at large): Search Wagner’s Feeds

At any rate, this is long enough, but if any of you try it, please let me know your ID, or just follow me (and I’ll receive a notification). I’m at

If you’re using twitter (or trying it out) let me know what you think in the comments… or on twitter. ;)

Incidentally, though I haven’t been blogging so much lately, you can find what I’ve been up to on twitter:

UPDATE: Here’s a particularly recent post about Twitter in the classroom, or as the author calls it, Promoting Twitteracy in the Classroom : Apace of Change (Via Dean Shareski.)