As if I didn’t have enough work…Twitter Edition

I got on Twitter this weekend. Wild stuff. Check out this nice synopsis in Newsweek for how it works. Bill Ferriter over at The Tempered Radical was also playing around at the same time I was, and went googly-eyed (justifiably) for how such a simple Web 2.0 tool holds such possibilities, particularly for educators and their students.

I have to tell you, though: although I am fascinated, I am not yet sold. Twitter, like any technology, is not value-neutral: it requires buy-in to certain ways of thinking about the world, and I am still figuring out just what those are for Twitter specifically.

Can you create a meaningful relationship with another in typed bytes of 160 characters? Does Twitter only yield value with a constant presence on-line? How much further does Twitter divorce us from our fundamental physical sense of self, never mind our local communities and environment? Is it always good to “go global”? And of course there’s the Language Arts teacher in me, who wonders very much (amongst other things) at the linguistic implications of a technology that does not allow revision– only deleting. (Hm!)

The Economist is running a high-quality debate on some of these issues (the pro speaker is, interestingly, on Twitter) …but for my own information, I’ve decided to give Twitter a month. I’ll make some very detailed quantitative and qualitative observations, and post my conclusions at the end of February.

Stay tuned.

7 thoughts on “As if I didn’t have enough work…Twitter Edition

  1. Hi Dinah,
    Thanks for the comment on the Bette Davis post – means I am enjoying reading new edublogger – like you I am still sceptical about the implications of Twittr – I have been thinking about it in terms of /multitasking interruption to our ability to focus and concentrate when learning – all those suggestions that you leave reading your email to a set time rather than letting it drift in as and whenever – I figure Twittr can only exacerbate this

    For example this TIME magazine lead story The Multitasking Generation interested me and suggest two things you might be alert to when you start your experiment

    As for multitasking devices, social scientists and educators are just beginning to assess their impact, but the researchers already have some strong opinions. The mental habit of dividing one’s attention into many small slices has significant implications for the way young people learn, reason, socialize, do creative work and understand the world. Although such habits may prepare kids for today’s frenzied workplace, many cognitive scientists are positively alarmed by the trend. “Kids that are instant messaging while doing homework, playing games online and watching TV, I predict, aren’t going to do well in the long run,” says Jordan Grafman, chief of the cognitive neuroscience section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Decades of research (not to mention common sense) indicate that the quality of one’s output and depth of thought deteriorate as one attends to ever more tasks. Some are concerned about the disappearance of mental downtime to relax and reflect. Roberts notes Stanford students “can’t go the few minutes between their 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock classes without talking on their cell phones. It seems to me that there’s almost a discomfort with not being stimulated–a kind of ‘I can’t stand the silence.'”

  2. A quote from the above comment:
    Roberts notes Stanford students “can’t go the few minutes between their 10 o’clock and 11 o’clock classes without talking on their cell phones. It seems to me that there’s almost a discomfort with not being stimulated–a kind of ‘I can’t stand the silence.’”

    Do you think this is because of an inability to pay attention or an innate desire to connect and be social—something we do our best to bleed out of children in our schools.

    Check out this post from Dana Boyd:

    Another interesting question: When we take the tools that our students use regularly, do we make learning more inefficient for them?

    Final comment—Twitter isn’t something you have to attend to at all times. Mine sits in the Sys Tray and I check it when I can. Isn’t distraction something that can be controlled through self discipline?

    Granted, I am sitting here writing this comment rather than relaxing on the couch—but maybe reflective thought it relaxing to me!

    Enjoying the conversation….

  3. Ah, Twitter, or, the straw that finally broke the camel’s back. I’m pulling way back on technology, and am planning on just focusing on my blog. I have had this crushing feeling lately that I’m becoming owned by technology, and I feel the need to fight it more and more. I think we allow ourselves to be seduced by the flashy designs and the “coolness” factor, but, in the end, is it really benefiting us? Really? I know it’s not an either/or thing as well. I’m just trying to figure out what my healthy threshold is. I’d be interested to see your musings are a while. I, for one, plan on minimizing my online presence altogether.

  4. I think Twitter has the potential to be great fun as well as overwhelming. I participate in a blog for my book group, and out of a discussion, we discovered a shared hidden gift- or vice- for haiku. In one month a group of 5-6 people generated over 150 poems. And then it waned. It waned for me because I didn’t want to spend so much time thinking about what to write. On the other hand I am disappointed that it has waned because they were quite fun to read, though superficial. It was more an outlet for our creativity and cleverness rather than an expression of depth, though there were a couple that resonated.

    I see the advantage to Twitter. In cleaning out my email, I deleted several without reading them, and there were dozens sent more than a week or two old to which I have not had the time to respond. The important ones get answered, the catch up ones get put on the back burner, and end up being dumped. So I have 160 characters to tell you I have been having chronic sinus infections, work is the same, and I saw Fool’s Gold, and was glad the ticket was free.

    And that is the disadvantage, and feeds into my angst. When I renew my cell contract this month, I have this burning desire to get a phone/PDA. But I don’t like texting, for 2 reasons: a) I think it contributes to bad grammar and horrific spelling- but now I can get a full keyboard and type fully! and b) it allows us to become even more impersonal. We don’t even need to talk to each other anymore. There is no tone of voice, no elocution, no resonance.

    Is it another contributing factor to the erosion of personal relationships. If even email is becoming too taxing, too time consuming, what does that say about a people that are disposing of pretty fast communication for some twitter?

    Don’t get me wrong. I think technology is a wondrous thing, and very beneficial to society, and I think a Blackberry or a Tilt could be in my future, but I worry that the technology is changing our perceptions of what we use to who we are. I worry that efficiency is overwhelming efficacy.

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