My Friend, Twitter

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I stumbled upon this Storify “Twitter for Academics: Advice for Users,” hoping that the comment thread captured in Storify would provide insight about how to use Twitter, both professionally and in my classrooms.  I’ve had a Twitter account since participating in an online course development initiative last year, and aside from a few feeble tweets during that week, I’ve hardly used it.

Now, as we prepare our Summer Pilot cMOOC, we have discussed ways in which Twitter can serve us as collaborators, helping us to harness the ideas we generate during our meetings, as well as serve our students in the classroom.  Twitter as a real time record of a community’s idea-generating session is new for me, and I confess to a few suspicions about its reliability.  A few years ago an attendee tweeted during a presentation that Liz Canfield and I made at CCCC in San Francisco.  Later, when I read his tweets, I was unable to connect many of his oddly cryptic musings with anything that I had actually said during my presentation.  Later, I realized that he had confused our names, so his tweets identifying me were based on ideas Liz had generated, and those attributed to her were my ideas — no wonder I could make little sense of his tweets.

One piece of advice for embracing Twitter was simply: “the right hashtag is the key.”  What changed my interactions on Twitter was having our hashtag #thoughtvectors to guide both my posting and following.  Once I had this identified marker, I could tweet with this specific audience in mind, and I could go to the hashtag and follow what other, like-minded people, were posting.  I see, now, that having a specific hashtag for our online classroom will serve the same purpose.  The hashtag is the campfire around which we gather.

Donna Lanclos, in the screen shot above, tweeted: “Your twitter feed is only as effective as the network you populate it with.”  I am beginning to understand this.  The more people who mark their tweets with our #thoughtvectors hashtag, the larger our network becomes.

In this way, Twitter introduces a new audience for my tweets, an audience who is actively watching our #thoughtvectors stream, some of whom are people I know and respect, others are people I do not know, and the fact that I understand that my tweets will be seen by a specific audience has added an unexpected layer of self-consciousness to the act of tweeting.   Like a new friend, Twitter requires a bit of cautious attentiveness.   Who would think that a 140 character blurb would force such careful deliberation?

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