Today, I stumbled across an article from CNN entitled “5 Ways Twitter Changed How We Communicate.” CNN posted the article in honor of Twitter’s 5th birthday and to describe the 5 ways Twitter has “changed the digital communication game.”
According to the CNN article, Twitter has basically changed communication in the following ways:
- Made a fast flow of information possible: In other words, Twitter has made it possible for news to spread extremely fast. This also makes it possible for rumors to spread quickly too. According to the CNN article, Twitter allowed for real-time news in Egypt and Haiti during the events in those countries.
- Removed the celebrity filter: Twitter allows us to experience celebrities as they really are in 140 characters or less without the information passing through a publicist. This might be problematic for the celebrities sometimes, but their mis-steps are much more visible.
- Created thought leaders: Twitter has made it possible for some individuals to become what CNN calls “thought leaders” because they now have an audience that once was not possible. This individuals lacked audiences in the past which meant they had no one to share their thoughts with. Now, these individuals can attract thousands of followers through the use of Twitter.
- Strengthened what is called the “second screen”: Twitter has made it possible for individuals to not watch TV alone again. While the show occurs, Twitter users can carry on conversations in the background. Now events like the Superbowl or the latest episode of Desperate Housewives is now a social not a solitary event.
- (Over) Simplified the conversation: Twitter has made the possibility of communicating in simplified statements possible with its 140 character limit. Often this means individuals make statements and then have to go back and explain their statements. Some really debate whether this has improved communication of not, but certainly we’ve all met those we wish had a limit of only 140 characters to say what they had to say.
I’ll admit that Twitter has changed digital communication in the ways described above, but how has Twitter changed the way I do my job as an educator? Many, no doubt, see Twitter as a total waste of time, and they will never be convinced of anything different. Yet, there are aspects of my job as an educator that have changed with its use.
- Networking and Connecting with Other Educators: Networking and connecting with other educators was more problematic before Twitter. Before Twitter (BT) opportunities to connect and network with other educators was limited to those educator conferences you attended twice a year. Connecting with educators on other continents was near impossible due to the cost, time, and distance. Twitter has made it possible for any educator to connect with other educators with the click of a “Follow” button. While some would question the quality of the connections, they are only as good as the users make of them.
- Information, Resource and Idea Sharing: With Twitter, it is possible for educators to globally share information, resources and ideas in a simple, expensive manner. BT, sharing with individuals in far away places was limited by technology and costs. Twitter is one of those technologies that has made the cost of sharing zero. That means the ability to share with the crowd, both ideas and resources for teaching simply and effectively.
- Engaging in Education Conversation: BT (Before Twitter), conversations about education were limited by space and time as well. Those conversations took place in teacher lounges, over the cafeteria food, or even while standing in the parking lot next to the car just before going home. Twitter has made it possible to effectively engage in the global conversation about education and education reform. While the 140 character limit poses some problems, used in combination with other tools like blogs, Twitter users can have conversations on the substantive issues facing education today.
- Source of Ideas, Resources, and Information: While Twitter makes it possible for an individual to share ideas, resources and information, it is also a source for the same things. BT (Before Twitter), sharing was problematic between teachers who worked in different parts of the building, much less teachers separated by continents. Twitter has become a constant flow of ideas on any number of topics concerning education. Its stream flowing across the desktop provides an endless flow of links to teaching resources and educational information. Call it the flow of professional development.
Twitter has certainly impacted communication in our society. It has also changed the “digital education game” as well, especially for those users who have pushed it to its limits. Ultimately, like any technological tool, it is only as good a tool as you make of it. Happy Tweeting and Happy Twitter’s Birthday!