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Why don’t some teachers use Twitter?

Posted on: September 9, 2014

Day 60 - Fear by juanpg, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  juanpg 

Yesterday I reflected on why Twitter was an ideal component of an educator’s PLN. Today I ponder on why some teachers do not want or even like Twitter.

There are several reasons why teachers stay away from Twitter and lose out on valuable unPD as a result. I focus on three.

One, there is a shallow but twisted learning curve. Twitter is not difficult because it is based on texting. However, like learning how to operate a CB radio, there are procedures and standards of practice that only emerge from tweeting.

If newbies do not learn how to select a frequency (use a Twitter hashtag like #edsg), then they might find themselves shouting into the great big ether. Newbies must quickly learn how to follow and create a following or they will be talking to themselves. They need to learn what a retweet, favourite, and @ are. Heck, it can be difficult to understand the difference between replying to @someone and .@someone.

Two, if a newbie overcomes the initial tweeting learning curve, s/he will need to learn how to follow hashtagged conversations. A new user might not know that Twitter’s default web interface and mobile app are not good for such conversations.

Once they learn to use a proper tool like TweetDeck, they might find popular and synchronous chats scrolling by faster than they can read, much less respond to.

Three, a few persistent folks push through the barriers and these tend to be the ones that are already driven to learn and change. These intrepid folks tend to form a peripheral and possibly vocal group. And as long as they are part of the minority, the majority are likely to view them with suspicion.

The first two barriers are technical and relatively easy to overcome, say, by attending a workshop conducted by more experienced peers. Some handholding during and after the workshop also works wonders.

The third barrier is social. This might result in teachers being lurkers in Twitter conversations. While lurking for a while is advisable (to learn if the conversations suit them), quite a few never find their voice. I have followers who have zero tweets but follow several or many people. These teachers consume and do not give back.

Why do some folks choose to lurk even after an extended period of time?

They might be intimidated by the conversations or think they have nothing to offer. They might only want to monitor conversations. They might be asked or told to monitor conversations.

There is hope for teachers who are initially afraid or prefer to listen. Once they summon up the courage to participate, they are likely to find out how fun and motivating it is to be part of local or global conversations about topics they care deeply about.

I cannot say anything positive about the spying group. In some contexts, they patrol just in case they need to police. They create fear. They add to the perception that social media in education is a dark place and not to be trusted. They add to an exaggerated problem instead of being part of the solution. The solution is to be open and social and to break the cycle of fear.

That there is a plethora of educational hashtagged chats on Twitter is evidence that openness and trust beget more openness and trust. These chats are a joy to observe and an even greater joy to be part of. Why don’t teachers use Twitter and jump right in?

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