Reaching new frontiers with Twitter

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“We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us.”
– Marshall McLuhan

Place yourself on ledge looking down 120,000 feet down towards the earth. If you had one last thing to say before plunging yourself towards certain harm or death, what would you say? In addition, how would you convey that message to the world? One of the latest members to the social media platform twitter, Felix Baumgartner, plunged himself into the new service by using his 18th tweet to deliver his last thoughts.
Plunging yourself into yet another online social media site is certainly daunting, especially one that has developed its own vocabulary and restraints on characters. Nevertheless, this application truly has made a splash in the stream of educational technology. Its contributions are numerous in scope and implementation. Whether it is a Professional Learning Network tool, micro-blogging publisher, collaboration platform or resource for learning, it has remarkable potential and the atmospheres it covers are incredibly diverse.

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Twitter takes on exploring new frontiers:
Both of these events have occurred within seven months of each other, and have truly demonstrated the true capacity of this very open global communication tool. These two individuals turned the eyes of the world upon them and although they used other methods of broadcasting their journey, the one that seemed to garner the most attention and elicit the greatest response was twitter.
I mean we know it wasn’t Felix or James actually typing out their thoughts at that exact moment, but they set up a way to relay it, which kept it authentic. That’s another integral part of it. Educators can join up much like they do for any other service or tool but in order to obtain a benefit; they need to be authentic users and contributors. The true rewards come from interactions with others in the field. That’s when ideas and strategies are really analyzed and hashed out.
Twitter as a PLN:
Professional learning Networks (PLN) are integral for every teacher throughout the different stages of their career to grow. Resources abound on this platform; however, you need only sip from the stream as can very easily become overwhelming. You can go back through tweets of those you’ve identified as experts or become involved in collaborative weekly sessions grouped with hashtags. If harnessed it facilitates a real focus on learning.
In addition when you engage in meaningful discussions you are forced to clearly identify and clarify your own beliefs and support them with details. Everyone brings different skills sets and experience to the conversation, and the large scope and reach of twitter allows for a broad range of opinions.
The 140 character constraint can initially seem almost limiting. However, it forces you to be deliberate and concise. Instead of erroneous details we are always left with the true essence of the message. The content is plain to see.
Tweet for engagement:
Tweets can range from mundane updates, pictures, links to resources, or questions. The last of which is the most pertinent when twitter is used as a tool for engagement. In the classroom twitter can be used as a way to bring students in to the discussion, having them post questions about the content making them feel involved.
Alternately it can also be used as a formative tool for micro-blogging. Below you can see an example of a class taking a twist on an anti-bullying tweet off. A Grade 12 English class posted poems that they felt spoke towards the true meaning of the day.
It is demonstrations like these that truly speak to its effectiveness as an educational technology tool and I believe it will continue to lend itself to this field for a long time to come.

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