“Showing off Twitter. Tell me where you are from and why your PLN is important.”
I was at a technology conference and a “big name” conference speaker sent one of these tweets out and of course received 20-30 responses from around the world in five minutes from his thousands of followers. I must confess that I usually respond to these when I see them. It feels like I am supporting a “Twitter evangelist” and I am a definite believer in the power of my PLN. I want to help people show how useful Twitter is.
I have been thinking about the message that this activity sends to people who are new to Twitter. First of all they usually think Twitter is only about “what are you doing” and that the answer is something mundane or ridiculous. I think Twitter shoutouts can come across more as bragging than as anything productive:
“Hey, let me show you how great Twitter is by showing off how many people listen to me and when I say tweet, they say ‘How high?'”
I know that this is not the intent of any presenter, but that they are trying to show the power of a PLN that is both worldwide and always available, but I am not sure that this is how it comes across to people unfamiliar with Twitter. The Twitter shoutout does show how far your network reaches, but does not demonstrate what your PLN can do.
So I have a suggestion, a minor tweak to this presentation of Twitter. Demonstrate how educators actually use Twitter. Ask a random member of your audience what unit or topic they are studying with their class. Then tweet out and ask for resources on that subject. Then instead of “Hi, I’m Concretekax from Michigan and my PLN rocks!” The speaker can then show how PLN’s help each other.
Wouldn’t educators be more impressed seeing results that are practical and useful. I would definitely think the teacher picked out of the audience leaving with real resources would see the power of Twitter.
As regular readers have seen, I uploaded a couple of student projects (and here) to youtube this week. I tweeted about them so each video had some views on them. The next day I told my class that I had a youtube video to share with them that I “found” yesterday. They were quickly excited when they realized it was from our classroom.
Their questions were for the URL address, how many views it had, and how do you make and upload a video to youtube. It was fun that I could show them that it already had 15 views and explained how I used twitter to share it. So I have thought a bit more about the power of this simple act on my classroom.
Traditionally teachers hang “excellent” student work on their bulletin board or on the hallway walls. We try to honor their work by sharing it with others in our buildings and parents when they come to conferences. Of course many of us are now using many forms of technology to showcase student work to the world including blogs, wikis, and hundreds of specialized sites such as voicethread..
But I really think youtube is in a special class of limited platforms (I would include Facebook, Bebo, and MySpace too). Youtube is “cool” to students. It is not some educational platform (which I am afraid is how students see blogs sometimes), but a cultural platform that people love to go to from around the world. Students want to put themselves on youtube.
I beleive I have just greatly increased the motivation in my class. I have to admit that I was a bit disappointed that I only had one group take the Lego robot project to the next level and create their own program that performed a unique task. But I can almost guarantee when I show that video to my next class that they will be motivated to create something. I am sure students will start to ask me if they can put their projects on youtube and I will then challenge them by saying “If it is good enough, sure.”
The irony in all this is that only I can access the youtube videos at school because the filter blocks it for students. On the other hand it creates a reason for students to go to our class blog at home and show it to their parents.
I don’t think as teachers we should ever underestimate the motivating power of showing off student work to as many people around the world as possible!