You know, back then we would be mighty happy if our teachers rolled out colourful illustrated charts to reinforce the importance of say, Punjab, the land of five rivers. Sheer excitement defined the moment when the lucky one among us pleated and plaited souls got the chance of dotting the river pattern on the map with colourful board pins. The grainy, ten minute documentaries viewed in prayer halls were altogether another matter. Stuff we would look forward to weeks ahead. And blessed was the person who got the chance to change the slides with the presiding nun. Not to forget the girl who handed out the greasy but nevertheless heart-warming doughnuts.
Looking back it makes me want to laugh at our collective naiveté. It also makes me kind of nostalgic. I mean we had no access to pagers, mobile phones, texting, and computers. Permission to call a friend (even to exchange notes) from the contraption we called telephone, sounded like “hallelujah” to most. In brief, if we missed out in class, we were grounded.
But that was back then. “Now” is totally different. Now, students can map the world in an instant on the basis of a little tweet “What are you doing?”. You read right. Tweet it is, or maybe you would prefer twittering, twitting out, whatever… The end of the matter is, there is a new micro-blogging system which has morphed into a huge learning tool called Twitter. So what is Twitter? Rolling eyes notwithstanding, I am determined to answer the question. To be precise, Twitter is a free micro-blogging service where users can sign in, create a profile, and begin sending short messages, known as tweets, mostly related to what they are doing or thinking. The video below explains it all. Take a look.
Like someone said, “Twitter is a great tool to access knowledge and information, provided you follow the right people. It’s also a great place to get answers if the right people are following you.” No wonder learning professionals have voted Twitter the #1 learning tool. In fact, nowadays educators use micro-blogs to link students of a class around an activity or topic taught. To most teachers Twitter serves as a medium during class. “As an instructor, you can have immediate feedback on the relevance of your class,” opines Jane Hart, a social media and learning consultant. After class, teachers also encourage micro-blogging to support learning relationships among the students of the class. In fact, most instructors tweet tips of the day, questions, and writing projects to keep the cycle of learning going.
Even better is where students tap away on their phones collating information on the session and “twitting out” what they are thinking and doing in real time. And their fellow Twitterers replying back in bursts of text messages not exceeding 140 characters. Yup, Twitter requires that. A far cry from the blackboard, chalk, textbooks era…
Apart from classrooms, Twitter is also an active learning tool in the corporate world where it is used by young employees to learn new information. For instance, one can use Twitter for asking questions on conference calls and webcasts. Using the network allows one to record the questions asked and the comments made, all of which can be accessed at a later time. (In fact, Twitter updates are for posterity. You can even Google it!). As Twitter lets you share short bursts of information, quickly, in training sessions Twitterers can easily reinforce learning content through links (offered by fellow Twitterers) which offer follow-up information. (Great for e-learning where a subject matter tweet can be used as a post-course consulting tool. One can even let students follow twitter accounts of famous people who are subject matter experts on the topic taught in the course.)
That said, I must warn you a first visit to Twitter might not convince you of its potentiality as a professional networking and learning tool. You may be barraged by trivial tweets—what someone is having for dinner, whether they’re bathing the cat, or whether their mum is getting that much-needed hernia operation! You may even be ignored the first time round. So for beginners, a good place to start is Jane Hart’s website which lists learning professionals on Twitter. One can also familiarize with Twitter by subscribing to blogs like TwiTip for Twitter tips and best practices.
All I can say is Twitter displays up-to-the-second, no holds barred information from around the world by letting people communicate in real-time. In essence, no more getting grounded. What can be better than that?
(Banshori Bhattacharya is Instructional Designer at C2 Workshop)