Why you should use Twitter

This is an attempt to convince my lovely wife Jocelyn (and other folks in education) why she should use Twitter. She often makes fun of me, asking if I have Tweeted recently. Sometimes, she’ll say “tweet tweet” in a gentle, yet mocking, tone…

I regularly email her some of the resources that I have discovered from reading my Twitter feed. She’s appreciative when the links are useful, but she’s still not convinced that Twitter is worth her time.

I think her main objection is that she does not want to subscribe to a system where people announce that they have “just eaten a yummy hamburger.” She’s a busy professional, and she does not have time for such silliness.

While there are occasional tweets from people who self-indulgently share such details about their lives (if people mainly tweet such details, it’s a good idea to UNfollow those people), there’s a lot of value to gain from Twitter, if you choose to follow people who tweet quality information.

Here’s an example from my Twitter feed this morning:

Apparently, there’s something happening on TEDxLondon — three people I follow just tweeted about it.  Ewan McIntosh will soon be speaking there, and apparently, David Warlick — a great education blogger based here in North Carolina — was having trouble getting the live feed :)

I clicked on the link to the live feed, and as I write this blog post, I’m listening — LIVE — to a conference in London that’s looking at the education revolution. I’m not sure what will happen if you click on the live feed when the conference is done, but here’s what I saw when I clicked on the link:


How cool is that? I would never have known about this conference if not for Twitter.

I clicked on the link to the live feed, and here’s a screen capture from the introduction to the conference by Sir Ken Robinson. If for some reason you do not know who Sir Ken is, you need to watch his TED talk from a few years ago, called Ken Robinson Says Schools Kill Creativity. It’s had 6.5 million views on TED alone, and I’ve seen it at least 10 times — it’s a great talk.

Anyway, here’s a screen capture of Sir Ken live from London:

We live in a world where incredibly cool things are going on all the time. It’s helpful to have Twitter to alert us to the cool resources that are out there.

Not all resources on Twitter are to live feeds from London. Most are to articles that people find valuable, with some context about why they find them useful.

My life is enhanced because of the things I learn from people I trust on Twitter. I’m starting to tweet more (I’ve only tweeted 80 times so far), and it’s fun to share the cool things you learn.

Here’s an example of how I learn from people I trust. Below are some tweets from Mike Hanas, the head of Carolina Friends School in Durham, NC (where I live). Mike is tweeting about three cool resources he read on September 6:

I clicked on the first link about the 12 most important things students want from their teachers, and it has some neat ideas — thanks, Mike!

Getting back to TEDxLondon, here’s a screen shot from the first speaker, (whose name sadly I did not catch because I’m blogging as I listen) — he’s talking about the value of asking questions.

When he was a youth, he asked why he had to draw Santa along with all of his classmates, when he did not want to be the same as everyone else. He wondered if he would get in trouble for not drawing the same Santa. Would he still get Christmas presents even if he defied his teacher? (it turned out that he did get presents)

He’s speaking about how young people ask incessant questions, but that somehow, 10 years later, they have that curiosity beaten out of them.

The conference has just moved on to the second speaker:

Georgia Mills — a 14-year old with a lovely combination of poise and braces — is about to speak:

She just described how she looked up this TED conference and learned loads (how big the venue is, and about her fellow speakers), but has been nowhere near school. Click this link to get the list of her fellow speakers. Here’s her short bio, from that list:

Georgia wonders why she’s taught things that are irrelevant to life. She knows, for example, that after the exam she will never use trigonometry. She wants to learn things that she’ll need to know in her life.

Very cool stuff.  She’s now wondering where the global component is to her education.

Thanks to Georgia leading me to the speaker bios which she read in preparation for her speech, I now know the first speaker’s name — Adam Roberts — here’s his bio:

Adam Roberts
Adam Roberts is an experienced young campaigner, including in the UK Youth Parliament and as a representative to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. He is a trustee and director of the Children’s Rights Alliance for England, has written for a textbook on human rights in the UK, and has spoken alongside such figures as Shami Chakrabarti and Telegraph columnist Mary Riddell.

I’ll update this post with Jocelyn’s response, and I’ll keep making short posts like this about the value of Twitter until she agrees to sign up for a Twitter account :)

Tuesday morning update: Jocelyn is still not convinced (though she did agree to look briefly at Twitter for the first time). We looked up the accounts of several education folks and writers (Maya Angelou and bell hooks, among others), and they seem to use Twitter sparingly and mainly for two purposes: 1) promoting writing and/or programs they have done and 2) to say “thank you” after speaking events. I’ll keep trying…

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About Steve Goldberg

Starting a middle school for empathetic global citizenship that will leverage the possibilities of our 21st century learning tools. Opening in Fall 2014 in Durham, NC -- see http://tlcmiddle.com
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6 Responses to Why you should use Twitter

  1. Steve,
    I too have a wife that, at times, struggles to understand the full capacity of twitter, and my use of it. Likewise, I have yet to find a better place to be alerted to new resources, websites, talks, etc. I often say that it is my best source for professional development.

    I do want to respectfully pushback, however about something you wrote above:

    While there are occasional tweets from people who self-indulgently share such details about their lives (if people mainly tweet such details, it’s a good idea to UNfollow those people), there’s a lot of value to gain from Twitter, if you choose to follow people who tweet quality information.

    I have to tell you that in the past 3 years, I have made incredible friends over twitter and I truly value and treasure learning about the details in their lives. Sure, they also tweet incredibly valuable information around #edreform, but it’s those non-education tweets about their lives that provide context to who they are as learners and as people. It rounds out who they are.

    So, while I am on Twitter to learn and connect, I have to say that I love learning more about my friends on Twitter, especially those that provide incredible value to my professional life.

    • Steve Goldberg says:

      Hi Tony,

      Thanks for the pushback. As I start blogging more regularly, I realize that what matters is the engagement with an audience. Blogging is conversing, not just putting out my wisdom to the world

      In the spirit of conversation, I agree with you that Twitter can be part of a conversation that builds and nurtures friendships. I like your phrasing that you “truly value and treasure learning about the details in their lives.”

      Thanks for pushing my thinking! That’s what this is all about I’ll share your comment with my wife. Her initial reaction to my post was that it seems to her that the people on Twitter are mainly Tweeting for self-promotion. We looked up a few folks in education she would want to know more about – Maya Angelou, bell hooks — and we found that although they have Twitter accounts, they don’t use it for much more than saying thank you after speeches or for promoting work they do in other places.

      I think that as she sees Twitter more in action (last night was a breakthrough of sorts, because she actually spent some time looking at Twitter with me) she will start to see the value — both professionally and, as you point out, personally.

      As a fellow Red Sox fan (when I was in college I scored press passes to cover three games at Fenway — it was really really cool), I look forward to getting to know you better via PLP … and Twitter

      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  2. Steve,

    There is a great deal of self-promotion on Twitter no doubt. I have to admit that there are times when I tweet out items that I have written or been directly involved with. But, I think there is a difference between blatant self-promotion and the promotion that so much of us are doing. Sure, we promoting things, but we’re also actively seeking feedback as part of a larger community. I, like you, have no need for those you simply self-promote and those who are actively sharing.

    Great conversation here, Steve.

    Go Red Sox! (And Patriots. And Bruins. And Celtics!)

  3. Pingback: To Tweet or Not to Tweet? | What I Learned Today

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