Don't Teach Twitter...

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

The title of this blog may come as a shock to those of you who know me, but I promise you I have not gone crazy.

My colleagues and I had a very interesting discussion today in our weekly eLearning team meeting.  The discussion was centered around Twitter and if we should open it up for students.  Just for some background information, I work in a 1:1 environment, there are certain websites that are blocked no matter where the students are at with their Netbooks, and websites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are only open on staff computers and in computer labs.

It was a good discussion about the pros, cons, how many teachers would actually use it (Is there a magic #?), and what type of education/PD would we, as eLearning Coaches, need to provide.  Anyway, it really got me thinking about what do we really need to teach students.

First of all, I am all for opening up twitter to all students.  It is a fantastic tool that I use on a daily basis.  When I have a question, I am just as likely to tweet the question to my PLN as I am to look it up on Google.  I can think of all kinds of ways to use it in the classroom, for professional learning, and for personal enjoyment.

Beyond that, part of me dies every time we hinder learning.  Make no mistake about it, when we block websites unnecessarily, and restrict our students access to information, we are hindering learning.  I am not sure what we are afraid they will learn out there in "the wild".  I grow weary of students being told what to learn, when to learn, how to learn, and how to show teachers that they have learned.  

That being said, as I pondered opening it up for students and the question of how do we accomplish that, I am not sure if I think we should teach Twitter to our students.  Here is why, Twitter is just a tool. While I think that Twitter will be around for a long time, I am also certain there will be a day when Twitter will be dethroned.  The real question is, what is your expected outcome?  Do we want our students to learn the latest tool that, in the end, will only be around for a fraction of their lives?  Or do we want to teach them how to interact in society?  A skill that will stay with them their entire lives.

What if we just taught communication and collaboration skills?  Then students and teachers can just use the tool that best fits their needs.  Here is my recommendation and I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments about this on Twitter, Facebook, email, the comment section, or hit me up on my pager.  Lets make sure everyone knows the proper way to communicate and collaborate.  It doesn't matter if it's in person, online, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Google+, email, smoke signals, or some way that hasn't been imagined yet.  Communication is communication, no matter the forum.  Then, grant our students access and expose them to the tools that are available and support their use of those tools.