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.  


  1. We need to start unblocking these sites, even if it is just off campus. So many of my learners already have Twitter accounts and it doesn't make sense to continue to call it a distraction. I'm in the same boat with Twitter during the is a FANTASTIC resource and I know many of my questions would go unanswered without that outlet.

    I've tried to pull Twitter into my classes...I allow learners to use their phones/ipods to tweet me questions during class if I'm having trouble making it around the room. But again, that's just the tip of the iceberg. A teacher last night (@ThalesDream) had a twitter chat with his AP US History kids to review for a test. Would we get the same participation? I can't say yes or no to that. But, we won't know until we try.

  2. I'm a big fan of twitter in class. Hope you can join us on Nov. 10 for our first student run global twitter chat on Hana's Suitcase.

  3. I agree with you Mr. Clark-the point of education in my opinion is to create global citizens-individuals who can problem solve, be critical thinkers and critical consumers of information. The tools used to do that will vary and should be relevant to the task at hand. As our good friend Jason Bailey always says, the technology is just the mechanism, not the THING itself. You don't teach technology, you use technology to teach, and if done well it is so seamless that the technology disappears into the background.

  4. Kris posted this YouTube video under the 30 day challenge yesterday-I love it, and it supports exactly what you have said: