Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Leading Twitter Question Should Guide the Tweets of a PLN?

The well known microblogging site, Twitter, asks users to answer, "What are you doing?" or "What's happening?" in 140 characters or less.  To many, this seems to be a rather silly, simple, and personal question.  After all, I have Facebook for sharing my life with family and friends, many indicate.

Aside from the misconception that many have about the difference between Facebook and Twitter, it seems that many educators are unsure of the value of using Twitter.  I, like many, initially questioned the value of tweeting. After all, do I really care to know when someone I am "following" is getting a cup of coffee, frustrated with work, or performing another mundane life activity?  Even more, do other people really care when I am involved in such actions?  The answer to many is a resounding NO.

Welcome the Professional (or Personal) Learning Network.  For many educators, including me, this is where Twitter begins to fly.  A PLN is a global social network that include people of interest to your career.  With a PLN, teachers no longer need to feel isolated behind the walls of their classroom or alone in a rural community.  Rather, teachers can be enriched on a daily basis by people from around the world that share in similar professional interests.

Just last week, I added Bill Gates to my PLN.  This means that I can follow his tweets on Twitter, learning about new ideas he has to share.  In the same way, I also follow Bernie Dodge, of Webquest fame.  The fact that I can follow and learn from the ideas and content that they find new, interesting, and intriguing makes my PLN a valuable resource to me.  But the benefit is also reciprocal, meaning that I can post tweets to share with those who are following me. 

All of this said, I have been thinking lately that the Twitter question (What's happening?), really doesn't do justice for the way in which my PLN uses Twitter.  Although Twitter will not likely be changing this leading question anytime soon, I believe that educators would be able to more readily see the value of Twitter, if the question itself was something more along the lines of: 

"What resources (websites, blog posts, journal articles, creative ideas, free materials) have you found that are worth sharing with your global network of colleagues?" 

After all, if Twitter is to be more than a global announcement of mundane life activities, educators deserve to have clarity about the type of content they should be tweeting. Therefore, I ask you, what leading Twitter question should guide the tweets of a PLN?  I welcome your comments.


(The Twitter bird image is courtesy of DryIcons.  See this article for the image source: )