I don’t want to do twitter

After reading a blog post, a good one, about why teachers don’t like Twitter I thought I would add a few of my ideas. I run a programme where we get teachers to sign up for a twitter account that we use to communicate and for them to communicate their evaluations after each session. The programme does more than just get them to sign up for Twitter – just in case you thought it was the simplest programme ever!

About half the participants sign up at the first request. A few, about 8%, are already on twitter. Being on Twitter as a teacher means being in a minority. Of those 8% hardly any use twitter for learning, other than learning about what their pals have had for breakfast.

The second half who do not sign up when they receive our first email asking them to get an account need a reminder and by the time the programme begins there are still a few who have not signed up. Almost none of them has Tweeted by the start of the programme.

On the first session part of the introduction is to explain Twitter, how we will use it and how they can be safe.

Even then we have some reluctant folk. Only once have we had direct refusals to join Twitter. One very valid reason to do with privacy and another just did not want to and would not be persuaded.

For those who do sign up to Twitter a fraction stay active and they are usually very active and form part of our personal learning network (PLN) and get out of Twitter what the rest of us learners, should we call ourselves TWearners(?),get from Twitter – access to a great group of educators and more from a more diverse group than we could ever engage with without Twitter. Once one “gets” Twitter it is quite difficult to realise why others do not see the benefits. Why do I think that might be and what reasons do folk give for not wanting to be on Twitter?

In no particular order they say:

1. “Don’t have the time”. These are teachers who work hard and want a life. This is really hard to argue against and they are often teachers who do things in their own way. They are sometimes quite resistant to change and often very resistant to changing themselves. Sometimes they are fearful that they might not cope with a new way of thinking about learning. They don’t want to give anything up to make space for Twitter.

2. “School policy”. This is one that says teachers should not be on social networking sites because there is something inherently dangerous about adults communicating with young people outside school in an apparently private way. Using computers for Tweeting is, usually, a private activity. Of course such systems will allow such dangerous activity. But it is a little far fetched to think that it would encourage such activity when no intention to behave inappropriately was present.

3. “School policy”. This reason for not joining Twitter is a many faceted beast. This element says that teachers might be using Twitter during school, teaching, time. And they would be chatting non professional things with their Twitter friends. I do think that might be happening in every staffroom across the country. But the fear is again the fact that this communication is private. It is a bit like chatting to another teacher in the same school using a mobile phone. Odd, but I have never seen that activity banned as part of school policy.

4. “I am not an IT expert”. This is part of the fear of not being able to do. We know that with most IT activities just doing lets one learn and the more we do the easier it becomes. But all IT things do have a steep learning curve and that is something that puts learners off. while Twitter is one of the easiest IT things to get onto and to use the learning curve is still steep, partly because it is not clear, to an new user, what Twitter is for! How can it possibly be of any use when I

  • can only type 140 letters (bear with me, I am being a new user)?
  • send that communication out (to who knows where – does “where” have any meaning?)?
  • might type something silly (look like a fool as I can’t retract the Tweet – can I?)?
  • and other, similar concerns.

5. “Whom would I Tweet to?”. This is a fundamental issue of understanding about Twitter. I tell teachers that Twitter is like being in a pub full of folk, some of whom are great people from whom one can learn loads. But in the pub, I say, you chat away and sometimes some of the others in the pub will respond. Everyone can, if they wish, listen in to your conversation. You can also, if you wish, listen on to their musings. This, taking a negative stance , is eavesdropping. Not a professional activity, surely? So there is an apparently moral objection and a fear that anyone might be listening.

Essentially we know the spuriousness of these objections, but we are the consenting adults already on, using, and benefiting greatly from twitter. We could not envisage not being on Twitter. But it has taken me a year to get properly enthusiastic and to really get strong value from Twitter we should not be surprised that yet-to-be users find it difficult.

About half our folk get real and lasting benefits from being introduced to Twitter so we are helping the cause, a little.

get on Twitter, teachers. It really is good for you and gets to the parts other social networking sites can’t get to.

Question: More teachers are on facebook than are on Twitter. What negative impact does that have on their view of Twitter?

When I get a gap in my busy life, Tweeting etc, I’ll see what happens if I write a blog called “Why teachers should be Tweeting”.

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