I’m honored to be a guest blogger for one of the most prolific bloggers in the universe! Thanks so much, Wes for all the hard work and inspiring words and thoughts you give to us! –Bob Sprankle

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There’s a great television show called “30 Days” created by Morgan Spurlock (the director/writer of “Super Size Me”). In each episode, real people are put into completely different environments than they are used to — for thirty days— to explore current and relevant topics and social issues. The show is smart, engaging, and fuel for great conversation starters to the big issues of today. The people who join the “30 Days” experiments do so willingly and come from an opposite “point of view” or “lifestyle” than the one they’re entering. An atheist goes to live with a Christian family. A man who lost his job to outsourcing goes to live with a family in India who work in the very type of jobs that have been outsourced. Spurlock himself goes to prison. In each show’s conclusion, you hear how the experiences have changed the participants, gave them new information and knowledge that they didn’t have before. Minds are changed. Bridges are built. It’s a great show. Check it out.

So why am I telling you about all this? Because I put myself through my own “30 Days” Experiment. Granted it was much less taxing than any that Spurlock’s participants have gone through and actually required very little effort on my part, but the premise was the same: I was prejudiced. I had certain beliefs that I thought were unshakable. I had my mind made up on something that I hadn’t even experienced. That’s right: I was a Twitter Bigot.

I thought Twitter had absolutely no value whatsoever. You can hear me profess this on several “Seedlings” shows over the past months. I couldn’t figure out why so many people who I so highly respect were raving about it. And so, on July 15, 2007, I voluntarily entered into a “30 Days” program to see if the technology itself could change me.

And I’m embarrassed to say that the Twitter conversion took hold of me within the first hour of using it. So much for thirty days. As one of the converted, I fully realize that Twitter is not for everyone, but even though I don’t consider myself a twitter-addict, I find myself returning to it throughout the day (on at least an hourly basis) and I look forward to it like I look forward to a good cup of morning coffee. I wouldn’t want to quit at this point. I could, mind you… I’m not an addict… but I don’t need to… really… I could live without it… but why would I want to…

Rather than recount some of my early realizations, here is a comment I posted on a Will Richardson’s blog post about Twitter about halfway through my “30 days”:

I didn’t get Twitter at all when I heard about it. I thought it was a “waste of what little time I have.” Why would I Twitter when I can barely keep up with my Blog? I “made” myself finally try it, and I have to admit, it took about an hour of use to finally see what people were talking about.

I signed up for an account in time for BLC07 and the night before the conference, I watched Darren Kuropatwa’s saga unfold in real time –his computer crashed big time with 3 presentations looming– and the amount of support he received by people who were just a “twit away” was astounding. In some ways, I see Twitter as the “Bat Signal”. Just ask and you shall receive.

I also like how it changes my consciousness. Seeing “blips” from people I know and care about pop up on my screen throughout the day has to be a good thing.

Example:

Twit: Oh, look what’s Cheryl’s doing. I’m now thinking of Cheryl. That’s nice.

Twit: Oh, look. Dean’s on his way home. I’m now thinking of Dean. I hope he has an easy and safe journey.

In some small and sometimes big ways, the connections we all have are popping up on my screen throughout the day. They remind me of these great people, they put me in the present here-and-now of their lives, pulling me out of my own. Twitter as meditation. Twitter as “prayer beads.”

While driving back from DC last week, whenever the family needed a pit stop, I twittered in on my phone. Sometimes I updated my own whereabouts, sometimes I just caught up on what others were doing. The twits sometimes gave me a chuckle, sometimes gave me something to think about. When we got back in the car, often I’d update my wife about what someone was currently doing/thinking/writing. This would start us off in a new discussion topic for the next 50 miles or so. Twitter as conversation starter, thought provoker. Much like a micro “book group.” Very nice when traveling.

One of my favorite things about Twitter is when people announce that they’ve just published a post on their own blogs. This pulls me away from what I’m currently working on more than anything else. Twitter as “hot off the press.” Freshly baked cookies.

I “made” myself try twitter for a “30 Days” experiment to see if the technology could change me. Looks like it has.

Tweet!

At the BLC conference the value of Twitter became even more apparent as it provided an easy way to track down folks at the hotel, give updates to friends who weren’t at the conference, report back to my family about how the week was going. Twitter also provided a “back channel” for conversations during conference presentations.

Twitter is a natural compliment to the professional community that I belong to. It’s as if now I can “run into” these colleagues by the “water cooler”, in the “staff room” —even though they live thousands of miles away. In fact, I can “run into” the folks in my learning network more than the people who work in my own Elementary School; such is the nature of the busy routines of teachers.

One of the greatest things about Twitter is people are constantly sharing new discoveries, new links, much like we would do if we were all working in the same room, shouting over our shoulder, “Say, you got to see this!”

I’ve gotten news-breaking stories on Twitter (how I found out about the Minn. bridge collapse). I was able to follow the ups and downs of the Skype outage last week as people in different parts of the world announced when it was up where they lived, and when it went down again.

I was alerted to some very funny JibJab videos of some very well-respected Edu-bloggers “cutting the rug”, which I would have probably missed without Twitter.

I find out when good friends have lunch, what they’re watching from Netflix, how their workshops went. I got this from my good friend Alice the other day: “A beautiful hawk sat in a tree and watched as I gardened all afternoon.” What a wonderful share! A poem, really.

And how delightful to hear last night from Ewan M. (from Scotland, mind you) that his daughter was born.

Twitter is both “big” and “small”. Captivating or able to be ignored. Important and insignificant. I really can’t imagine what other people, other than educators who want to talk about education and transformation all the time, would use Twitter for, but again, I show my prejudice, my ignorance.

In short, I feel richer for all the Tweets I get each day. Thanks to all the “Twits” out there.

Now… how do we use this in the classroom?


Did you know Wes has published 9 eBooks, and 1 of them is available free? Check them out!

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If you're trying to listen to a podcast episode and it's not working, check this status page. (Wes is migrating his podcasts to Amazon S3 for hosting.) Remember to follow Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also "like" Wesley's Facebook pages for "Speed of Creativity Learning" and his eBook, "Playing with Media." Don't miss Wesley's latest technology integration project, "Mapping Media to the Common Core / Curriculum."

On this day..

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  • http://mrichme.edublogs.org Michael Richards

    Bob,

    Thank you for the link to our wiki. Hopefully people will add to it and make a living resource for teachers.

  • http://ideasandthoughts.org Dean Shareski

    Welcome Bob. The paint never has a chance to dry on Wes’ blog.

    Nicely stated. The more I gather posts like this the better understanding. I wonder if in the early days of blogging, many were writing trying to figure out its purpose? Maybe a veteran like Will would know?

    Anyway, I’ll tag this one and also thanks for the tip in the show 30 days as well. Sounds like a interesting premise for a show and a concept we all might be able to use…moving out of our comfort zones.

  • http://sherrytechnicallyspeaking.blogspot.com/ Sherry Crofut

    In May, a friend said I should check out Twitter. So I wondered over and signed up. I told another friend about it, but described it as some funny, little message thing. I had no idea. I started adding friends and checking out their friends and then I checked out everyone’s blogs and pretty soon I was addicted. I am currently only following 37, but that number seems to increase every few days. I have made some new friends, found some great resources, and been kept current by some amazing people.

  • http://www.cheryloakes.com Cheryl Oakes

    Nice timeline, I love how it unfolds! Last week during our class both you and I without talking- twittered our friends and asked them to comment on the new blogs happening in our workshop. SO, we are both hooked! And it was a treat to watch the faces of the workshop participants as they noticed they had comments, heads were popping up like popcorn! Hey I have one from Wales, and it is not Wales, ME. I just heard from Illinois. Twitter is so worth it!
    Nice to read you here.
    Cheryl

  • http://alicebarr.wordpress.com Alice Barr

    Hi Bob!

    Great job as guest blogger and thanks for the mention. I find I am using Twitter more than reading RSS feeds. It’s so current and such a great way to share information quickly. I have Twitterrific open all the time and really like how people are using it to post their new blog entires and share what they’re working on. Now I must get back to listening to the singing cricket that is under my desk!
    Alice

  • http://www.ishuitech.com Quyen Arana

    Hey Bob! Nice to see you here at Wes’

    I was trying to explain Twitter last night to my wife, Miranda. She just didn’t get it. She just wondered why anyone would want to randomly say things to a crowd. “How do you know if anyone is actually listening!?” Admittedly, she hasn’t gotten into MySpace or Facebook either. It’s got to be one of those things you’ve just got to try it out.

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  • http://transparentlearning.blogspot.com/ Bethany Smith

    I’m just now getting into twittering. I may have to devote myself to 30 days to really see the benefit of it. Then again, social networking is only as good as those that are apart of that network!

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