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
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 didnâ€™t get Twitter at all when I heard about it. I thought it was a â€œwaste of what little time I have.â€ Why would I Twitter when I can barely keep up with my Blog? I â€œmadeâ€ 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 Kuropatwaâ€™s saga unfold in real time â€“his computer crashed big time with 3 presentations loomingâ€“ and the amount of support he received by people who were just a â€œtwit awayâ€ was astounding. In some ways, I see Twitter as the â€œBat Signalâ€. Just ask and you shall receive.
I also like how it changes my consciousness. Seeing â€œblipsâ€ from people I know and care about pop up on my screen throughout the day has to be a good thing.
Twit: Oh, look whatâ€™s Cherylâ€™s doing. Iâ€™m now thinking of Cheryl. Thatâ€™s nice.
Twit: Oh, look. Deanâ€™s on his way home. Iâ€™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 â€œprayer beads.â€
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 Iâ€™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 â€œbook group.â€ Very nice when traveling.
One of my favorite things about Twitter is when people announce that theyâ€™ve just published a post on their own blogs. This pulls me away from what Iâ€™m currently working on more than anything else. Twitter as â€œhot off the press.â€ Freshly baked cookies.
I â€œmadeâ€ myself try twitter for a â€œ30 Daysâ€ experiment to see if the technology could change me. Looks like it has.
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.
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On this day..
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- Podcast327: Using Digital Technologies and Personal Learning Networks to Enhance Learning by Clif Mims (Podstock09 Keynote) - 2009
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