Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Explaining the value of microblogging and Twitter for educators

Maggie Verster (an educator in Johannesburg, South Africa – Twitter: maggiev) has created and shared an excellent tutorial via SlideShare titled “Twitter for Educational Purposes.”

Her learning outcomes for the tutorial are three-fold:

  • Communicate using a micro-blogging system
  • Update your status
  • Create a learning network

Should every educator in every context use Twitter? I don’t think any single tool or website is going to be appropriate and well received by EVERYONE in any category of work or play. Should every educator at least be aware of Twitter and have an opportunity to utilize it as a communication tool as part of his/her extended learning community? Most definitely.

Thanks Maggie for creating and sharing this tutorial. This is a great example of the power of SlideShare as well.

More tutorials like this one are available on ThuTong: a South African Education Portal.

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10 responses to “Explaining the value of microblogging and Twitter for educators”

  1. Paul Barrette Avatar
    Paul Barrette

    But in the US, how would you open up access to Twitter while still meeting the requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure passed in December of 2006 that require school districts (among other public institutions) to archive electronic communications?

    Archiving can easily be done with an internal system (we use FirstClass), but it’s not really feasible for systems outside of the district.

  2. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    This is a good and important question, Paul. I am glad you’ve asked it.

    If a U.S. school district’s legal interpretation of electronic communications archival requirements are that ANY type of electronic communication on any website and using any digital software program must be electronically archived, then certainly that interpretation is going to have a wholesale chilling effect on the instructional use of all web 2.0 tools.

    Under that extremist interpretation, the school district would block all wikis, all blogs with open commenting, Google docs, any photo or video sharing websites with open commenting, etc. Essentially web 2.0 sites would be shut down to all students and teachers. Internet use would be limited to only static websites (web 1.0 sites) which do not permit any type of dynamic collaboration or sharing, as well as district-provided email accounts which are archived.

    I would argue two things on this position:
    1- The intent of the law was not to chill use of every website and software tool which permits collaboration and facilitates learning. The intent of the law was to provide documentation of network abuse and misuse. Districts should and must according to the law make good faith efforts to archive electronic communications on the district’s email server, but it is unrealistic and counterproductive to attempt to archive every outbound packet of data which is created by students, teachers, and other district staff members in-district.

    2- I would point out that many districts DO permit the use of read/write web tools and websites for instructional purposes, and are still within the bounds of legal compliance with electronic archival requirements from the U.S. federal government.

    I think this is a case of whether the district’s legal counsel is permitted to be “the tail that wags the dog” and completely chills / shuts down the collaborative power of digital technologies and the Internet. I know in some cases this IS happening in school districts. This is very important to address at multiple levels. If the district’s lawyer is saying, “You can’t let students and teachers use any websites that we are not electronically archiving” then members of the school board need to legitimately be asking some questions:

    1- Are there other school lawyers with different opinions on this issue that we can talk with about this topic?
    2- If the district is going to adopt this draconian filtering position and prohibit all read/write web tool access from the school network, how are teachers and students in the school district ever going to be able to practice and develop the skill set included in the ISTE NETS for teachers and students, and included in many state standards for educational technology?

    This situation reminds me of two things: The EFF’s case against AT&T for data mining / wiretapping / electronic archiving, and conversations about E-Rate.

    To the first point, I am not contesting the right of a school district or school organization to monitor and archive electronic communications on its network. I would contest the feasibility and desirability of an interpreted policy which essentially says every outbound packet has to be captured and archived. This is impractical, has a powerful chilling effect on instructional uses of technologies, is out of line with the intent of the law mandating archival of electronic communications, and rubs of at least some of the issues brought up in the above linked EFF lawsuit.

    To the second point, when you ask some lawyer about an E-Rate question that is regulatory in nature, you quite often get the most conservative, extreme answer possible. When it comes to many legal issues, there are not bright lines. Sometimes there certainly are, but as I already mentioned we DO have school districts permitting teachers and students to use wikis, for example, and the district isn’t archiving every edit and comment that is going up on those wikis. Should those educators and administrators be thrown in jail or fined for recklessly endangering students online and failing to comply with U.S. laws which are (in some cases) apparently interpreted to require electronic archival of every outbound packet of information from in-district computers? I would say no.

    Perhaps we need to change this law and legal requirement, as well as ask our leaders to clarify the law to address and stop this type of “chilling effect” interpretations? I do think we need an “E-Rate 2.0” movement in our nation, which permits greater autonomy by school districts to spend E-Rate dollars for end-user equipment, hardware and software which includes educational content and curriculum, and collaborative technologies.

    This IS a huge issue and not one I am adequately addressing in this post or follow-up comment, but hopefully this is helpful in highlighting some of the issues and at least a few of my thoughts in response.

  3. José Picardo Avatar

    Hi Wesley,

    I have recently started using microblogging with my students and so far it’s proving to be a hit. Although I got into microblogging with Twitter, I don’t use it with my pupils. I think Twitter is fantastic for teacher professional development but with my pupils I am trialing Edmodo, which I think offers a safer environment for them, as well as allowing you to set and collect assignments online.

    I have blogged about my experience so far here


  4. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    Thanks for your comment and letting me know about Edmodo, Jose. I hadn’t heard of it and I’ll check that out! I like your analogy in your post that microblogging for educational purposes is like using an “online notice board.” Do you know if Edmodo has support for archiving posts, to address Paul’s concern above?

  5. José Picardo Avatar

    Hi again Wesley,

    I’m afraid I am not sure about archiving. I hadn’t thought about it as I don’t think such legislation exists here in the UK -at least, I am not aware of it!

    I am sorry to hear that such restrictive laws exist over in the States… sounds to me like the tail wagging the dog, but who am I to say?


  6. Jeff O'Hara Avatar

    Currently Edmodo is a free tool for Individual Teachers and we plan to keep it that way. If a School or District wants to adopt it as a communication platform and pay for it, we would be more than happy to give them an archival tool to be in compliance with “Federal Rules of Civil Procedure passed in December of 2006”. This is just my initial reaction to this discussion and by no means an “official” stance by me. BTW, great discussion. I really have to consult a lawyer and is not Edmodo’s official stance, we don’t have an official stance until it’s discussed with a lawyer. Like my cop out? I should run for office. lol.

  7. Julie Carney Avatar
    Julie Carney

    I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on educators using Twitter. I agree that not every Web tool is appropriate for every person. I am starting a blog of my own soon and got some great ideas from you blog.