Recently, I began using Twitter. I’ve known about it for years, but was frankly too afraid to try it myself. My pursuit to maintain some level of privacy in my life, had led me to the conclusion that social networking is just not for me.
For years I’ve been the “lurker” – enjoying the benefits social networking offers without actually contributing to it. I had a Facebook account only so I could see my closest friends’ photos and updates – and never put anything up there myself. I read numerous blogs and have learned hips from them, but have never bothered to write my own. I even avoided typing anonymous replies to posts I enjoyed. All, until the past couple of months.
As I was starting a new research project (about teaching, learning and design) I recalled a conversation I had with a colleague regarding “open research”. If you have yet to encounter this concept, the main idea of it is that you perform parts of your research in an open-online environment (e.g. a blog). At the university, we tend to keep a lot of what we do behind the scenes, and only when we reach the final “answers” we were looking for – we publish them.
This behavior may lead to well-polished studies and results, but those are usually shared only through the academic channels of journals, books, or conferences. The unfortunate part of it is that a lot of the first stages of research, as literature reviews for example, are performed behind closed doors.
“Open-research” suggests that by conducting as many parts of your research as you can openly, you can contribute to the community while receiving back from it. For example, if I write about what I’m researching/exploring I hope to create synthesis that would be of interest to others, while learning from their comments, discussions and links to further resources I wouldn’t have thought of or found myself.
So, going back to my small “social media revolution” – I opened this blog, and as I said in the beginning – I also recently started using Twitter. I did so when I wanted to get some feedback and tips regarding my blog, and thought to myself I should try and see if someone out there, in the #design community on Twitter could help me?
The pressure was on. As I was about to send out my very first tweet, I felt both anxious and excited at once. What is going to happen next? Who will be able to help me? What would they say?
And so I tweeted. That’s it – it was up there for the whole world to see!
Or………. was it?
By the time I typed #design in the search field to see my first post in its glory, I discovered 2 highly embarrassing facts:
1. The post wasn’t there. It took me a while to find that it was only showing the Top tweets (which naturally, my first post wasn’t a part of…).
2. When I chose to see All tweets (rather than only the top ones) I discovered that my post was already long down the list of tweets and, as we can all assume, probably wasn’t seen by anyone other than me.
Disappointing? I’m not sure… Something in me was quite relieved to discover I didn’t have to dive into the rush immediately, but rather take some time to learn the rules of this foreign territory. And so I started my Twitter journey.
After spending 1 hour on Twitter I can now say the following:
1. I can probably do this all day, every day. (How scary!!!)
2. I just had one of the most intensive learning experiences of my life! I’ve been exposed to more resources, ideas, projects, people and initiatives than I could ever imagine. I’ve deepened my understanding of concepts I was already exploring and was exposed to many new ones. (How exhilarating!)
3. Working in the field of Educational Media, I was familiar with the idea of Twitter being used in classes and conferences as a platform for discussions between participants/students. I have always found that to be rather annoying to be frank, and didn’t see the benefit of people typing their thoughts through this platform instead of raising their hands and speaking out to encourage in-class/in-session discussions. However, after exploring Twitter from a different angle, and learning so much, I can now see that it may have many possibilities to enhance teaching and learning. That is, if it is being used in a slightly different way if I may suggest (mainly, not as a discussion tool for people who are sitting in the same room together).