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Again: Relevance, why Twitter?

5 min read


Twitter has been a topic for educational bloggers for several years now. I believe that those educators using Twitter are drawn to those posts, while other educators, not using Twitter, are driven away. Maybe the problem is the emphasis or focus of the blog posts. Maybe the focus should be on relevance and not mention of Twitter. Are educators relevant in our technology-driven society? The obvious answer is that some are, and some are not. A more important question is which of these two groups is growing?

I earned an advanced degree in educational technology over 30 years ago. From the day that I received that degree, things have evolved at an unbelievable pace, driven by technology. Not one piece of the hardware or software that I used to earn that degree existed five years later. How does any educator keep up with the changes, not only in technology and methodology of the profession but the content of subject matter itself, as well as worldwide change? The world today is not the same world of even five years ago. How do educators keep up with all these changes? Relevance today is much more elusive to educators than when public education was conceived and introduced. We have gone from incremental changes over long periods of time to huge, almost systemic changes, in some cases in a matter of months.

In the distant past, teachers were able to maintain their relevance based on printed journals, newspapers and magazines. Annual or semi-annual workshops often tied things together. Change was slow and it was simpler to keep up with things. As change began to speed up, the methods of maintaining relevance remained unchanged. The methods of information have now almost totally shifted from the print media to the digital media. Websites and blog posts have replaced education journals. The print media, as an industry, has drastically shrunk in size, as digital media has expanded. Educator relevance has fallen behind as a result of a fast-paced, ever- changing, technology-driven society, combined with an antiquated method of relevant professional development. The evolution of change is faster in the world than it is for the system of educators who teach about that world.

Educators need a better way to communicate about change in order to maintain their relevance. Collaboration may be the key to this problem. If we could connect those educators who have managed to maintain their relevance in this new reality to those educators who need to be brought up to speed, we will be well on the way to needed reform. Educators could connect and discuss what works and what doesn’t. If we only had a way to share the websites, or, better yet, free online webinars. If we only had a way to engage educators in real-time discussions on topics of education not going on in their school settings. If we only had a method to provide the latest methodology in things like blogging, BYOD, the flipped classroom, portfolio assessment and authentic learning. If we only had a way of doing all of this with little impact on precious time.

Too bad an application of social media like Twitter was developed for such a frivolous purpose. It was set up so that people could quickly send stupid, unimportant information to other people. It allows celebrities to conduct meaningless discussions with fans. It enables an exchange of useless and silly websites, blog posts, videos, and live, celebrity interviews. It is really a waste of a good application.

If only an educator with the highest of degrees would invent such a collaborative tool for educators to do all of the same collaboration with valuable education information. Maybe, until that time arrives, when a prestigious application designer develops a prestigious education tool for education collaboration that receives the approval of all educators for use in their noble endeavors, maybe, just maybe, we could consider using TWITTER. It might be the quickest and best method to acquire and maintain the relevance necessary to be an effective educator.

I must admit that this post comes from the frustration of listening to the many excuses from educators who choose not to use Twitter. Relevance is the prime consideration for using it. Twitter is used by many educators as the backbone to their professional learning network. Why would any educator argue for his or her irrelevance? If Twitter is not for all educators, what applications or methods are they using to maintain relevance?

Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) is an adjunct professor of education at St. Joseph’s College in New York. He previously spent 34 years as a secondary English teacher in the public school system. He was recognized with an Edublog Award for the Most Influential Educational Twitter Series, #Edchat, which he co-founded. Whitby also created The Educator’s PLN and two LinkedIn groups, Technology-Using Professors and Twitter-Using Educators.