Twitter’s Place in Learning

Imagine you’re teaching a class or presenting at a conference and you hear the click clack, click clack of someone texting away on her cell phone?

What’s your initial assumption?

Is she chatting with a friend about the latest Twilight movie (which by the way is scheduled to release November 20th)?

Or could it be that she is so engaged with your presentation that she is sharing the content with hundreds of followers and millions of users of the micro-blogging tool Twitter?

The March issue  of T+D, ASTD’s monthly magazine, has an article titled Twitter as a Learning Tool. Really.

The article shows that corporate America is catching on to what libraries have known for years…informal learning counts and learning communities exist–whether you want them to or not.

Among conferences Twitter is often seen as the “back channel” where you can find out which presentations are good, which presentations are not so good, and where the free food is! Key themes and concepts are also shared for the benefit of those followers not attending the conference or for those not attending the same session.

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As a kinesthetic learner–my hands have to constantly be moving–Twitter has been a great way for me to reinforce what I am learning and share with colleagues across the world.

However this can be an area where worlds collide–Learning 1.0 versus Learning 2.0 or Facilitator 1.0 versus Facilitator 2.0. Not all presenters are familiar with Twitter or comfortable with the concept. There’s even discussion in academia about whether tweeting content from a class is a copyright violation. <Pause> <Sigh>

Michael Stephens is using Twitter effectively and innovatively to communicate with his LIS students, but more importantly his students are communicating with each other. Check out one of his class’s tweets here.

So I challenge all the trainers and facilitators out there, even if you never become a Twitter user, at least be familiar with the concept and recognize the value it brings to your audience and learners.

Some tips if you are facilitating while twittering is going on:

  • Embrace the technology. Don’t ban it. My personal pet peeve is attending training where laptops and cell phones are banned. Sorry but I feel naked without a keyboard and I’m not even a digital native. If you want to instantly alienate digital natives, force them to sit still and ban texting.
  • If you truly want to embrace the technology follow David Lee King’s example and connect with your audience during the presentation. Not only does David monitor Twitter during his own presentations but he answers questions that come in through Twitter as well. Twitter is a great way to get instant feedback during a presentation.
  • Give up control. Realize that we are all adults and we are training adults. Yes there may be some texting discussing whether Rob Pattison’s hair will grow out in time for the shooting of New Moon but we need to put more responsibility on our learners. It is not our responsibility to police the use of cell phones and laptops during a presentation.

Want more tips? Read this great article on Pistachio Consulting with more tips for presenters.

While you’re at it be sure to read Peter Bromberg’s tips of what not to do if you are twittering during a conference.

Don’t get Twitter? You’re not alone! It took me at least a month to catch on. To learn more watch this video by Common Craft, Twitter in Plain English.

If you decide to give Twitter a try, make sure you say hello. I love connecting with readers and many of my closest colleagues in the library world are people I’ve met through sites like Twitter.

About Lori Reed

Lori Reed, coauthor of Workplace Learning & Leadership: A Handbook for Library and Non-Profit Trainers, is a learning and communication strategist with more than twenty years experience in learning and development. A 2009 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and a 2010 "One to Watch" for paralibrarians, Lori graduated cum laude from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Communication. Lori is a certified Synchronous Learning Expert and a North Carolina Master Trainer and has traveled across North America speaking about libraries and training.

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