Sunday, October 11, 2009

Can Twitter replace blogging?

I am still trying to figure out how best to send information to support my Personal Learning Network. There are a few hundred people subscribed via RSS to this blog (although that is no real indication of how many others are reading it). On the other hand, I have almost 5000 people following me on Twitter. Even if only 10% of my followers use Twitter on a regular basis, it means that my Twitter posts are getting out to many more educators than the blog posts.

Can Twitter, the micro-blogging tool, replace blogging? I don't think so. Since it is hard to say much in the 140 characters Twitter allows, some people's tweets wind up just being links to their longer blog posts. And Twitter will not replace email, either. If someone asks me a 140 character question in Twitter, I don't even try to fit my response into 140 characters. I just send them a note and tell them to email me so I can share some good information with them.

However, is Twitter convenient for both posting items of interest and asking questions to tap my own Personal Learning Network? Absolutely! It is all about choosing the right tool for the job. For me, I think about it this way...

-- Blogging: I have not used blogging much to express my opinions. I use it as a place to publish information that I feel other educators might benefit from. I often ask users to contribute their thoughts, ideas, and to add to the conversation, which enriches the blog posts. However, when a reader has a follow-up question, I wind up commenting along with the readers in the comments area of my own blog. I am not sure how useful that is when someone is trying to re-construct the information in the blog post.

-- Email: I receive lots of questions from teachers who would like my help, opinion, and/or pearls of wisdom. These lengthy discussions do, and should, take place via email. The conversation is often personalized to the sender. At times, if I get the same question from lots of educators, I wind up creating a blog post about it so I can easily point others to the information.

-- Twitter: I use Twitter every day, all day. I follow about 125 very smart and tech-savvy educators, and the power of this group to find super resources to support teaching and learning is unmatched. I am a big believer in "pay it forward", so I try to do my part and post items that I feel my followers would find interesting. In the past few days, I have posted about my first foray with Google Wave, Aviary's new audio-editing tool, a well-done Time article about Google Wave, the fact my son won a programming contest, the new version of Tweetie for iPhone, Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, and the Hotmail phishing scam. I follow a lot of blogs, and, in the US, I am in the time zone that gets up first and I get up early, so I am often able to "announce" things before most educators are out of bed.

-- Web pages: I continue to update Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators daily. I add new sites, send out a site of the week to tens of thousands of educators, and add content that supports my presentations and workshops. I check all 3000+ links by hand each month to make sure they are still working and valid. Is this "old skool"? In this time of collaborative tools, it seems like it might be. However, I truly believe there will continue to be a place for experts to offer information that is useful without the comments, critiques, and collaboration of others. That place would be the Web page. The great thing about some of the new online tools is the creation and housing of Web pages has become a non-issue for teachers. With Google Docs and Sites, all educators can easily create an online resource to share with their students and colleagues.

-- Facebook: I would be remiss if I did not include this social networking tool. I have lots of friends in Facebook, and it is really where I get to learn more about them. Educators are careful to include enough information to interest you, but not too much information, so it is fun to both share in personal events (like weddings and such) and also share their successes in the classroom. I don't really like getting reference questions via Facebook, since I then have to log-in and answer the question there. My email address is prominently on my profile, and I hope that most people just email me vs. me having to go to yet another place to answer questions. However, the use of a social networking tool is a powerful thing for schools, and I see the use of similar platforms, such as, becoming more and more used in schools by teachers and their students.

This blog post started out to explain why I tweet more than I blog, but has turned into more of an explanation as to how I use the Web-based information-sharing tools. I am sure many of you have quite different opinions, so feel free to share!

Credit: Phone image courtesy of Dan Brady.