This was my quote about two years ago. My guess is that some of you read that quote and thought, “Finally someone who will agree with me that Twitter is not all that.”
Unfortunately I am probably going to disappoint you, but please keep reading. I am going to share my hesitant, maybe even reluctant, journey into Twitter, my experiences as a relative newbie, what I have found to be the benefits, and one concern I have based on my experiences. My hope is that this can be shared with the Twitter naysayers as a way of getting them to at least look into Twitter as a PE resource because I think there are many benefits. My perspectives are fluid, so I welcome discussion.
Twitter has been around since March 21st, 2006 (I looked it up). While many educators have been involved and were forward thinking enough to see the utility of Twitter since the early days, it seems that the use of Twitter by physical educators for professional development, learning, sharing, and interacting with a Professional Learning Network (PLN) has really ramped up in the last 3-4 years. The potential for Twitter is immense and many are starting to see this. I, on the other hand, am one of those slow uptake people.
One reason for my apprehension is my hesitancy to jump on the bandwagon of the next fad in physical education, and we have our share. Some of my apprehension is that I am a people person. I like face-to-face interaction. I think this interaction is the foundation of relationships. In workshops, gymnasiums, and classrooms, personal interactions provide energy, context, and opens doors for communications. While I present and listen to webinars, podcasts, etc., I thrive on face-to-face interaction with others. I like people (most of them). For these reasons, reading a tweet such as “Be sure to attend the #physed twitter chat 2nite@gophersport “ was not initially attractive to me. Please know, there is much more to Twitter than the simple posts you read; this was just my perspective early on.
So how did I get started? I started by following sports talk radio folks and some artists my daughters liked so I could find out if they were in concert near us. Over the next two years I listened to workshop presenters, colleagues, students, and teachers talk about their PLN. I saw them meet people at conferences who they knew from Twitter but had never met face-to-face. From there I started following some physical education folks. I was still against Twitter as a PE resource. It’s called “SOCIAL” media right? LinkedIn was for professional interactions. I was and still am a Facebook stalker. I rarely post other than to say, “Thanks for the birthday wishes” and to post the obligatory first day of school pictures for our four girls. Face-to-face I can do. I love presenting. Talking to physical educator teachers, hearing and seeing their passion is what I love. Typing to people I may or may not know just doesn’t feel right. I know this is a bit contradictory considering I am writing this blog and do my share of writing books and articles.
In the last 1.5 months I have ramped up my own involvement via tweeting, reading Twitter chats, even occasionally making comments (WHOA) AND I LIKE IT. I am guessing I like it for the reasons many others like it. It allows instantaneous interactions. I can see a teacher from Australia’s ideas instantly. While email would serve the same purpose, the teacher from Australia can share her work simultaneously to hundreds or thousands.
Twitter provides physical educators with a support network/PLN. Considering many of us are literally on an island (our teaching space) and might have limited chances for interactions with other #physed teachers, this is a great benefit. PLNs are also significant given the trend for decreased professional development (PD) dollars and thus PD opportunities. Twitter also provides a national and global perspective. Posts and interactions with teachers from around the world has great potential for improving teaching and the field. While not as official sounding, Twitter is simply fun. Like Facebook, with Twitter you feel you know some of the folks you follow or are following you, but you may have never met them in person or haven’t seen them in 20 years. A bit weird, but fun. This list is limited and I am sure readers can come up with more reasons they love Twitter. My point is to let those riding the Twitter fence see that there are upsides and it’s worth looking into.
My only real concern about Twitter is the lack of accountability for posts. (Please know that I know that many forms of electronic media have similar issues, I am just focusing on Twitter.) There is no vetting or refereeing process associated with Twitter posts. This means anyone can post anything at any time. If you think about that it’s both scary and exciting. I understand that it is up to the reader to decipher the content and make judgments as the utility of a post. However, what if the reader is not as educated or up to speed on what #QPE is? What if the post is a video of poor teaching practices? Or inaccurately quoted research? I know reporters do this ALL the time, but at least they have the excuse that they are “outside the field”. With Twitter, it’s our own posting content that lacks evidence or contradicts what is generally accepted as best practice. I am not sure of an answer for this, but I believe it is worth discussing in the Twitter chat world.
I hope this blog will push #physed teachers and other professionals to look into using Twitter. The benefits outweigh the negatives, particularly if Twitter is used without accepting everything for face value. Yes, some folks are out to promote themselves and will use shameless self-marketing and some will post a quote that in no way reflects the research article it claims to quote; however, in a very short amount of time, I have learned to filter those posts (that means I don’t get bent out of shape over them) and focus on the positives associated with Twitter. If you have never used Twitter, I hope you give it a try. If you use Twitter, I hope you use it with a filter that helps you maximize its potential.
Follow me @AaronBeighle