When I started this course, I was lucky enough to have a few weeks off work. This proved to be invaluable: I was able to become familiar with the different information and communication streams, spend time on the discussion boards and kick-start my blog. As a learner, I felt, in the main, in control and on top of things.
The asynchronous nature of the discussions in Weeks 0 and 1 served to reinforce this sense of ordered, systematic, linear learning. I was able to approach and engage in discussions as and when I could and, due to the slow pace of the threads, I didn’t feel that I was left behind or out of the loop. The one-off synchronous Skype discussion in Week 2, although frenetic, was also manageable: it was a commitment of one hour and I felt fully ‘present’* and part of the conversation.
This week, we’ve been using Twitter. In theory, this medium shouldn’t prove to be too different to using a discussion forum. I can log onto Twitter and participate on my own terms and in my own time; I can review tweets in a conversation in the same way as I can read posts on a discussion board and respond (or not) as and when suits me. So far, so like the discussion board.
And yet, so different.
Reflecting on why, I think Twitter is a more demanding technology:
- Twitter has, as part of its cultural norms, a demand for greater immediacy than discussion boards.
- SO: once the first tweets started appear about the readings on Monday, I started to feel a sense of exclusion. I hadn’t yet got to the readings and yet there were conversations emerging about them which I didn’t feel equipped to participate in. This anxiety is, I acknowledge, is my construct, but I didn’t feel it when we were contributing via the boards.
- Twitter demands 140 characters or less.
- SO: it’s often easier to convey your point by linking to other content, resulting in an ever-increasing list of things I felt I needed to read, watch or do.
- To follow and participate in the threads, Twitter demands a #.
- SO: I spent a lot time deleting tweets and then tweeting them again with the #added
- Twitter demands more actions to view and follow conversations, especially via the mobile app.
- SO: I had to work to find the start of conversations, in order that I ‘jumped in’ at the right point.
- To respond to others, Twitter demands a @.
- SO: I spent a lot time deleting tweets and then tweeting them again with the right combinations of @ added.
Some felt differently:
But it was heartening and reassuring (if a little sadistic) to see that others also felt some sense of exclusion:
And that others were equally bemused and confused at times:
One of the anxieties I didn’t have which others expressed was that of our discussions being more broadly public:
Rather, I felt that the hastag provided a ‘walled garden’ for our learning community.
So, all bad?
No, not at all.
In spite of Twitter shifting me out of my controlled, linear, preferred PLE, it is an incredible tool for learning. This week, it has proved to be a brilliant way to crowd-source (albeit an overwhelming amount of) information, ideas and links. But, more importantly, I really feel that this week we’ve been able to develop more of an identity for our learning community by developing a greater sense of the identities of those who make up that community. At the start of the week, I reflected on the fact that it if ‘off-task’ activities that help us to build connections.
And Twitter is the ideal medium for off-task interchanges. These reached their inevitable zenith this week with a silly cat video. Susie rocks.