Monday, 5 November 2012

Why tweet?

I don't usually like to write blogs posts about twitter. It all gets a bit circular when your main audience for the blog are people you connect with via twitter. However, over the weekend I have been gradually feeling the need to put something in writing.

Why are we tweeting? Really, honestly, deep down, why do we feel the need to go on to social media and make a comment?

I started with the TES forums. I was looking for a new job and miserable in my current role. I was also quite lonely. So I would read the job hunting forums and pay and conditions. I then grew to know members of the community and they became my "friends". Then I registered for a facebook account. This type of social media I do like; it helps connect me with my family (who are far away) and the friends I don't see very often.

I am not sure why I moved to twitter. I tried it because my partner was using it, but I didn't like it. Then I decided to have another go and found cleverfiend and teachingofsci, who I recognised from the TES forums as helpful people. The community of science teachers and other teachers grew.

The twitter community is on the whole very positive and it is full of teachers who want to improve their practice. But I am a glass half empty sort of person and I find it hard sometimes to deal with those who seem to self-congratulate and self-publicise.

But am I doing that too? Am I one of the twitter users who does it for personal gain?

I hope not.

My aim is to connect science teachers and make science teaching the best it can be. This is on a personal level, school level, regional level and national level. Because I am a science teacher and believe in teaching balanced science to all English school children.

It is bigger than me.

Twitter allows me to connect with the people I need to even be able to start to reach my aim, but it isn't the only thing I do because I am a member of the science teacher body the ASE and that is much more important that retweeting the thoughts of someone I believe will give me a "leg up".

So today I look at two sets of hashtags. The one that I feel part of #asechat and think that yes, I am making a difference and supporting science teachers (as they are definitely supporting me). The hash tag is a community. The people there are tweeting to share what they know and add to the knowledge floating in the ether, and in the knowledge that when they need support the community will give back.

And I look at another and think, why tweet? No community, no support, not adding anything new to the educational knowledge of followers, nothing but sound bites being put into a computer database, (adding to global warming). A lot of contributors tweeting for the sake of self-promotion.

But then, I am missing the point. Twitter is a microblogging site. It is there to allow you to say. "I am at a cafe drinking coffee", and the teachers collaborating was never the intention.


  1. Firstly, I'd point out that just because some hashtags are boring/pointless/ALLCAPS doesn't mean others can't be useful. Twitter is a platform, like the printing press. That some people buy the Sun (okay, look at the pictures) doesn't diminish the impact of the Guardian, Nature or SSR. Don't mix up the medium and the message. Different users take (and give) different things.

    Secondly, if people are following you, they feel your tweets are worth reading. I'm bemused that my mix attracts followers. I'd estimate 70% teaching, 20% media and human rights comments and the rest random family or frustrated nonsense. Of my education tweets, I ask questions, share ideas and links and advertise my own blog. I don't think I have many unfollowers, and I suspect you have even less.

    1. I suppose that is the key, using twitter it is easy to "unfollow", and I have done that to a lot of accounts.

  2. The advantage of Twitter is that it allows relatively isolated people to connect in a (reasonably) meaningful way with others who would like to be in a similar community. The personal learning network aspect you describe. I enjoy this aspect, particularly as I'm a bit of an information magpie and like to collect and share knowledge.

    On the otherhand Twitter can also be an echobox with only opinions similar to ones own being heard. I try to mitigate against this by following some people who I disagree with in some things.

    There is also the Twitter of foul language, casual racism and sexism, but thankfully I can avoid that fairly well (in much the same way I avoid the underbelly of the internet).