Misconceptions about Twitter

This semester I have been running a course on “Web 2.0 and the Society” for bachelor and master students at the Beuth University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. Each session is divided into two parts – theory and praxis – which really intermingle at different points. The aim of the theoretical part is to provide models, general principles but also case studies and good practice examples regarding the use of social media as a starting point for a discussion about how Web 2.0 influences different areas of our life. These include learning, working, social networking, managing resources, marketing, politics, mass media and copyright. The aim of the practical part is to provide opportunities for experiencing Web 2.0 through working on goal-oriented tasks and self-directed exploration of social media.

Today we discussed social networking with Web 2.0 in the theoretical part and explored microblogging in the practical part. We are testing two microblogging services throughout the course. One is Edmodo, which we use for internal communication in the group. The other one is Twitter which we are currently testing as tool to extend and activate social network with the view of developing a personal learning network (PLN). When discussing the use of Twitter with students today I realized there are some common misconceptions about Twitter, which hinder students from engaging in microblogging.  Let me just list these misconceptions here as I would be interested to find ways of challenging them.

I will list some “personal theories” about Twitter I heard from students today (left column) and try decoding them as “underlying assumptions” (right column). Ok, here is my quick analysis:

Personal theory Underlying assumption
 

“On Twitter all that people write about are useless things such as where they are or what they are drinking at the moment.”

 

 

Information distributed in Twitter is trivial and has no value. Using Twitter is a waste of time.

 

“Following a bigger number of people on Twitter makes no sense because it would take toomuch time to read all these tweets.”

 

One has to read all Tweets. Using Twitter is like reading a book from start to the end (or from top to bottom in terms of Twitter stream).

 

 

“Twitter is an absolute information overkill and I can’t figure out what these different tweets are all about.”

 

 

The volume of information on Twitter is impossible to handle. The number of tweets impedes sense-making.

 

 

“If I follow new accounts and these people produce useless information this will distract me and the social network I will be trying to build will be of no value to me.”

 

One has no sufficient control over information flow on Twitter. One has limited control over social network on Twitter. All information on Twitter has to be personally relevant, otherwise one is distracted. One is distracted by irrelevant information.

 

I would like to challenge some of these presumptions and encourage students to make their own experience and explore in what ways distribution of information, communication and collaboration are different in social media taking Twitter as one of the most prominent examples.  It would be great to hear from you if you have any good ways of approaching such misconceptions. Thank you for comments.

6 thoughts on “Misconceptions about Twitter

  1. Hi Ilona, interesting contribution, thank you!
    What is the most deceiving is to see teachers (of languages) asking their students to follow each others on twitter (orFacebook) on a very artificial way (how did you feel if somebody would ask you to follow ZZZ or XXX just because it happens that you are in the same class with that person??) plus, assessing students’ contribution on twitter (ex. number of tweets per month)…”imposing” a tool just because it’s fancy can be disastreous to me…especially when the ecology of the tool and the relation that is smoothly established between artifacts and users are not respected. What would you say?

    • Hi Katerina,

      thank you for your comment. Yes I strongly agree that imposing certain patterns on use of social media just for the sake of a pedagogical situation may have nonconstructive effects. What is important I think is to find a balance between guidance and autonomous exploration.

      What I am trying to do in the course is to model and recommend some possible uses of social media giving students high degree of flexibility as far as specific choices are concerned, such as who to follow on Twitter or how many Tweets to send. These are choices, I believe, everyone has to make for themselves based on their interests, needs, lifestyle, domain etc.

      In the course “Web 2.0 and the Society” I am trying to stimulate and encourage students to experience social media like Twitter by providing examplary use patterns (e.g. sharing ressources, expressing an opinion, calling up for a cause etc.) und guiding principles (e.g. reciprocity, respectful interaction etc.). So as facilitator I intend to trigger and accompany activities, leaving decision-making up to the students.

      I like what you say about the ecology of the tool and respecting relations that are established individually between users and artifacts.

      So, how do you introduce learners to social media?

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