The Eagles Are Tweeting

Twitter

What is it?

My view of Twitter holds that it is an enhanced text messaging service that differs from texting in the following ways:

1)   The message is limited to 140 characters.

2)   Links to pictures can also be sent and do not count toward the 140 character limit.

3)   The only people who can receive the message are those who “follow” you.

4)   It is not possible to send messages to specific individuals. Each message goes out to all of your followers.

5)   Each individual message is called a tweet. A message can be segmented by placing a “hashtag” indicated by the # symbol at the end of a tweet. Tweets with the same hashtag end up being accessible to anyone with a twitter account who intentionally searches for all tweets that have that same hashtag. For instance, if I tweet a message that reads, “I love my courses at Creighton. #GoBluejays!” Anyone who has a twitter account can search all messages that were given a “#GoBluejays!” hashtag.

How might it be used for your leadership situation (education, healthcare, business, non-profit, etc.)?

General Comments

Twitter may be more famous because of the number of times people have been forced to retract lamentable tweets. These moments usually come when famous people with Twitter accounts say something that one would not normally say in polite company or if the whole world is listening. Those of us who live in Indianapolis are familiar with the owner of the Indianapolis Colts sending out regrettable tweets from a bar that he is at 3 AM on a Monday morning. These can be entertaining but can also damage one’s reputation. Whether one has a Twitter account or not, these controversial tweets then get reported in the broader media for worldwide viewing over the Internet.

In spite of these ignominious moments, Twitter is a remarkably efficient way to communicate short messages to followers that can sometimes number in the millions. Pope Francis, whom I have never met, can get a message to me (if I follow him) and his other 4.1 million followers in remarkably efficient fashion. That message can then be “retweeted” by every one of his 4.1 M followers to each of their followers’ Twitter accounts. This cascading effect of the Twitter network allows for messages to spread faster than wildfire as noted in our previous week’s work on the earthquake in China.

Education Applications

High school teachers that I work with have noted that the use of Facebook is rapidly declining among the 14-18 group. Most of our students like the quicker and more concise format of Twitter. A teacher can use this to their advantage by requesting that the students follow them if they want to keep up on the latest happenings related to the class. Teachers can also use their Twitter account to send out useful supplemental materials – especially web links – that may add additional clarity to subject matter covered in an earlier class. Twitter is flexible enough so that individual accounts can be set up for individual groupings of students so that each class can be communicated with separately. Administratively, some schools are using Twitter to send out homework reminders, snow day announcements, weather cancellations of athletic contests, and general “feel-good” news and pictures to craft a positive public image of their schools.

Another educational use of Twitter is to use the hashtag function as a means of researching topics. For instance, if I am an English teacher at a Catholic high school and want my students to write an essay about Pro-life organizations, one method that I can suggest they consider for research is to do a hashtag search on their Twitter accounts for postings under the #prolife postings. A remarkably diverse set of articles, organizations, and individual leaders will immediately present themselves for immediate use by the students.

Leadership Applications

For a great introduction into the ways that world leaders are using Twitter see Beth Kanter’s blog here. All but one of the G20 governments have an official Twitter presence. Kanter (2014) reports that six of the seven G7 leaders have individual twitter accounts. Pope Francis (@Pontifex) is the most influential world leader on Twitter. His Spanish tweets are retweeted on average more than 10,000 times each compared to Barak Obama’s average of 1,400 retweets. Modern politics has become acutely aware of the “sound bite” nature of today’s political discourse. Twitter is tailor-made for such sloganizing. This is not only true of countries and states but also true of any communication to smaller organizations and groups. Leaders who are committed to communicating a vision can use Twitter to reinforce the elements of this vision for all members of the community and thus build understanding of their hopes and dreams for their organizations.

(3) What are downsides to using it? 

The downside to using Twitter is that it is, by nature of the application, a one-way conversation. While it is a good way to get a message out and to begin to get others thinking about issues, it is not to be confused with a conversation one would normally have with a small group of people. The messages are by nature short. This makes it difficult to discuss complex issues in any sort of detail.

Reference

Kanter, B. (2014, June 25). How Do World Leaders Use Twitter? New Findings from Annual Twiplomacy Study. Retrieved from http://www.bethkanter.org/twiplomacy2014/#sthash.xHn12lnp.dpuf

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15 thoughts on “The Eagles Are Tweeting

  1. When Clay Shirky spoke about turning the audience/consumers into producers in his 2009 TED talk, I immediately thought of Twitter. What an easy tool to use to communicate! In addition, when he referenced the earthquake in China and the technological craze of “reporting” that ensued, Twitter has certainly proven itself as one of the most popular tools the general public can utilize to convey a message. Shirky effectively sums up this transition in communication in his book, Here Comes Everybody. In it, he quotes publisher Tim O’Reilly by stating, “these capabilities from various professional classes to the general public is epochal, built on an architecture of participation” (Shirky, 2008, p.17). Twitter certainly encourages participation!

    While I can understand the popularity of Twitter, and why it has revolutionized the way in which people, organizations, etc. communicate, its use in the classroom still worries me. I can see its role in higher education and perhaps high school, as those students assume a higher expectation of responsibility when utilizing technology. For teachers, however, there is still only a limited amount of control that they can enforce with their students. Beyond that, students have the ability to communicate with our global society. With this capability comes a huge liability for administrators. I have experienced difficulties with parents just trying to set up a gmail account for their child—and this is one that would be monitored by the school. I couldn’t imagine the conversations that would occur if I suggested providing Twitter accounts to all my students!

    I do, however, believe strongly that for educational leaders as well as teachers, Twitter is an invaluable tool to use to “stay connected.” Syncing with blogs, following hashtags, and reading about what leaders in your field are saying are all convenient and valuable ways for us to stay current. I especially appreciated your quote, “Leaders who are committed to communicating a vision can use Twitter to reinforce the elements of this vision for all members of the community and thus build understanding of their hopes and dreams for their organizations.” I think this is especially true for educational leaders as they try to inspire all of their stakeholders to invest in the vision for their school.

  2. The power of Twitter is undeniable. The usefulness of Twitter is questionable. I recently saw a news report about the retired NFL defense tackle, Warren Sapp. He made the news because he didn’t leave a tip at a restaurant and the waitress tweeted a copy of the receipt, along with Mr. Sapp’s handwritten note on it. Normally, an event like this would have gone unnoticed but this event made national news because it was posted on twitter. Twitter is a powerful voice in today’s media.

    There is no doubt about the influence of twitter but as an educator the burning question, for me is, can twitter help one learn? Can twitter facilitate the learning process? As stated above, twitter is useful in sending out notices, or reminders. Twitter is a great connector. It connects millions in moments and allows them to interact from all over the globe but connecting does not equal learning. Learning, in my opinion, involves elements of reflection and practice/repetition. The truncated messages (only 140 characters) of Twitter and the fast pace posting that occurs does not allow for reflection or repetition to occur but I do believe the potential is there.

    If twitter followers rallied around solving the academic problems our students are faced with, perhaps using hashtags to mobilize their tweets, imagine the collaborative learning that would transpire. With hundreds or thousands of individuals focused on solving one problem the result could culminate in a shared-learning experience. But shared-learning on twitter seems to be relegated, at least for now, for a place that does not exist yet. I agree with the above observation that due to the constraints of 140 characters, complex issues are difficult to discuss on twitter. But as Shirky (2008) stated we are in the midst of a new kinds of group formations and perhaps a few of these will be a new form of ‘learning community’ that takes place on twitter.

    Reference

    Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

    • Several faculty that I work with are using Twitter for student assignments. One has students develop possible tweets that literary figures might have sent if Twitter was around in the 1800’s. Another has students find and share images that they think a poem evokes. These are active learning techniques tied to a hashtag that makes following it easy.

  3. Julie Fickas says:

    Thanks for pushing my learning with your blog! I had never thought of the many uses of Twitter in education. At the college level, I could see many benefits to implementing this. Clay Shirky, in “Here comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations”, stated that it is a “basic human instinct” to want to be part of a group that exchanges or works together. I could imagine Twitter creating an “In-group” culture outside of a classroom between the members of the classroom.

    Here is another link to more information for educators wishing to use Twitter: http://www.edudemic.com/twitter-in-education/.

    I also see other potential downsides to using Twitter. As with all social media, the person using the media needs to understand the proper etiquette. Depending on the educational level that you are teaching at, the lack of control that one has with students using classroom hashtags could potentially cause a problem.

    A great number of the faculty I work with are not very tech savvy, so I do not believe this would be a good tool in my present leadership position. I could see it being very helpful to increase professional development through interesting articles that pertain to education or science. Currently we now just copy the links into e-mail. Re-tweeting articles to them could be much more easily done. I could also see this being a great tool for increasing communication, albeit one way. Sometimes, just getting the volumes of information out to those we serve is an enormous task.

    • “…A great number of the faculty (employees/doctors/clients/etc) I work with are not very tech savvy…”

      Simple question … In 2014, is this “excuse” acceptable? Be interested in your thoughts and those of your classmates.

  4. jdhollowell,

    The technologically illiterate aspect of me thanks you for such a thorough explanation and example filled blog about twitter. I hear my students speaking about it all the time, yet never understood the truuuuuuuuuuuuue reason behind having such a technology. As you noted, it seems as though most of what I hear about it, via the news, are the negative, self-shaming tweets that cause and uproar in the media. Of course this fortifies my stance on maintaining a life without falling victim to the twitter surge. HOWEVER, I will admit that the positive uses for twitter have enticed me to some degree – simply to create a twitter account to be informed, not so much to compose messages to send to followers. I am more inclined to follow others as opposed to want followers. I would love to know what world leaders and/or coaches in the world of athletics are saying. What scares me is knowing the recklessness my students may be saying/announcing/portraying to the world. Because I do not have a twitter account, I try to curve behavior by speaking about responsibility, accountability, the long-lasting consequences of behaviors that may provide temporary gratification.

    Here are a couple of questions (I didn’t know if you had further insight): Would you be able to further explain what “re-tweeting” is and what it’s purpose is? Is it an expression of someone noting that they like/appreciate what one has said/expressed? I have also heard my students make note of being put into “twitter jail” if they did _(something)______ in an hour or something to that effect. Have you heard of anything like that before? If so, what is the fun or notoriety of being put into “twitter jail”? Just curious…

    • 30k,

      I have never heard of Twitter jail so I just asked the Twitter experts in my house, i.e. my children, if they were familiar with the phrase. My son informs me that Twitter jail is something you can enter if you exceed the limits allowed by the app which is 100 tweets per hour or 1000 tweets per day. It is hard for me to imagine someone actually reaching that limit so my guess is that your students are simply suggesting to this person that they might be tweeting too often.

  5. mysticdoc says:

    For me, Twitter is a marketing tool that helps organizations and personalities stay in front of people and build an audience of followers. As TV and radio-type advertising has moved into the social media sector, tweets may be seen as analogous to 15-second ads. Entertainers can stay in front of their audience by tweeting a daily joke or comment. Actor Jim Carrey has more than 12 million followers, but follows only 1 – his daughter. Robin Williams has the tag line Actor, Comedian, Cyclist, Retired Mime. 🙂 People enjoy a daily laugh.

    We at the Godspeed Institute use this medium to tweet a daily inspirational thought or quote, which others often re-tweet, putting us in front of their followers who may decide to follow us as well. Often, quotes are ‘favorited’ (a new verb). You can develop and manage Twitter followers with tools like Tweepi.

    One aspect that all social media share is a kind of peer pressure to gather friends / followers / connections. These in turn are associated with ‘likes,’ ‘favorites,’ and in the case of blogs, ‘ratings.’ We may not always enjoy this aspect of the medium, so like most things, we should participate because we enjoy it!

    • Mysticdoc – Good point about public figures wanting to stay in front of people and build followers. I remember watching the Oscars last March when Ellen Degeneres broke Twitter. She had taken a selfie that included about 12 celebrities and her tweet got retweeted 1.7 million times (in less than an hour) until Twitter could not handle the amount of tweets and had to shutdown (Fahy & Flint, 2014). Ellen wanted to set a new record and I believe she set a new world record for retweets. One thing I have noticed when watching television is that everyone has a Twitter account and it is displayed on TV so the audience knows how to follow them. Twitter is a good marketing tool.

      JD – I have not tried Twitter yet and I am little skeptical. I am not a fan of leaving a paper trail. When I have to respond to an email at work, I try to keep it short. If I feel what I write will be compromised in the future, I will walk down the hall and talk to the person versus writing it down. I hear of many celebrities who have posted compromising tweets but I have also heard of the celebrity posting an apology for their comments. I mentioned something to this affect last week, but has Twitter replaced Oprah? I say this because when a celebrity made derogatory comments in the past, they had to gain Oprah’s approval to move forward. Twitter has allowed public figures to say sorry without holding a press conference or going on Oprah. Just a thought.

      I have never thought of all the educational uses of Twitter. Thank you for opening my eyes to the benefits. Teachers may be able to reach the students easier and on a medium the students enjoy using. I have to imagine the teacher can remove the students from following them yearly so previous years students are not receiving tweets from a past teacher. The only problem I see with this is not every student has a phone or electronic device to allow them to follow their teacher. I do have one question. So when you receive a tweet, does your followers see the tweet as well as? Or is that why you have to retweet the message is so your followers can see the tweet?

      Thank you.

      Reference:

      Fahy, C. & Flint, H. (2014). The epic selfie that broke twitter: Ellen Degeneres’s snap with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Meryl Streep gets retweeted by millions. Retrieved July 6, 2014 from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2571848/Ellen-DeGeneres-wins-A-List-Oscars-crowd-gentle-teasing-Liza-Minnelli-not-impressed-mistaken-male-impersonator.html

      • hlind313, to answer a couple of your questions. You said “…The only problem I see with this is not every student has a phone or electronic device to allow them to follow their teacher.” I actually would disagree. The very few students who do not have a device can still access their accounts via any public library or school library. At least at college, I have not seen this as a problem.

        Also, every tweet is public and anyone following you sees it. I tend to retweet things I see that my followers might not have seen, as they may not be following the same people I am.

  6. I must admit, Twitter is one form of social media I have never even tried. While I am vaguely familiar with it, I realize it is referred to on a constant basis. I appreciate your thorough explanation, as it gives me a much better idea about how it works. Do the “tweets” reach individuals through their text messaging, or through an individual “account” similar to Facebook?

    It is interesting that Twitter being a one-way conversation is similar to communications of the past. As Shirky (2009) points out, there is a trend going towards networks creating conversations and collaboration, and Twitter appears to be more similar to those reporting out to others. Of course it seems, there is some type of conversation, as individuals may respond to tweets with their own tweets, but they have the entire network involved.

    You give great examples of how Twitter may be utilized to reach out and provide important information and resources. In my own work, we have staff that utilize Twitter with our program participants, which includes teens and young parents, as well as early childhood teachers. I would agree with you that this seems to be a preferred method of communication with younger audiences, and we have found that we must utilize multiple forms of communication in order to reach them effectively.

    Shirky (2009) referred to Flickr, pointing out that one thing it does not do is decide what is interesting enough to share. This reminds me of Twitter, as the “audience” must decide who they want to follow and which hashtags are interesting enough for them to search for those tweets. Because these are “sound bites” we can pack more of them in during short periods of time. It is interesting to me that you can no longer watch a television show, without being given numerous ways to get more information or even “participate” through tweets, discussions, polls, and a number of other ways. I am sure I am not alone as a student in this program when I say that often that “t.v. time” is allotted based on a busy schedule, and it seems very time consuming to get on social media in order to stay “in the loop.” I sometimes wonder if all of these quick messages and multiple conversation networks has also resulted in a culture of needing more and more stimuli, and influencing our focus.

    References

    Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organization. New York: Penguin Press.

    • The short answer to your question Wendy is that tweets are accessed through your individual account. You must establish an account in order to follow another user who sends out tweets.

      I do agree with all you have said here regarding messaging applications. The quick message format of many of these social media apps does affect the nature of our communication. At the same time – since a picture is worth a thousand words – the quick means by which we can share photos on Twitter, Facebook, instagram, snapchat, etc. lends itself in a good way to all that can be communicated in an image. It also lends itself to families and friends who are spread across the globe to stay in touch. I see it everyday with my children who live in Rome, Washington, D.C, Palo Alto, Indianapolis, etc. In this respect,Twitter, instagram, and Facebook allow them to stay in touch everyday in ways that would have been impossible 20 years ago. I think that the net contribution to our world is quite positive though there are elements that are admittedly annoying.

      • Nice post and commentary, Joe. I also wonder about leadership implications of both using and not using Twitter. What signals are sent either way.

        There is a lot of cross-pollination across social media. When I (rarely) use Instagram, I have it set to automatically also post to both Twitter and Facebook … meaning I do not have to do the same thing three times. Yet, I tend to use Twitter professionally and Facebook for friends and family. My Twitter network has evolved into one of the best personal learning facets of my daily life. By crafting who I follow, I get relevant information pushed to me rather than having to go out and find it.

  7. Sarahjini Nunn says:

    Of all the popular social media applicants that I use, unfortunately Twitter is not one of them. For whatever reason, Twitter just never resonated with me. I recall having a conversation with my then high school aged niece who announced that “FaceBook is for adults while Twitter is for younger people.” Since that day, I have always considered Twitter to be for young people. When my agency announced that it was getting a Twitter account, I cringed! I thought it was the MOST unprofessional move ever. But now that we have POTUS and CEOs tweeting, I’ve changed my mind about being unprofessional. I now believe that social media outlets like Twitter are a valuable tool for organizations to keep consumers knowledgeable. I still don’t have one, but maybe I will in the future. But don’t count on it.

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