So, as part of the Instructional Technology Conference at MTSU, I got myself a Twitter account.

I’m still trying to figure out what to do with it.

Some of my colleagues are exploring the concept of “microblogging” for educational purposes, and Twitter comes into it. Twitter is an application of the simple concept: “Tell what you are doing now, in 140 characters or less.” Such posts are called “tweets.”

This can lead to lots of mundane postings, such as “Brushing my teeth.” On the other hand, its short format forces you to focus, which has obvious educational implications. It also fosters awareness–“what are you doing now” is one of the simple research methods used in qualitative research. Researchers who use such methods have to come up with ways to remind participants to notice what they are doing a record it. Twitter devotees do this automatically. (They can get downright obsessive about it, especially since you can set up your Twitter account to receive text messages from your cell phone. Note: don’t do this if you have to pay on a per-text-message basis. Experienced tweeters tell me the charges can add up fast.)

As is often the case with me, I seem to be in this odd middle ground between cutting-edge technology and old-fogey practice. I was one of the first people in my circle of friends to get a computer, but one of the last to finally give in an allow Windows to be installed on any computer of mine (I used to say I would not let viruses on my computer). Once I gave in, though, I skipped right over Window 3.11 (which was the current version at the time) and went straight to the new-fangled Windows 95.

You get the picture.

I have the Twitter account, and I’ve figured out how it works. But a) I do have a cell phone, but my texting costs me per message; b) I’m on a computer all the time, but I seldom think to post a tweet (as readers of this blog can tell, it takes some doing for me to remember to make a blog post, much less something as fleeting and frequent as a tweet; and c) tweeting seems to fit into the style ubiquitously known as multi-tasking, and I am a dedicated concentrator. I’m too focused on what I’m doing to constantly stop and tell the world what I’m doing.

There’s more to it than that, of course. By following other tweeters, you assemble a page that uniquely represents a community of sorts. I suspect it can effectively replace the old-fashioned diary, at least in the sense of noting what happened when. (For thoughtful diary-like entries, we’ll have to turn to the middle-fashioned blog.) Several news professionals are tweeters, and by following them you can get truly up-to-the-minute news pointers–headlines, in essence, usually with links to the longer, more-detailed story if you are interested in it. (Just as you can tweet from your cell phone, you can set Twitter to notify you whenever a new tweet is posting from those you follow, or even have it send the tweet as a text message to your cell phone. You really want to avoid that if you pay for incoming text messages.)

Newsworthy or not, I’m going to tweet a link to this post when I’m finished.

I guess the most accurate thing I can say is that I’m still trying to figure out what you can do with it. I’d be glad to hear any thoughts from people on how they use or might use Twitter.

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