Tinkering with Twitter

By now you’ve probably heard of Twitter, the latest techno-craze taken up by those-in-the-know, celebrities, and well, me too. It’s so popular that the inevitable “it’s not so great” stories are now making their way into the news. According to this Harvard study (link from BBC news) Twitter hype punctured by study, “…most people only ever “tweet” once during their lifetime…”

“Based on the numbers, Twitter is certainly not a service where everyone who has seen it has instantly loved it,” said Bill Heil, a graduate from Harvard Business School who carried out the work.

That quote alone got me thinking. Since when does everyone have to love the same thing instantly and do things in exactly the same way. Oh, right — school.

A couple of months ago I wrote two posts on the subject of tinkering that have probably gotten me the most (offline) comments of anything I’ve written. Technology Literacy and Sustained Tinkering Time and Tinkering as a mode of knowledge production in a Digital Age.

Part of the magic of tinkering is that everyone does not do the same thing, that people can easily pick up tools and materials (digital or otherwise) and quickly do something that is personally engaging.

Hurray for Twitter for making it so easy to try out, so easy to decide if it’s right (or wrong) for you. Hurray for a world where you can twitter about lunch and twitter to save your country.

Are there parallels to learning?

In some ways, yes… especially for technology, making simple tools available means people (students and teachers) can try them out and find immediate uses. Or discard them quickly. They have a low barrier to entry. Twitter fits this bill nicely.

In some ways, no… education is about asking youth to find their passion and make meaning of the world, without making them hate it. Even if it takes effort to push them into it, even if it takes a caring, persistent adult to show a youth that that passion does indeed exist. Tools that offer a high ceiling, a potential to go further than you ever thought possible, to create, to creep into complexity, to explore a craft deeply, meet this need. That’s not Twitter, nor most of the Web 2.0 world.

Tools that offer both are indeed extremely rare and valuable.

Sylvia

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