As on of my colleagues put it, I was a ‘grump’ in class today. I was not acting unprofessional or pouting, but gleefully open about how much I loathe Twitter’s status as the platform for professional networking + discussion in education. It seems that Twitter has become the most popular way for educators to network. As a demonstration for ourselves, we engaged an exercise requiring us to find Twitter users who may use blogs, tweet about their classrooms, etc…

It was easy. Mostly thanks to my very same colleague, we were able to sift through various users and found what we were searching for quite quickly. But then, after we have completed the task and found the users/blogs/hashtags we needed, I decided to explore on my own; I clicked on one of the hashtags. Immediately, the organizational part of my brain reminded me why I hate Twitter. My cursor hovered over the close button, but I attempted to remain open-minded.

So I kept exploring….my mind closed rapidly.

The amount of overlapping, delayed, and fragmented conversations that appeared in the feed confused me. At first glance, I could not ascertain which users were having conversations with others due to overlapping or unrelated discussions, others posting FYI content or posting journal entries. With work I could overcome the seeming random nature of the feed and was able to figure out the context and relationships (or lack thereof) in each tweet. But why would I want to do that?

There are other platforms that will do the organization for me. Reddit, for example, allows for the same presence of information. Trending news rises to the top. When conversations are started, the threads visually link back to their parent comments as to show what users are responding to. The communities can have their own rule-set for moderation (on top of Reddit’s terms of use) and subscribed to. Tagging is also possible, allowing for categorization of particular subtopics (think TIEgrad and TIEgrad 2.0). I believe it to be superior in the lack of any text limit, and that content is automatically organized into their own threads rather than the infinite branching Twitter offers.

The downsides to Reddit is the voting and the anonymity.

  • Users ‘Upvote’ or ‘Downvote’ contributions, which can bury them. This could be a potential popularity contest.
  • Users can create a profile that gives away absolutely no personal information.

So there are problems, but I would challenge a person to find a network without similar issues. Furthermore, workarounds can be found for any network (I would put forward that the workarounds for the problems on Twitter I described would require a fundamental change of the API, which won’t happen). Not so with the problems on Reddit I mentioned, the workarounds are built-in. Sorting by ‘new’ allows users to discount voting when searching for content (but one could still choose to only sort by popular), and users can be validated or moderated if needed.

Perhaps it would be unimportant to research, but the novelty of determining which networks are favored by an array of professions would be quite interesting.

As for my Personal Learning Network, I have my blog and follow the blogs of others. I hope, for the time, that the blog ecosystem will be sufficient for my growth.

Related Articles:

Evolution of my PLN

TwitterEDU Guide