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Saturday, 1 September 2007

Twitter a Micro Tool with Macro Power!

Twitter what an odd name I thought when I first heard of it some months ago. Like many of my online colleagues, I joined but I have to admit, that was about it. Honestly I could not see what this so called 'micro networking tool' was going to offer me. How much could I get from a site, where messages (tweets), can only be 140 characters long? I dismissed it and carried on my merry way, exploring other social networking sites, facebook, ning, xanga, myspace, orkut to name a few. A few weeks ago, I remembered that I had a twitter account and jumped in to see if there was anything going on. Was there something I had missed upon my first glance? Had anything changed? Could twitter be of any use to me, through my exploration? Was there a use for twitter in the tool kit I was preparing for Zane my son, who I am now homeschooling. Shocked, Delighted, Stuck for Words - that and more was I. Twitter looked the same but things had certainly changed, progressed in my absence. In typing in the names of a number of people I admire and respect, Alexander Hayes, Sue Waters, Anne Patterson, Stephen Downes, Graeme Wegner,I discovered they had all been busy twittering. Trusting their judgement I began to follow them - a simple task with the click of the mouse - I was lurking. I looked at the public timeline, my curious nature kicking in as I went. I began to twitter. I said hello and people said hello back and even welcomed me - "huh, they don't even know me, yet they are all saying hi". A more friendly and receptive group out there than I could have imagined. At the time I was working through all the negative media, that was coming through, especially in Australia, regarding social networking tools, the epidemic sweeping Australian educational institutions, who see their main role as blockers of social networking tools and related technologies, and the ignorance, displayed by those who are supposed to be the leaders, of our country (they maybe our leaders but I fear the path they are leading Australia down). As I discovered and read articles, those I felt worthy of sharing, I twittered to the twitts (not sure if I like that but anyway I digress). I was not sure what the outcome would be, expectations were low, so anything was going to be a bonus. So, this girl was in for another shock. My initial tweets and my subsequent tweets, were not only appreciated by many of the twitts, they have also lead to the following: 1: Reconnected with colleagues 2: Connected with new people who have the same or similar interests in social networking tools 3: Sharing and collaborating with new contacts on specific projects 4: Gained a great insight into areas that I was not ofea with and peaked my curiosity 5: Twitts following me into the world of ning and Classroom 2.0 where I have a page and becoming members 6: Twitts following me into my facebook world and connecting with me - sending messages, becoming my friend 7: Discovered an easy tool to quickly and easily get messages too or important updates on work 8: Followed many to their blogs, finding a wealth of information and expertise I was unaware of 9: Greater awareness of what my friends are doing - amazing work in all directions 10: Greater awareness of what others are thinking, experiencing, seeing, doing, in the moment (rare for any social networking tool/technology). 11: Questions answered instantaneously 12: New friends daily 13: Constant expansion of friends and growth of networks, within and outside of twitter 14: Leads to sources I may never have found 15: Kind and caring people connecting with, encouraging and supporting my teenage son who I have recently begun homeschooling, using social networking tools and technologies (ONE TWEET AND HE HAD EMAILS, COMMENTS LEFT ON HIS BLOG AND NOW HE TWEETS TOO). In the last week, I have wondered more about the power of this, 'micro' tool and thus decided to experiement a little. What prompted me to go into action - here is the story. I had a chat with a friend of many years, Mr Red Symons, an Australian celebrity I guess, who is on ABC radio in the mornings five days a week (never listened to it but I hear its great). We were chatting about our kids, what they are doing at school, growing up, surviving as parents, all the usual stuff, until I opened my big mouth about social networking tools. Interested he was, curious he was, a believer in their use in business or education, not quite there but not at all dismissive. Mr Symons began his career as a secondary school teacher in the maths/science arena, so maybe proof of some sort was required. We chatted about how I was going to homeschool Zane, due to the failure of Traditional Education to cater for the needs of one with a disability (Chronic Fatigue) and how I proposed to use a number of social networking tools and related technologies to help him along. Trying to explain to friends and family what and how I am homeschooling Zane, has been tricky and until many see evidence, they will continue to think I am a little nuts (that's okay as I have never flown with the rest of the ducks, nor do I want to. I have heard same questions, over and over - "But what about the curriculum?", "How will you prepare him for exams?", "How will you cover all the subject areas?","Will it disadvantage him in anyway", "Are you sure it will work?" My response - I have been there for the children of thousands over the years and I believe provided them with the best learning and learning experiences that I could muster at any point in time. I have never been one for conformity, I believe that I am doing what is right, I believe and have seen the benefits of social networking tools and related technologies, first hand - my own learning has increased ten fold, my desire to continue learning the same, my interests and horizons expanded, making new friends, sharing, learning and collaborating globally - with no end in sight. Infinite worlds -Infinite opportunties - Worlds as with everything in life - where the level of your effort and commitment will be rewarded the same or in my case, I believe 10 fold. If you make an effort to keep in regular contact with, you are willing to share, willing to learn and have an open mind, if you strive to make better for you and all who connect with you, the benefits and rewards, will outweigh any negatives that others may wish to cast. How could this be wrong for my son? In my eyes it is not! If what I believe is correct, Social Networking tools and related technoligies, now and those yet to unfold, will breathe new life into 'Homeschooling' globally, and open worlds to all, especially those with disabiltities that are not catered for with Traditional Formal Education. Back to the Mr Red Symons and Twitter Experiment more on SNT and Zane to come! Mr Symons, was as I said curious and was going to be most interested to see how Zane progressed. I mentioned twitter near the end of our chat, tried to explain what it was (I may have failed a little), what it had brought to me but he was a little wary and hey, who can blame him - it did take me a couple of months after joining to give it a go and become active. After our chat I sat and pondered, how could I prove that twitter, this tiny little tool, was in fact a mighty tool, connecting so many globally with so many benefits. A little light flashed - Mr Symons has a number of incredible Youtube videos (under the name of rocsims) that he has painstakingly nutured and created - around 18 hours or more is possible for just one - oh to have the patience and the skills. Whilst not wanting to upset the twitteratti and flood them with URL's, I decided on the following plan (sounds like an evil plot the more I write). 1: Do as you usually do and tweet URL's that make you mad about ignorance in Australia re: SNT 2: Post a few of Mr Symons Youtube videos in the tweets as you go (they are worth watching so I was not fearful of anyone thinking I was sending through rubbish) 3: Check the view count for each youtube before you tweet 4: Keep track of the view count for at least 5 days and see if there is any obvious increases I implemented the plan, no objections to my posts, in fact one direct reply saying thanks they are great and one direct message, singing the praises of Mr Symons and his creations. But what about the views - did they change, was there a significant increase? I can report in the affirmative. Maybe nothing earth shattering but there appears to be a direct correlation between my initial tweets and instant increases in views and as the days have passed, the views are continuing to increase and more rapidly than the instant views. It is evident that the three I selected as prime targets, have had the greatest increase in hits, however it appears that once the selected target has been viewed, interest has grown and others out of the 14 on Mr Symons site have also shown reasonable increases in views. In checking today (only 31/2 days) since the initial tweet, Mr Symons site has had an increase of over 1800 views - whilst his site is popular and when he uploads a new video, there is significant traffic, in the downtimes, I have not seen such an increase in views in such a short time. So, what can be said of twitter in this situation, pretty simple really: Twitter has the power to be used as a forceful marketing/promotional tool that brings almost instant awareness to a vast and numerous audience. Twitter connects those trying to connect simply and quickly. Twitter can be used to lead others or can lead you to places you could have googled a life time for and never found. What can I say of my recent experience with twitter? That I should never dismiss a new site/tool/technology just because it looks to simple or does not have loads of bells and whistles. Sometimes simple outweighs the complex. Have I or anyone actually discovered the True Power of Twitter? I dare say not. I am now waiting for the day, that a cause or a situation of a critical global nature strikes - as I believe then and only then will the world sit up and take notice of the power of a tiny tool on the www called Twitter, as the twitteratti tweet to one and all. Thanks Twitter!

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