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Twitter and Documenting Learning

"I believe that using technology, as a tool, to be able to share best practices, to make thinking and learning visible to ourselves and others, is the key to transforming teaching and learning." - Silvia Tolisano

Recently, I overheard a few of my colleagues debating the merits of Twitter as a tool for learning. Never one to avoid a discussion about Twitter, I uncharacteristically held my tongue as the group turned to look, fully expecting me, "The School Twitter Guy", to jump into the fray.



As the water-cooler conversation continued, I thought about the different ways I use Twitter for personal learning. One of my favorite, and unconventional, ways of using Twitter is for social bookmarking. I quickly skimmed through my tagged tweets to locate a link to this game-changing post shared by Silvia Tolisano, "The 3 Stages of Documentation OF/FOR/AS Learning"Studying infographics on Langwitches Blog, it becomes clearer how a tool, such as Twitter, can be used to visibly document and share our learning. Specifically, Twitter is an excellent documentation tool OF, FOR, and AS learning.
  • Documentation of Learning - This is the systematic, intentional capturing, or recording, of what is being learned. Using a specified hashtag for labeling and curating relevant tweets, learners can use Twitter to backchannel classroom presentations, amplify classroom discussions, and archive classroom learning material. For example, last night, some of our Government students tweeted thoughts about President Obama's state of the union address while he was speaking to the nation on TV. Today in class, elaboration, analysis, and deeper understanding occurred as students reviewed the archive of their conversation.
  • Documentation for Learning - Documentation for learning requires metacognition and consideration of the conditions under which we learn best. Links and media embedded in tweets allow learners to use audio, video, text, and images to support their learning processes. Twitter makes the learning visible and invites feedback from authentic audiences. Learners need to critically assess and analyze resources best supporting their inquiry. Transparent documentation enables global connections. These connections typically broaden our perspective and deepen our understanding. A vivid example of documentation for learning can be experienced on Twitter. @TitanicRealTime is a minute-by-minute, interactive recount of Titanic's epic voyage. This documentation brings history and science to life for the learner.
  • Documentation as Learning - Documenting learning visibly requires planning, (storyboard), execution (the capture and documenting of learning), and analysis of results (reflection). Shared conversation and resources help to make learning a collaborative adventure. A practical example of documentation as learning is French students posting tweets with video. In addition to 140 characters, tweets can include 30 seconds of video. These microblog posts are shared with students in France so perspective can be exchanged, and conversational language is developed across the pond.
As I mentioned, I use Twitter for social bookmarking. Even though I've posted more than twenty thousand tweets, the effectiveness of my bookmarking strategy is amplified because my tweets, and my favorites, automatically feed into my Flipboard magazines, making them easy to locate, review, and share through the Flipboard mobile app.

Simply stated, documenting learning with a simple tool like Twitter requires strategic planning, technical skill development, critical thinking, collaboration, and reflection. Crafting a tweet containing a coherent message, supported by embedded media, and supplemented with linked resources is an art form. Most of our students have experience using Twitter for social interaction. However, not many of our students have used Twitter to document their formal learning. How can educators change this dynamic? What are the benefits of using Twitter to document learning?

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photo credit: via photopin (license)

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