Twitter As A Learning Tool and Learning Space: Through the Eyes of a QB

The following is my thoughts on the evolution of twitter as a learning tool and learning space. Because of my love of sports, I combined my thoughts with the quarterback position. Each QB "stage" is a step that I think educators go through. Each rank isn't necessary to go through. You might skip around. Go up. Go down. It doesn't matter. Some stop at holding the clipboard. Some make it to the Hall of Fame. Some get off of twitter completely. But really, we're all searching for more. A deeper, more relational, more.

6th Round Draft Pick - You're an egg. Nothing exciting.

3rd String QB - You do a lot of observing. Take it in. You are a glorified clipboard holder. You are overwhelmed with everything. Trying to find your team, but all you're doing is taking notes watching everyone else participating. Maybe you post about what you're eating, or what you did in your classroom today. You're following a lot of your personal friends and some of the more famous educators on twitter because they have a lot of followers on twitter and they must be tweeting things that are important, right?

Backup QB- You finally get a little action. You play in the preseason and occasionally if your team is either pounding a team or your team is getting pounded. You may put some things out there, and you're contributing to the twittersphere. You've found your role a little bit and how you can use twitter to benefit yourself. You interact and connect with others. You may fire up TweetDeck and watch a twitter chat or use a specific hashtag, a lot. Once you hit this 2nd String role, you've kind of found your niche in twitter. Mine was the #tlap #sstlap chats. I love these chats. I walked away with so many great ideas. I shared some, but got more from them. This stage is still a receiving stage, but it may take away family time, because your favorite chat is on the West Coast and doesn't start until 11:00pm your time. Ask my wife about this one.

Starting QB - You're in the action. You're participating in chats. You're now getting connected with others across the globe. You may even run or moderate a chat. You have formed relationships with people on twitter and may even refer to them as your friends, not just twitter friends. You may have a "following." Those people that retweet every of your tweets. You're scheduling tweets using Buffer or Hootsuite to send out your content at it's highest peaks. You're giving a lot. You're receivers are catching TD's.  This would be the highest point of twitter. Some might say it consumes your life. I never made it here.

Multi-Season Starting QB - You stay strong as a Starting QB for a long time. Those with many followers know that they continue to pour out info to their followers. You've done well. You also notice that you're not as young as you once were.

Traded QB - Hold the phone. You've been traded. You may have found something on the twitters that really changed an idea of your thinking, so you've changed your thinking. Made a huge jump. Got tired of rehashing hashtags and decided to find something else that may feel more meaningful. Maybe a different city might be the best for you. This is where I was at last year around Christmas.

The Mentor QB - The older, almost retired, quarterback who has been around twitter for awhile and is brought in to mentor the younger QB that was just drafted and is now the starting QB. This person has a lot of experience. He has seen things. Maybe he's been traded a couple of times? Maybe he's won a Super Bowl Ring. He knows what it takes to be successful. So they get others to jump on twitter. To help them see the light about a little blue bird. They help those draft picks find their niche. They put them in contact with others who can help develop them. They show them how to correctly keep your eyes up field while in their 5-Step Drop. They help and assist without wanting anything in return.

Hall of Fame QB - This person is leaving the game behind. Hall of Fame QBs hardly ever mention "stats" (followers) in their Hall of Fame Speech. They realize it's about relationships and relationships are more meaningful than 140 characters. People are more real than a screen.  Conversations where people sit down in person and discuss a topic. Not a lot can be discussed in 140 characters at least not anything real meaningful. Things can be taken out of context. Sarcasm might not be able to be "read" between the two lines of a tweet. Real meanings can't be brought about in just 140 characters. Some use twitter to troll instead of using it as a space for civil discourse (see this by Bill Ferriter) and maybe twitter has become the new street corner where people dare not go there alone (see this by William Chamberlain). A Hall of Famer sees these negative things happening and has used his connections on twitter to escape the negativity and then broaden their PLN to one that is more relational. They've probably migrated to a space called Voxer, Skype, or Google Hangouts. They think spaces like this are the best learning that is possible in an online setting because they realized that along the way, they had a bunch of lineman who helped them along the way and now they want to learn the game from them from a different perspective. Maybe this person heads back to their high school stomping grounds to talk to students about real, authentic learning and how to place a value on relationships at a young age instead of seeking popularity, aka followers, in an online world.

I haven't personally went through all the "stages" of twitter, but I've been through a lot of them. Overtime, I've seen my view of twitter shift from something amazing to a spot now where I'm wanting more. That wanting more has driven me to find other ways of authentically connecting with others. I love my Voxer groups that I'm a part of. They challenge me daily. I love the connections that I have made on Twitter, but connections (and the increase in negativity) only go so far.

Connections have to lead to relationships for real learning to occur.

You don't learn a lot from 140 characters, but it gives you enough to want more. That "more" is where real learning begins. Twitter is a way to connect. Take those connections off twitter and find your "more." Move your learning to relational. It's more than connecting. Shoot to be a Hall of Famer and focus on relationships.

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