Tweet Tweet!

August 6, 2009


 “Too much information,” is what I say to people who tell me private or awkward information about themselves. It seems that the original intention of Twitter was for people to exchange ideas and messages near instantly. And so, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that Twitter might be a beneficial social networking tool. However, Twitter has become a communication tool for businesses, libraries, authors, and anyone searching for answers to their questions. Marshall Kirkpatrick (2009) claims that Twitter is more than flighty people posting what they ate for lunch. In fact, Kirkpatrick (2009) suggests, somewhat sarcastically but in order to emphasize a point, that the creators of Twitter deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, “Because they have invented what could be compared to a newly discovered, very usable, radio-wave frequency. It’s a new plane of communication. It’s truly world changing.”

Twit is it?

Broadcasting the first picture of U.S. Airways flight 1549 after it crashed into the Hudson River  seems to be its claim to fame. It has saved a young college student from being incarcerated longer than a couple days in Egypt in 2008. In fact, some have suggested that Twitter is faster and more efficient at distributing information during natural disasters (Ed Tech PD, 2009) than government agencies.  So when you can’t beat ‘em, what do you do? You join them. Twitter has been used to recruit resources and aid during disasters. It has also been used by politicians like Obama to promote their campaigns. And yet, despite some of the obvious advantages to using Twitter, it has certainly become a dumping ground for senseless ponderings and often inaccurate reports of events, like in the case of the Mumbai, India attacks.

Twitter is exactly as its name is defined: “a succession of chirps as uttered by birds.”  Twitter is a social network through which you can send short messages either privately or publicly, and texting, also known as micro-blogging, must be completed in 140 words or less. It is a trend growing at a mind boggling pace, as our world craves instant information. With Twitter, brief and concise is the way to tweet. What I am still curious about is why 140 is the magic number of characters permitted in one tweet?

On Twitter, you can use hashtags and popular topic searches to find out what is going on in the world. You also receive tweets (short messages) based on the people you follow and who is following you. Today’s internet user needs a way to sort through all of the information out there. Twitter continues to attempt to meet that need through applications like TweetDeck, Twhirl, and TwitterFox which organize your tweets, and  http://twitterfeed.com/or http://www.rss2twitter.com/ which allow you to subscribe to Twitter feeds.  What one must remember when using Twitter is that it is a social network, and thus, you are expected to contribute near as much as you take. You can find answers to your questions, but you should jump in to offer answers when you can.

Why do people do it? What’s the hype?

Simple, quick, shortly after it happens, and in some cases, as they happen. I suppose Twitter is popular for a few reasons. One, you can chat with celebrities. Two, you can keep up to date with what your friends are doing, assuming they’re also on Twitter. Three, it is complete mobile as you are able send tweets from your cell phone. Four, with apps like http://twello.com/ and http://twitterlocal.net/ make it so easy to filter tweets so that you are only receiving the information you want to receive.

Perhaps Twitter’s success is due partly to the fact that it is accessible to more races. “Twitter users are slightly more racially and ethnically diverse than is the full U.S. population,” Pew Internet (2009 ). However, it is still not that accessible to people living in rural areas – only 9% of internet users in rural areas use Twitter vs 35% living in urban areas (Pew Internet).

Curricular implications

How can Twitter be used to help us meet curriculum standards?

 ALA standards:

 3.1.5 Connect learning to community issues can be addressed as students follow a newsfeed on Twitter that may be relevant to what they are learning in class.

 4.3.1 to Participate in the social exchange of ideas can be addressed as students interact in Twitter with students in other parts of the world, using hashtags to help others join their conversation.

 4.3.2 Recognize that resources are created for a variety of purposes can be addressed as students learn that what you hear on Twitter is not necessarily the truth, but reliable sources can be provided via links.

 With regards to Language Arts curriculum, a question I asked in a previous post was whether or not the new Instant Messaging language is helping or hurting students writing abilities.  “Nu Speak” is what Herther (2009) describes as the new language used in IM and many of today’s technologies. Because of the 140 character limit for each Tweet, one can’t help but use “Nu Speak,” because quite simply, it makes communication simpler. “Like it or not, Nu Speak is becoming mainstream — used in traditional publications (print and otherwise), included in dictionaries, etc., as well as becoming the preferred communication medium for an increasing number of young people,” (Herther, 2009).

The most interesting information I found with regards to Twitter’s impact is this: “Change is already underway. In 2007, New Zealand instituted a new policy that allows students to use what they call “text speak” on national exams. Students are able to replace words like “to” with “2” and “late” with “l8.”(Herther, 2009). If this is adopted in other countries, we could see huge changes to the reading and writing curricula.

Practical applications

I see several potential uses for Twitter in the classroom and in the library.

 In the classroom:

  • find a mentor (author or illustrator) to follow and ask questions to.
  • Can be used to initiate research with students. As students receive tweets, they can look up information and links that are shared.
  • Students can also be encouraged to share their findings and provide valuable links in tweets.
  • Learn about different perspectives on one world issue or event.
  • Offers the opportunity for self-reflection and professional development for teachers.
  • Teacher can promote word of the day or fact of the day.

Using Twitter in the classroom offers the potential for micro-communities to develop. This is an excellent means for authors to communicate with their fans and for students to follow their favorite author. Students could follow one particular author and could regroup in class the next day to discuss what the author said and any questions they have. They could then decide on some good questions or comments to tweet the next night. Next spring, we are having a guest author, Margriet Ruurs come to our school. If she is using Twitter, this would be an excellent medium through which they could learn about Margriet and her books.

In Libraries :

  • announce special library events
  • announce meetings to staff
  • promote new books and resources to students, parents, and staff
  • offer links to useful resources
  • offer tips on searching
  • provide updates on student projects
  • post a link to the library’s website in order to promote the library program
  • find out about the most poplar books out there
  • provide answers to tweets

 Some libraries that currently use Twitter:

 Cleveland Public Library (http://twitter.com/Cleveland%5fPL)

Ada Library in Boise, Idaho (http://twitter.com/adalib)

Missouri River Regional Library (http://twitter.com/mrrl)

The Glendale (Ariz.) Public Library (http://twitter.com/GlendaleLibrary)

Illinois-Urbana-Champaign (http://twitter.com/askundergrad  


These libraries use Twitter mostly to announce or broadcast information, but Twitter should be used as a 2 way conversation tool if it is being used to its full potential (Milstein, 2009).

The disadvantages of being a Twit

Validity of information: The idea that people take what is said on Twitter as fact is a little worrisome, because you never know who is providing the answers. How does one go about finding the personal information or credibility of a source? I suppose it is possible to find out how many followers the source has. The more followers he/she has, the more likely the source is credible.  You may also be able to find out more about the source by following the links he/she provides.

Accessibility – Due to the “Nu Speak” often used in tweets by young people, older people might find it difficult to understand and follow some messages.  An internet directory like NetLingo  can help to alleviate that problem.

Archive – According to Kirkpatrick (2009), one of the biggest setbacks of using Twitter is that there are no archives for old posts. After about a month, Tweets are nowhere to be found. This makes it difficult to collect evidence on the impact of Twitter.

A passing fad?  According to 15 year old Mathew Robson’s  (Stanley, 2009) account of teen media habits, teens aren’t really into Twitter because it costs money to text from phones and “no one is watching”: translation, their friends are not checking their profiles, so who cares .  Robson’s report is not supported with statistical data, but is supported instead by teenagers’ word of mouth. His statement does provide food for thought though. We should be talking to our students to find out how they consume media if we want to be able to connect with them. If Twitter is not used by most of your student population, then perhaps it is not applicable to your teaching context.

Personal experience  

Before learning about Twitter, I had only heard about it briefly on  E-Talk News. I was curious to find out what it’s all about, but I am still not sold on the idea of Twitter. Signing up for Twitter was very simple. To be able to use Twitter to its full potential, you do need to navigate the site for a while to understand how to interact on Twitter.

I found the PC Mag article most helpful in improving my Twitter experience. All this time, I had been posting tweets and reading those of others, but I was unfamiliar with how to Retweet or Search. Hashtags make the search experience a lot easier. I tried to track down people that I know and follow them. I also started following some athletes I admire as well as the oh-so-cute Ashton Kucher. I did not find the celebrity updates at all intellectually stimulating, but they were entertaining to read. I did, however, find lots of useful links from other librarians and University of  Alberta instructors that I was following. As a result, I can definitely see the potential for Twitter in my professional development. While I do see some benefits, I can’t see myself becoming a regular user, as I my Facebook and Google Reader keep me pretty busy. I would like to attempt to use Twitter with students, but I’m not sure I would send my Grade 5 students on their own to do this. I would rather use a blog or wiki to communicate links and resources to my students. For their parents, well that’s another story. This would be a great way to keep parents updated as well as field questions they might have related to the library.

I am happy to have tried Twitter out, even if just for a little while. I think it s something I would only check in on if I had a specific question, which is not very social of me, because I should also be providing useful information. If I do hear my students talking about using Twitter, I feel more prepared to discuss this with them and possibly integrate the use of Twitter to meet curriculum objectives.


Barack, L. (2009, March). Authors Connect on Twitter. School Library Journal, 55(3), 16-17. Retrieved August 5, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Barack, L.  (2009, April). Twittering Dante. School Library Journal, 55(4), 14.  Retrieved August 5, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 1671826171).

Boger, T.; Meckelborg, A.; Warner, J. (2009, Feb.). Twitter: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.  EdTech PD.

CBS News. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ouUrDZtMGM .

Herther, N. (2009, January). The Changing Language of Search Part 1. Nu Speak. Searcher, 17(1), 36-41. Retrieved August 6, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

 Java, A; Finin, T; Song, X.; Tseng, B. Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities. http://workshops.socialnetworkanalysis.info/websnakdd2007/papers/submission_21.pdf

 Kirkpatrick, M. (2009, July). Does Twitter Deserve a Nobel Peace Prize? Maybe Not, Yet, But it Could Some Day. Read Write Web. Website: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/does_twitter_deserve_a_nobel_peace_prize_not_yet_b.php#comments

Lenhart, A and Fox, S. (2009, Feb.). Twitter and Status Updating. Pew Internet and American Life Project. http://www.pewinternet.org/~/media//Files/Reports/2009/PIP%20Twitter%20Memo%20FINAL.pdf 

Milstein, S. (2009, May). Twitter FOR Libraries (and Librarians). Computers in Libraries, 29(5), 17-18. Retrieved August 5, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.

Perez, S. (2009, July). Teens Not Into Twitter, TV, Radio, or Newspapers, Reports Young Morgan Stanley Intern. Read Write Web. Website: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/teens_not_into_twitter_tv_radio_newspapers.php

 Stanley, M. (2009, July). Media & Internet: How Teenagers Consume Media.

Summers, L. (2009, March). THE VALUE 0F SOCIAL SOFTWARE IN SCHOOL LIBRARY. Knowledge Quest, 37(4), 48-50. Retrieved August 5, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.


NUSPEAK terms (Herther, 2009)

RIFY — Read if you like
Noob — Someone who attempts something (such as searching a database) but fails after many tries.
RYC — Regarding your comment
SLAP — Sounds like a plan
10q — Thank you
BFN — Bye for now
BRB — Be right back
HTH — Hope this helps
IDK — I don’t know
IIUC — If I understand correctly
IYKWIM — If you know what I mean
And, of course:
LOL — Laughing out loud

One comment

  1. No offense was intended in the subtitle, “The Disadvantage of Being a Twit.” It was simply a play on words. Peace:)

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