Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

My “why” is not “your why” – on LMS & Twitter

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

This post is about contextualizing our “why” and how we have different “whys”, and because of that, we have different “how”s and “what”s and that it’s important to be clear on all of that when we are discussing something… like why we do or do not want to use LMS or Twitter.

In my previous post, I talked about how I became disenchanted with LMSs but that I also understood it might fit other people’s contexts. Today, I read D’Arcy Norman’s post on the false binary between LMS and Open. I totally agree with this part:

Providing an LMS doesn’t mean “YOU SHALL NOT USE ANY OTHER TOOL” – there is no mandate to say “ONLY THE LMS SHALL BE USED”. It’s a starting point. And for some (many? most?) courses, it’s sufficient.

I mean, it doesn’t work at all for me personally most of the time, because of the kind of courses I teach and the kinds of values I’m trying to teach (when I teach a course on ethical use of ed tech for example) but it makes sense for other people in other contexts (not only math and chemistry as D’Arcy mentions, but also people who teach sensitive subjects where open is risky… it’s not funny if you’re having students talk politics and they risk getting arrested for it; not funny; it’s not OK to ask students to pour their hearts out and risk trolling; not OK).

Which brings me to the Twitter thing. I’ve been tweeting Bonnie Stewart’s first post on something being rotten in state of Twitter, and then after an email conversation, she agreed to

Emerging Media Twitter Bird by Mkhmarketing via Flickr CC-BY

Emerging Media Twitter Bird by Mkhmarketing via Flickr CC-BY

publish a “behind the scenes” thing about it on edcontexts (great post, please read it 😉 – and then through her I came across Tressie McMillan Cottom’s post and via Twitter I came across this post about ditching twitter (recommended by Tim Klapador)… and I’m not one of the “death of twitter” group – nor, I think, are any of the three people I’m citing here.

I am comfortable with the fact that, as Tressie says,

 “For the most part, today Twitter chose the “eff facts, go hard” route.”

I agree with Bonnie, that to an extent,

“There’s a rush to judgement and a collapsing of people into alignments and objects and things that feed the Attention Economy machine, even if the actual embodied people in the midst are erased or their positions rendered literally unspeakable.”

Both Bonnie and Tressie are describing the ways in which macro and institutional issues, inequalities, atrocities, are making their way into twitter and almost… muddying it? I don’t know what the right word is. But really,  I may be oversimplifying things, but Twitter just amplifies some of these things because it is such a low-threshold participation platform that it allows people to think in 140 chars, not take too long to write things, and then things can go viral.

I can relate to the problem of over-emotionality on Twitter even though I was not on Twitter during Egypt’s revolution and I don’t use it for political anything – but I was on facebook and I saw how divisive it became. I get where Erin is coming from when she says:

“As with stampedes, we tend to blame individual or group character for these self-escalating conditions.(I am properly angry, you are merely “outraged.”)”

There is a thread across these three authors’ posts about how uncritical and overemotional use of twitter can blow up. I get that. I agree. There is also the thread of corporate interests and the way Twitter might filter what you see, etc. I get that.

The reason most of this is not touching me directly is related to my “why” and “how” of using Twitter (the “how” of which is similar to what Erin does; will explain in a second).

WHY I use Twitter – I signed up in 2008 while at an Educause conference, posted one tweet, then promptly forgot about it (not an uncommon story, but it also means I don’t have nostalgia towards the earlier twitter that Bonnie talks about); then I signed up again in 2013 when I started publishing articles online because, well, the editors wanted me to fill out the field for twitter handle 😉 And then I thought I’d use it to promote my work. How silly. Why would anyone “follow” me if all I did was post an article once a month? I didn’t even know about hashtags or anything.

Then I started using it to connect with other PhD students and it saved me near the end of the PhD. Twitter saved me.

Then I started using it to keep track of other educators and ed techies, and realized I could actually start having conversations with wonderful people and connecting with them. Twitter is not the END of our connection, it’s the START, and then we take things further through our blogs and our emails and DM and all that. I love DM more than I love Twitter. Strangely. Or not. I don’t know.

But a few months ago I realized something, and I did something.

What I did: I STOPPED following:

  • news sources
  • Egyptian news
  • anything that was not a PERSON

And my timeline became much sleeker, much more educationally focused. Twitter is not my platform for political advocacy. It’s my place for networking with educators.

What I realized I was doing was:

  • I mostly used twitter to respond to notifications directed at me personally, or to talk to particular people or groups (growing every minute, but still)
  • I rarely EVER looked at my timeline (mainly because it used to be full of political crap)
  • I mostly use tweetdeck to follow hashtags of things that MATTER to me (e.g. #highered, #edtech, #digped) or MOOCs and communities (e.g. #rhizo14, #ccourses)
  • I only “follow” people to acknowledge that “hey, I’m interested in getting to know you better” and also so I can DM them (but they’d need to follow back, obviously) – but I don’t actually often look at my timeline, so if folks I know never post to me directly or to any of my hashtags, they’ll fall of my radar (unless I am following their blog, I get email notifications once a week for most, save for really special ones where I get immediate notifies)

And guess what?

I am almost (almost) not affected at all by the toxicity of Twitter. I’m not saying it does not exist, that it is not problematic. I am just saying that… maybe one twitter is dying but another one is surviving? The one we make for ourselves?

Because even though there are tools that others have created, that others have control over, that we use, WE DECIDE OUR OWN WHY, and we MAKE OUR OWN HOW… within restrictions… of 140 chars of twitter – but you know that’s an artificial restriction, because you can post pictures (which can contain lots of words), videos (more words) or links to anything (as many words as you like) – or you can even use Known and have your longer tweets link to your site for the rest of the characters chopped off.

I may be a bit naive, but I am not referring to Twitter at large… just referring to the way I am using Twitter and how it kind of “shelters” (not sure if that’s good?) me from a lot of the stuff that is bothering others. My facebook is a different matter.

This all reminds me of Audrey Watters’ ALT-C speech again… the tech monsters that we create? We have the responsibility and the ability to nurture them. It helps to remember our “Why” 🙂

[P.S. and I need to read Audrey’s Beyond the LMS – I love that she writes out the text of her talks – I hate watching videos and text is much less time-consuming for me]

20 Comments

  1. @Bali_Maha: My “why” is not “your why” – on LMS & Twitter wp.me/p4yLHG-hu”> thoughtful remaking of twitter

    — via twitter.com

  2. @Bali_Maha I relate to everything you are saying here about twitter, I have a similar approach re focus on certain interests and positivity

    — via twitter.com

  3. Hi Maha, loved how Bonnie’s post came out of a conversation you had with her – it’s interesting, isn’t it that despite ‘open’ being the mantra of the day, a lot of thinking and reflecting still happens in private forums like DMs and in particular email. (That’s not to say open platforms and communication isn’t great – just not for eveything.). I noticed the same pattern of usage emerging for me a while back as well (ie not really checking timeline much) – I think you get to a point where there’s too much noise after a while, and you need a filter. That said, I do need to make much better use of lists I think. I do still occasionally check my timeline and still get some serendipitous finds now and again. But I think the point is, interaction – and genuine connection – bourne out of mutual interest in ideas rather than as a means of mutual self promotion. And the best way to get to this is via moocs, participating in communities – and reaching out to people you respect and admire – all three of which you do so well.

    I think possibly the thing I like most about twitter – and probably what makes it unique amongst social media platforms – is that it is a place where you can potentially connect with well known leaders in various sectors – and probably get a response, or have a conversation. I think it may be something to do with the 140 characters that makes it a bit more casual and lowers the barriers for responding. Anyway..just a few rambling thoughts from reading your post!

    • Agree with all you’ve said, Tanya, particularly the part about connecting with thought leaders who will actually respond to you on Twitter… Much less likely to get that kind of response to an email, for example!

    • just for the record, i *did* actually try to have the conversation in my blog comments but am just as happy we went to email, as i got to think things through a little more deeply before bringing the next phase of the conversation back to public. 🙂

      • Hey Bonnie, yes, that’s true. I’m the one who wanted to have it on email, actually; err trying now to remember why, exactly. Probably for the way I was asking the questions myself. I mean, in the end, the conversation continued in public because you published it for us at EdConteXts. I don’t think I felt you didn’t want to have it in public, or I would not have asked if we could publish it 🙂

  4. @Bali_Maha @willrich45 @davecormier my use of Twitter VERY limited (people at my school, students), but it’s nice to have for #ccourses too!

    — via twitter.com

  5. Maha, I love the description of experience with Twitter and feel that you’ll probably be cheif mentor to people doing my session on network fluency ! 🙂

    • Thanks Jonathan, I would love to do that – I was already looking forward to your session/unit, and now looking forward to it more 🙂 Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  6. Pingback: My “why” is not “your why” – on LMS & TwitterReflecting Allowed | Reflecting Allowed | Miscellanea

  7. Pingback: Let’s get systematic, baby… | Abject

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