Sunday, January 6, 2008

Splitting the Atom

"Twitter does the Internet equivalent of splitting the atom. It creates a unit of content even smaller and more trivial than the individual blog entry. Expect the response to be suitably explosive." -Lev Grossman, The Hyperconnected, Time magazine

I'll admit that I harbored doubts about Twitter.

Google Reader
connected me with personal and professional resources and allowed interactivity through the option of leaving comments on blog posts. Email was available for more extended or private conversations. I had no desire to be privy to the minutiae of people's daily lives.

Yet at the end of September, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to give Twitter a try.

I began by "following" some bloggers with whom I was familiar. By reading their messages (Tweets) to others, I gradually built up a list of other Twitter users (Twits) who had interests similar to mine.

There were minor annoyances. Some Twits declined my invitation, which meant I could view their comments but not directly interact with them. Occasional technical problems resulted in the Twitterverse being offline or otherwise unusable.

Ah, but the positives far exceeded any negatives!

My Twitter community does much more than track the details of their day. They share websites, provide links to new blog postings, have stimulating conversations about everything from menus to professional conferences to child rearing to health issues.

Yesterday a mixed group of teachers, librarians, and information technologists discussed "authentic voice" in blogging, weighed the pros and cons of rating systems for edubloggers, then invited interested parties to leave Twitter and continue conversations in wikis, ichat or Skype.

Time magazine used the word "trivial" to describe the content of Twitter. I would suggest that Twitter is trivial in the sense of "relating to or being the mathematically simplest case." By restricting users to 140 characters per comment, Twitter distills conversation to essential concepts and facilitates the rapid exchange of thought. It helps to incubate ideas and encourage collaboration.

Used properly, Twitter can easily become the thinking person's texting tool of choice.

"How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" -Guy de Maupassant

"Atom paths" by lorda


Kate Olson said...

Hmmmm, was just going to blog about this, but you've said it so better than I would have! Maybe I'll just everyone here and say, "I second that!"

Kate Olson said...

whoops, meant "lead everyone here" meaning link from my blog

Anonymous said...

I think just about everyone who uses Twitter probably started with the exact feelings of trepidation you describe. I sure did.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the technologies we play with and try to integrate into our professional lives (not just teaching) are cool, but are made vital or trivial by the people behind them. My Twitter network is a powerful PD tool primarily because of who's in it, less so because of the technology involved. You could say the same about blogs, wikis, Ustream, Voicethread, (insert Tool 2.0 here).

diane said...


Glad you like it, but please do your own posting too.

We all have such different perspectives, depending on our background, experiences, profession, etc.

You link to my posting and I'll link to yours!


diane said...


I totally agree with you. The quality of the experience depends on the quality of the participants.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog and describing how you stared. I got annoyed because I had registered a twitter name several months ago but did very little about it. However, after reading forums on classrom2.0 I decided I should give it a better go and it has just been amazing. Sometimes I wish I could reply to the 'old hands' but it is great that people like you advise us "Learner Twitters". So thanks.

diane said...


I'm still very much a Learner Twit myself, compared to many.

Keep on leaving Twittering - you never know who will read it.

I love the connections that all of us are making!


John Rivera said...

I enjoyed your post and had the same Twitter experience as you at approximately the same time. It is funny how I even found your post. I was reading a reply-to-you "tweet" from someone who I follow but does not follow me. By clicking on the @dmcordell link, I was able to find your blog from your profile. I also wrote about my increased learning in my post titled My Year of Learning... But it is truly difficult to demonstrate how valuable Twitter can be as I have many colleagues in my school district I have shown this to but have yet to await them to join this learning network. Thanks for sharing your experience as it adds to my ability to explain Twitter as a learning resource.

diane said...


I don't know of anyone else in my district who tweets. Not even sure how many are connected from my regional BOCES.

That makes my virtual community even more valuable. Google Reader and Twitter are my two best Professional Development tools. They moderate my feeling of isolation and keep me learning and loving it.


Cathy Jo Nelson said...

How funny that many of us were so skeptical. I enjoy the brevity of pwerful posts--so much so that tonight I was hopelessly behin in my reader, and just marked everything read (except my folder for us LMS's, which is how I cam across this.) You have such a way with words. Will you begin proffing my blog posts so they come out more eloquently worded and filled with great verbage and quotes, yet still succinct? Tables have turned. Now I'm learning from a master-blogger.

Cathy Jo Nelson said...

Maybe yo can start by fixing my typos in the last comment? ARGGG durn these four typing fingers.

PayPalPoet said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this posting. Being new to twitter myself, well at least in a serious sense, if has been of such great value in allowing further collaboration, advice, new friendships, valuable links and just humorous bantering (good for the morale after a hard day in the classroom). PD could not get better than this.