To tweet, or not to tweet…

…that is the 28 character question.

I take pride in the fact that I generally wait until the latest digital fad has tumbled from the apex of its popularity down into the “no longer hip, and almost not even relevant” technological valley before I join – that point where the population of new users signing up is comprised primarily of spammers, behind-the-times small business owners, and your grandma…

Cases in point: my MySpace account (created 3 years after the site’s relevance tanked), my Facebook profile (created 2 years after they stopped requiring .edu email addresses), and my latest foray into the hot new technology of 2006 – Twitter.

Yes, I created a Twitter account. Apparently, people can “follow” all of my “tweets” on “” by searching for me – @SurviveEnglish

You should totally try it!

But why now?

For a long time, I was against Twitter. I thought it was useless – like a Facebook that only allowed status updates…and limited those status updates to 140 characters. Twitter was to Facebook what MS Paint was to Photoshop CS5.

Pictured left: Twitter ; Pictured right: Facebook*

That’s how I saw Twitter in the digital usefulness universe.

But then I realized that my analogy was flawed. In fact, I use MS Paint a whole lot, and when I downloaded the trial version of CS5, I couldn’t even locate the pencil tool without consulting the user’s manual and three online Photoshop help forums. Sometimes simpler is better; sometimes it even fosters critical thought. Twitter could do that. For example, I’ve seen a lot of the “summarize [book, character, concept] in a 140 character tweet” exercises, and honestly, they’re pretty worthwhile. I’ve done a couple of these activities with my students, and they enjoy the challenge of condensing a lot of information into a succinct tweet. Beyond that, however, I created my account to give myself another avenue to reach out to my students.

I already have a school blog that my students can use, but that’s reserved for information that’s directly school related. I could post some fun and interesting things there, but I feel like they’d get lost among the day-to-day tedium. I wanted something more informal, but it’s a bad idea for a teacher to involve students in his/her online social media circles; we all know this. Facebook and MySpace are obviously off-limits, but Twitter seemed safe. It’s a digital platform with distance. I can reach out to my students, and they can reach out to me, but there’s no breach of privacy or professionalism. Plus, many of my students already use Twitter and could add my updates to their feeds (the probability of ANY of my students adding my blog to an RSS feed or signing up for blog email alerts is pretty low).

I still don’t know for sure. I just created the account last week, and since we’re still on holiday break, no one at school knows about it yet. Does anyone have any experience reaching out to students on Twitter? Any advice or horror stories?

And how many of you went back to see if there really were 28 characters in my title?

*(The “Facebook” picture was taken from The “Twitter” picture was taken from my own disturbingly inadequate MS Paint skills.)

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