Twitter Learning 230x300 Twitter: A Learning Tool? Whatever...

Learning with a Bird?

There are worlds of research related to how we learn. This research and opinion can even be broken down by groups, individuals and organizations to differences in culture, geographic location and how learning is facilitated. One technology that can help bring all these elusively segregated items together is cloud computing.  Twitter, while loosely connected in definition, is a type of application that happens in the clouds. But the question still remains, how can clouds be used for learning? Ha ha.

Note: Feel free to skip to “Ways to use Twitter for learning” if that is all you want to learn about!

First, define formal and informal learning

Before we go into Twitter as a learning tool I would like to define formal and informal learning.


Formal learning
is traditionally within an organized meeting and/or is classroom-based, provided by trained experts, facilitators or teachers. It can also happen within a structure rotational program (experiential learning)

Informal learning happens outside the formalized classroom, learning intervention and/or in between conversations and interactions (i.e. after-hours programs, community-based organizations, museums, libraries, or at home). This informal learning can happen between experts and/or non-experts.

How We Learn

10% of what we READ

20% of what we HEAR

30% of what we SEE

50% of what we SEE and HEAR

70% of what is DISCUSSED with OTHERS

80% of what is EXPERIENCED PERSONALLY

95% of what we TEACH TO SOMEONE ELSE

With informal learning you could be the smartest of smarties or the idioso of idiots. The point is you don’t have to be the know it all, you just have to have something that the other individual wants to learn about. (Well I guess it would be good to have a firm grasp or understanding of the topic, or what’s the point. You could say the same for politics… ok I digress).

Companies don’t always like to spend money on either formal or informal learning, especially in this economy. One thing we know for sure is that companies spend money on these types of learning whether they like to or not.

In order to fathom this idea of Twitter being used within and for learning, it takes a little leap of out-of-the box thinking. First let’s give a brief definition:

Twitter in Plain English

Twitter in a work or learning environment, God No!

funny twitter 14 Twitter: A Learning Tool? Whatever...There is something about having a conversation over 140 characters or less. I mean how much can you truly say? Added, how much can you truly share? The stereotype and perception for many individuals would be that it is a time-wasting activity only marginalized to those within the Millennial and Y generations. Nothing good is shared over Twitter! When employers hear about it (especially some Organizational Effectiveness, Performance Enhancement and HR departments) the feeling is:

God NOOOO, No, No, NOOOOOOOOO! We want them working not playing around and wasting company time on the computer!!! – (Actual quote from a beleaguered HR person I know).

Added to this, when you hear about social media and networking sites being used for formal, informal learning and knowledge sharing, a typical response is What? There is no way it can be done. Even if Twitter could be, how would I or anyone else begin?

Finally, Ways to use Twitter for Learning

While Twitter’s popularity has grown, it has taken a while for professionals and companies to start using it for things other than “I’m eating cheese right now.” I only just started using it around November 2009. Yet this tool is beginning to get some traction for learning. ASTD recently had an article on the subject of learning and while they extrapolate on a few ways to learn via twitter, here are some ideas on what you can do to get and do more learning out of twitter

  • People use Twitter: We should all learn more about the people we work with. While some personal items could be left to be desired, there are advantages for co-workers and managers understanding what motivates and interest a person.
  • Knowledge sharing: People already post thoughts but Twitter is being used more and more to share articles, information, and statistics. Just as the use of Wiki’s, email and list servs were used to share information, twitter is giving people the same opportunity.
  • Real-Time Engagement: Hash tags are a good example (i.e. #Communications) and can be a way to follow a conversation via backchannel. DM’s and Direct feedback to an instructor or on a class topic is an option for those who are shy or uncomfortable.
  • We learn from constant engagement and reminders: Learning is not only an engagement issue but also a question of routine. We are or know what we constantly do. So a leader or facilitator can post tips of the day, questions and assignments. They can post prompts to keep learning going and periodically check for re-engaging people that were participants within a session.
  • Real-Time Relevant Posts: Important, interest and/or industry related studies and articles can be broadcast using hash tags or directly to your followers.
  • Corporate communities and micro-blogging – Employees and customers interact with brands that are parts of their lives. So interact!
  • Performance Appraisal/Feedback: While this can be touchy, individuals need to feel like they are a part of the process. Engagement and a process are key when using twitter for this purpose.

However used, use it in a way that benefits the people you are working with, the value that needs to be created and the overall action/objective that the individual and business needs!

Additional Info/Resources

An example of Twitter in High School

An example of Twitter @ Work

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