What do you want to get out of twitter?

What do you want to get out of twitter?

Do you want to self-promote? Do you want others to congratulate you when things are good and commiserate when things are tough?

Do you want to be intellectually stimulated and challenged? Do you want to debate and pull apart your ideas? Do you want to be forced to defend your stance so you question things more closely?

If you want to do the former, the strategies suggested by Sue Cowley and Teacher Toolkit make perfect sense. Mute, block, ignore. (Everyone does this a little: you tire of engaging with a certain line of debate or individual and stop responding.)

But I believe you are missing out on a massively beneficial side of twitter if you do so as a general policy. You’re missing out on the chance to develop your thinking.

What I’d like to challenge, though, is the perception that people who engage in robust and forthright debate care less. They (we?) are often painted as uncaring and emotionless. That’s simply not true.

You do not have a monopoly on emotion simply because you choose to ignore or react badly to forthright discussion.

I have emotional responses to tone that feels off. I have my fair share of mental health issues. I have received tweets where my instinctual reaction was one of anger, or sadness, or frustration.

But I know that’s just an emotion. I can control my reaction to it. I can control my thoughts stemming from it. I can certainly control the actions I take – including what tweet I send in response.

I think it’s a real shame if your choice of action is to block, or to respond emotionally rather than engaging in the substance of the argument. I think it’s a shame if your choice of thoughts is the least charitable interpretation (“that person doesn’t care about children” rather than “I wonder what’s led them to think that”). I think you’re likely to learn less and grow less.

But. As I said. Your choice.

12 thoughts on “What do you want to get out of twitter?

  1. suecowley

    Thanks for the blog, Bodil. I use Twitter mostly to share ideas, hear good practice, have a laugh, connect with others, get advice about EY to help our setting, support and connect with other writers, make friends, hear about events and opportunities, and experiment with a short writing form. It is also fabulous for writer-ly procrastination (as in now, when I have an article to finish writing and I am instead commenting on your blog because of the link you sent me.) It’s not a great format, I think, for self promotion and marketing, although it is good as a way for people to ‘connect’ with you and your ideas. It is also worryingly addictive, which is why I take a month’s break from time to time.

    I don’t think Twitter is great for debate due to the 140 character limit. I think blogs are often much better for that because people can read them, consider them, answer if they wish or just ponder if they don’t. Twitter is often too ‘in the moment’ for coherent debate, I feel. I certainly don’t think that people who want to debate don’t have emotion, or that just because someone disagrees with me that means they are bad in some way. It’s just more that I choose not to spend my time in that debating space with them. Maybe I’m just getting (or have got) old! 🙂 All best, Sue.

    1. suecowley

      p.s. It occurs to me that it people could see each other’s timelines, rather than just seeing the tweets that each person sends, they would have a better ‘feel’ for the atmosphere people want to create on their personal Twitter feed. Just a thought …

    2. Bodil Post author

      That’s fair enough. I have a lot of respect for people who have consciously set their own limits. What I don’t like is when people’s character or motives are judged for using Twitter differently or more forthrightly than they do. (And I don’t think you do that – you seem very “live and let live”)

  2. debrakidd

    Thank you for this Bodil. I assume that since you tagged me in, you wanted me to see it and comment. I am on twitter for lots of reasons and often I wish I wasn’t. Without twitter there would be no Northern Rocks. And there would be three fewer classrooms in the refugee camp I worked in in Africa. Perhaps both of those would come under self promotion. I’ve also made lots of friends through twitter – I met one for lunch today who I only met as a result of that platform and we discussed the idea that many people see it as a means of connecting and meeting people.

    I’ve tended to block very rarely, though I think I need to do it more. I like to engage with people who think differently to me but who do so respectfully. David Didau, Tom Bennett and I have lots of disagreements online. But we can also have a pint and a chat because we don’t attack each other as people, simply challenge each other’s ideas.

    As I wrote in my blog, sometimes my emotions have got the better of me. Usually at the end of prolonged and painful provocation. That’s no excuse though. Sometimes it’s just as an irritated reaction to something I think is unfair – like the picture you shared of Tom Sherrington’s workshop at the Festival of Education with a caption of ‘an example of low expectations’. I thought that was rude not robust and led to me calling you Miss Prissy Pants. Which was equally rude and for which I should have apologised long before now. I am apologising now, by the way.

    Of course, Antonio Damasio the neuroscientist would dispute your claim to be able to control your emotions. We are led by our emotions – what might come across as rational and logical can be underpinned by anger or fear. It appears controlled but is actually a manifestation in another form. His book Descartes’ Error is really interesting in that respect.

    1. Bodil Post author

      I don’t think you can control your emotions. I do think you can control your reaction to them.

      The apology is appreciated.

    2. Bodil Post author

      On the Tom Sherrington point – I genuinely thought giving a “make a maths hat” as a homework task was low expectations. I would far rather have engaged in a conversation with you about why you disagreed than have it descend into insults. I wasn’t trying to be rude or unfair. But, water under the bridge.

  3. debrakidd

    I’m not sure I disagreed with the idea that making a maths hat was an example of low expectations, though of course in order to know, I would have had to see the task, the lesson preceding it and the outcome. The disagreement was more about the treatment (and what felt, to be honest, an unfair representation) of Tom. Who is nothing if not rigorous and robust. He can also fight his own battles and I should not have said (or written) what I did. It is water under the bridge, but as I’ve learned this week, some water seems to run in cycles, ready for another dunking 🙂 I’m glad I’ve had the opportunity to apologise to you even if not quite in person.

  4. carmelohagan

    Really interesting discussion and you both say what I am thinking and feeling. I agree with you both! Maybe I am just a wimp but I think from following you both and this thread you will get what I mean. You are both reflective and caring and base things on real experience. I saw red the other evening with one of your colleagues Bodil – partly tone but what seemed to me to be a rather juvenile statement criticising many highly experienced teachers with high expectations and fantastic results year on year who just lend the kid a pen! I have lent far more than pens in my career! I think I upset her. It was not my aim but she blocked me and therefore we cannot argue it out over a virtual cuppa the way I do with the inimitable Barry! We all get it wrong from time to time and generally the truth lies in the middle. If you stop and think about it Twitter is bonkers but I think it is doing great thinks for our restless Educational community. I never block anyone (apart from unsolicited advertising!) and if I did I would not tell them publicly that I was doing it. That to me is playground “I’m not listening any more” behaviour. I am still sure most of us have the same aims for children/trainees in our care. I find young teachers exciting and humbling and love working with them either as trainees or in-service. I learn a lot from them. I just worry that sometimes there are some who are too quick to criticise and rubbish things about which they still have much to learn. Keep blogging and tweeting all of us!

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  6. jillberry102

    I can see both sides too, which, to me, is one of the joys of Twitter and blogging. There is often no one clear answer, and changing our minds in response to arguments which make us think more deeply is definitely a strength. I grew up in the Margaret Thatcher era where to make a “U-turn” was seen as a terrible weakness, and I can see how dangerous this is.

    I’ve also said several times that a degree of self-doubt and humility makes us better teachers and leaders. I like healthy debate and certainly don’t follow only those I agree with. I know I learn more from those with whom I don’t agree, and I’ve never actually blocked anyone – and I’ve spent a lot of time on Twitter since 2011! But I do read tweets and blogs from time to time which I find unhelpfully negative, narrow or arrogant in tone, and I agree with Sue that if comments upset us we should recognise that we have choices and we can curate our Twitter PLN.

    Thanks for the post, Bodil.

  7. srcav

    Nice post Bodil, I agree with the majority of what you said and have written some of my views previously here: http://wp.me/p2z9Lp-ed

    It is a shame when people can’t separate a criticism of a viewpoint from a criticism of the person. I wrote about my hatred for formula triangles a while ago and received personal attacks and then was blocked by a number of folk who like them, rather than a rebuttal of why they are good. I found it odd.


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