Where would I be without Twitter?

[Read this next bit as though it’s a well known Sinead O’Conner song]

It’s been 5 years, 30 days, and 53 minutes since my first tweet. Here is it:

Twitter: hopkinsdavid / David Hopkins

In that 5 years, 30 days, etc. I’ve made nearly 25,000 tweets. Admittedly not all of them are relevant, interesting, insightful, funny, or worth repeating, but some of them have been. Some of them have been ideas, sharing, conversations, photos, jokes, people I’ve met or places I’ve been, books or journals I’ve read, etc. Some are re-tweets (RT), mentions, replies, etc. And some are just banal observations for no other reason than Twitter was available and somewhere I can put a random thought, observation, rant, or other piece of useless information. 

In this time I’ve made (to date):

  • Posted or tweeted 24,885 times.
  • Followed 1,411 people, organisations, spoof-accounts, etc.
  • Been followed by 7, 145 other people, organisations, etc. (I’ve also blocked a large number of inappropriate or spam accounts, including , for example, taxi companies in places I’ve never been).
  • Been added to 662 lists, the vast majority based around EdTech, educational or learning technology, etc.
  • Been on Twitter longer than 99.5% of all Twitter users, but only 64% of the time since Twitter first launched.
  • Only had two avatars.

(These stats have come from my Twitter archive and also the Twopchart website).

But what has Twitter done for me? Or rather what have I done with Twitter?

In the beginning I didn’t understand it or know what I was supposed to do with it and, to be honest, neither did most people. After a while, and through some first contacts I made (Steve Wheeler, James Clay, Jane Hart, Lou McGill), I began to see the wood through the trees, that Twitter was only what you wanted it to be, that you would get out of it what you put in. I worked out that I wanted (needed?) from Twitter so I could learn more about the role as a Learning Technologist, make connections and find out about things, events, technology, techniques, etc. that I didn’t know about from the people I worked with. Twitter became my ‘go to’ place for everything and anything that interested me.

David Hopkins

I started by ‘hiding’ behind a cartoon (right) and by the time I thought about changing it, to come out from behind the anonymity it offered, it had become a symbol and avatar I both liked and was recognised by. Now, over 5 years later I’ve changed it (finally) and now use the same avatar across all networks. I’m still not sure if I’ll swap back, but for the moment I’ll stick with it.

David HopkinsIn May 2009 I made a presentation to the Business School at Bournemouth University about ‘Twitter in Education’ (below) and also uploaded it to SlideShare, where it has since been viewed 80,000 times, embedded on 315 websites, and had over 100 downloads. This was as much about me sharing and helping colleagues to understand Twitter as it was about me also understanding the possibilities of what it can do and how you / we can use it. The follow up – ‘Twitter in Education: what next?’ – has also been viewed in excess of 11,000 times.

Twitter in Education

For me Twitter has …

  • been somewhere I could share my thoughts and reflections, from this blog, to a wider audience.
  • resulted in invitations to present at UK and European conferences.
  • opened my eyes to critical thinking and reflection through examples and the work that other people share through Twitter.
  • enabled real time help and support when tech failed me (or I could help someone else who had had their tech fail them).
  • made some real and valuable friends that started off as 140 character online conversations and has matured and grown through face-to-face contact at events and conferences.
  • helped me focus and concentrate on what is professionally important – here I’m thinking about implication and application of an ‘appropriate’ technological implementation, making sure it’s something that will add value or increase efficiency rather than the “ooh, it’s shiny and new” approach.

Twitter is not …

  • open – colleagues and friends follow me (some interact, some do not) and therefore I cannot rant or rave or moan too openly as it would be unprofessional
  • free – see above. Sometimes it’s a curse that I can’t say what I really really want or need to, that I can’t be totally open about something that has moved or effected me. Well, that’s my choice.
  • safe – despite Twitter being something I value in my day to day life I know ‘it’, or rather the people on it, can easily turn on any one of us (there are far too many examples of trolls who deliberately make someone’s life a misery, for apparent fun. Examples include some of sports modern heroes Rebecca Addlington, Curtis Woodhouse, etc. – please note I have linked to supportive stores associated with the trolling these athletes have endured to show the positive support the Internet can provide, my little way to counteract the negative).
  • mine – despite the feeling of ownership or control over my / our network, we ought to remember it’s not, nor will it ever be. There may be guidelines in place that protects the ownership, or IP, of my tweets, but Twitter can stop all of this, at any time.

Where would I be without Twitter? Well …

  • I would not be CMALT accredited – I would not have engaged with other applicants or assessors. I would not have seen the benefit of being CMALT accredited, and I would not have pushed myself through the process.
  • I would not be anywhere near the Learning Technologist I am today without the availability of the networked knowledge I have access to – without the connections I would’t have known there was even a large and welcoming network of technologists out there, thirsty for knowledge.
  • I would not have grown or expanded my passion or enthusiasm for my role and the industry I work in.
  • I would not have self-published my own books.
  • I would still be just plodding along, being reactive in my role and waiting for ideas to come to me instead of pushing my own boundaries, and that of the people around me, in the quest (is that the right word?) to better myself.
  • I would not be presenting at a conference in Madrid in May, looking at strategies for engaging students.
  • I would not be running twitter chats with my good friends Sue Beckingham and Chrissi Nerantzi on the BYOD4L and FDOL courses.

This is what I have let Twitter do for me, or rather this is how I wanted my network of connections to affect and effect my life. I do not see any other online network having anywhere near the impact or possibilities that Twitter has offered me – to me Facebook is for my family & friends, LinkedIn is still just an interactive resumé, Google+ is growing but still un-proven.

This is the value of Twitter to my every day life, personally and professionally. What about you, what does Twitter (or any other network you value) mean to you?

At some point you will want to, or ought to, download your Twitter archive. If for nothing else it serves as a reminder that everything you tweet is still open, accessible, and shouting “this is what [insert name] thinks”. If you’re not aware of this, then you really oughtn’t to be using Twitter or other ‘open’ networks where your digital identity, your digital footprint, is so plainly available for scrutiny. In the spirit of openness, here’s mine: