Sunday, July 5, 2015

10 Reasons Why I Love Twitter # 2: Global Teaching and Learning Opportunities

[I apologize for the funky way I copied tweets into this post. Twitter refused to cough up Embed codes today]

As I explained in my first post in this series, many of my middle-ageish peers aren't on Twitter or any social media. They have merely a fuzzy idea, if any, about how Twitter works, the immediacy of its global reach and the power it can bring to bear on affecting public discourse, especially in current events and breaking news. Many who don't use Twitter see tweets only when they are shown, hours- or days-old, frequently out of context, by main stream media in an attempt to flesh out their own stories. 

A primary purpose of this blog series is to show non-Tweeters why I do Twitter and why I've been a daily tweeter since 2008. Most of my reasons have to do with my passions: writing, human and robot space exploration, astronomy, science communication, multi-lingualism and Mustelidae. But there are other reasons as well, persuasive reasons that illustrate why anyone should at least give it a try.

I, too, was once one of those who scoffed: "What can you possibly say of any value in 140 characters!" 

The answer is: Everything
And if you choose your followers wisely, your tweets are seen and amplified instantly around the world.

Ten Reasons Why I Love Twitter

#2: Global Teaching & 
Learning Opportunities ~

During the July 4th weekend I went on my quadrennial Hyde Park Corner-style rant against America's ridiculously outdated presidential election system that saddles us with frantic election bread & circuses for an entire 16 months. It is one of my pet peeves about life in the US of A. It will also likely never go away. Nonetheless, once every four years I go on record as a huge proponent for a more efficient process. This July 4th, I thought that was it after I got that series of tweets out of system. Then I saw this response from Tommy Thomason (@Sillmyril) in response to my rant-ish tweets on the U.S. election system:

Jul 4
. I love the monologues in series of questions you have done (now and previously). They help me grow and learn.

Thanks for the compliment, Tommy. I love to teach and enjoy finding ways to do it on twitter.

Learning and teaching are two activities that truly attract me to twitter. I have taught in classrooms at all levels through senior college classes and discovering new ways to teach via Twitter is exhilarating. 

For one thing, if you have a question to which google doesn't have an answer, or more commonly, way Too Many answers to sort through, then you can always ask Twitter. I did this recently with a question I had about taking care of a 1-year-old lemon seedling. Google gave me 1.7 million results in 0.0004 seconds. Twitter gave me the answer I needed in 15 minutes.

In addition, I participate in Twitter chats and hangouts, where a group of tweeps interested in specific topics ask and answer questions around various areas of specialization, such as #AskAnAstronuat, #AskNASA or #SciChat. 

I regularly write tweet streams like the one I mentioned above, specific topics. These series of tweets are intended to educate, entertain, amplify, elaborate a position and stimulate critical thinking. Not necessarily in that order. It is particularly nice to get unexpected compliments like the one from @Syllmyril above.

Here is another example of how to use Twitter to learn and keep abreast of your interests. 18-year-old Abigail Harrison is an aspiring astronaut with a dream of being the first woman on Mars. She is also on aspiring polygot:

Jul 4
Write me a letter in Russian and I will write back - you will be helping me learn at the…

This is a fabulous idea for any language learner at any level!

As a polyglot linguist myself, I use Twitter daily to train, exercise and enhance my multi-lingual skills. I tweet primarily in English, yet also converse in German (reluctantly), French, Italian and (not very well) in Spanish. I am currently learning Russian and Japanese and make it a point to follow Japanese and Russian astronauts, such as Koichi Wakata (@Astro_Wakata) and Anton Shkaplerov (@AntonAstrey). I follow other Russian and Japanese speakers as well, but at least with Koichi and Anton I have SOME idea what they are talking about. I enjoy puzzling out foreign language tweets. I have also had entire conversations on Twitter where I wrote in one language and my conversation partner wrote in another, understanding each other perfectly. 

One of my Twitter milestone goals is to have followers that represent every country and every language in the world. To that end, I welcome any follow suggestions!

Notably, Twitter has a "Translate this tweet" button when it detects tweets it thinks are not in your native language. This service is run by Bing and appears to have been added more for user amusement than any kind of useful functionality. Still. Twitter has made language learning even more fun than it's always been for me.

Whatever it is that you want to learn, be it foreign languages, astronomy, fly fishing, citrus cultivation, philosophy, shepherding, the particulars of crab gut DNA, HAM radio (to name only a few of my followers' interests) - Twitter will have an expert on it. Or several dozen even, most of whom are more than happy to talk with you, if you ask and behave nicely.

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