Saturday, October 22, 2016

Tweeting as Practice in Metacognition

My Twitter journey has been an intentional one.  I had never used Twitter at all when I signed up for a Canvas Network MOOC on social media in 2013. (You can read about it my experience, which I likened to Whitewater River Rafting, here.) Thinking it would be a "light" and easy course, I discovered that it took quite a bit of effort to get going in a meaningful direction. I was interested in learning to use Twitter as an educator; to network and learn from other educators, and I kept myself in that mindset.  Our task was to find people in our fields to follow, and to get 50 people to follow us as we practiced the fine art of creating 140-character units of meaning that are powerful enough to catch the attention of others.  It took me nearly 10 weeks to do it, but I did. Here is a snapshot taken the day before the course ended, when I had tweeted 89 times, followed 155 others, and finally got 50 people to follow me: 

I have now tweeted 1,332 times and am following 625 educators, and  have 441 followers.  I look at Twitter as a professional development tool, an inspiring friend, and an intelligent and friendly social network.  For someone as busy and somewhat introverted as myself, it is a treasure. And, I have found that it is a great tool for metacognitive practice.

Metacognition: Thinking about Thinking

When I go to conferences, I listen, pull out main ideas, and tweet.  I take photos and add words, and my brain starts to put ideas together.  I lean my head down, listening, and re-word main ideas from keynotes and presentations. I am acutely aware of using the tool to make my thoughts clear, to find connections with the concepts and myself,  and to make meaning from my immediate world. My initial self-consciousness at even having my phone in my hand has given way to a purposeful taking of photos, adding thoughts, ideas, and questions to them.  It may look like I'm not listening.  Actually, I'm listening - and remembering - much more than I ever did in the past.  I used to take notes that were kept in unopened folders that were eventually recycled.  Now I stretch my brain and connect on a much deeper level.  

It did take some practice; messaging, typing, snapping photos all at once.  It has become much easier for me, and I'm sure would be even easier if I were as adept at using a cellphone as many people are.  But I persevere, and find that - even if I happen to miss a sentence or two of what is said along the way - I come away with a lot more than I used to. I love how this is immediately shared and often built upon by others.  It is a memory-booster and idea-generator all at once,  I can review tweets later, and I can like and retweet  the ideas of others, and  add them to my personal collection. 

Tweeting also helps me keep my metacognative mindset in everyday situations as well.  I take photos of students on our campus, ask permission to tweet it (so far always greeted with enthusiasm) and then add thoughts to them.  The combination of words and images is powerful. Pausing in a busy day to take a picture, connect with an individual, and share that connection, is powerful. I have started making a conscious effort to allow this room for connection and reflection. 

I have been influenced by the ideas of others on twitter, and am constantly amazed at the intelligence and creativity I encounter in the education community.  I rarely have time for a "tweet chat" but the few I have participated in have been incredibly thought-provoking. Just seeing some of the remnants of the chats of others has been useful.  My Twitter community has opened my eyes to things I need to think more about related to teaching and learning; accessibility, equity, diversity, tech tools, professional development, data, research and more. 

Tweeting stimulates my thinking process; I have to think about what I want to take away and  how to express it. For me, the process of tweeting is thinking - often deep thinking.  

Have you had this kind of experience? How do you approach twitter?  I'm interested in your experiences.  On twitter I am @lizfalconer80.