Where Facebook failed us, Twitter is a beacon of hope

Facebook, the beginning of something


When I was a freshman in college Facebook was just starting out. As one of the first users of the platform, I was conflicted. Mostly I was nervous about the fine-line print of the ‘Terms and Conditions’, constantly changing privacy settings and presumed decline of face-to-face interaction with my new college friends. My degree in Communication kept me knee-deep in theory and research about social networks and mass media communication, which informed my cautious, but excited attitude toward Facebook. I knew it was the beginning of something, but I didn’t know how or why it mattered. It was a huge part of my undergraduate education, both socially and academically, and I had high hopes.


Facebook is the first social network to become widely adopted by students. This is because in the early days, you had to have a .edu email address just to sign up. It was a great way to connect with other students that I barely knew in my classes; a more casual way to follow up when meeting a stranger. I’ll find you on Facebook instead of here’s my email or phone number. As I went through undergrad, I developed a very healthy love/hate relationship with Facebook, deleting the entire thing multiple times. My ambivalence peaked when I was teaching English in Northern Spain and gave a seminar called ‘Loving the Facebook, Hating the Facebook’. I talked about all the benefits and concerns that any person should think about before signing up and connecting with others.


Fellow teachers and students, especially in my adult classes, were always asking me if they should join. I would give them the rundown on what you could do on it and ask them how they would use it. This helped them figure out the answer. Of course, now people don’t even ask the question. Facebook is just a part of one’s social media diet, whether you are a student, teacher, or grandma. And the ubiquity of Facebook, which has long dropped it’s .edu requirement, has ushered in countless other social media sites used by teachers and students alike.


Twitter, a place to do nothing


One example is Twitter, of which I was definitely not an early adopter. I remember my friend explaining it to me, while I was in Spain, saying it was a way to kill time at work, and since I didn’t have an office job, I probably wouldn’t use it. I eventually joined anyhow and watched the evolution of the network from an adolescent shouting match, to a place where people from all over the world can connect and hold actual discussions (even if those shouting matches still take place in someone else’s feed).


While the hashtag has its roots in the history of internet technology, it’s true birth was on Twitter as a way to group tweets. Twitter chats use hashtags to organize moderated discussions. Each chat has it’s own # and a designated time when the # is used to be a part of the conversation. I’ve known of Twitter chats for a while, but it wasn’t until earlier this year that I entered the world of #Edchat.


Twitter chats, a place to learn


I had just started a new job as Community Manager at USC Rossier Online. Part of my job is to be a part of the community and grow exposure to our online doctorate education program. On my first week of work, my colleague explained #Edchat to me, and by the second week we were on TweetDeck together in my first #Edchat. It was terrifying. My colleague had been involved in #Edchat for years, representing USC Rossier as @USCTeacher, and here I was a very inexperienced Twitter chatter, and even less experienced teacher or University ambassador, having to jump in to a fast-paced discussion amongst the most connected educators. Over the past six months, I showed up every week not ever really knowing what to expect. At first, I just watched and listened. Then I started following the blogs of the teachers that participate, asking questions. Eventually I started adding comments and getting into actual discussions with particular educators.


I often reach out to teachers talking about their experiences because I’m interested in learning as much as I can about the education community and what it is really like on the ground level. Too much of the education debate going on is about policy and not enough about real outcomes. These teachers on #Edchat are often sharing actual outcomes. They might not always be positive, but they are takeaways that are shared, discussed, and learned from. In this way, I’ve become a part of the #Edchat community. I may not be in the classroom everyday, but I am in the space learning everyday. I add what I can from my teaching experience, but mostly, I learn.


Facebook no longer relevant?


In the realm of education, Twitter has taken the front seat as a true place to connect and learn from others. Networks like Edmodo have overshadowed Facebook as a place for connecting with students and teachers to learn. I am fascinated by how teachers have taken social media into their own hands and are running with it. And I have a hunch that many of these teachers are sharing their knowledge on Twitter during education Twitter chats. There’s a shift in education–what you don’t have, don’t know or can’t do is no longer stopping teachers, but instead an opportunity to improvise, learn and evolve.


The #Edchat Survey

We (USC Rossier Online) decided to run a survey about #Edchat and education Twitter chats to find out more about how participation might be influencing other areas of education. Are teachers involved in #Edchat more likely to be well-versed in Skype? Do teachers using Twitter intend to use social media in their classrooms? Are teachers finding education Twitter chats beneficial? If so, why?


This survey is just a swatch at the bigger picture, but it’s our effort to find out more and get a small taste at what is going on. Because what happens on #Edchat should not stay on #Edchat. Every educator needs to know the concerns and benefits of the community of educators using Twitter because they are leading the way in changing education. Not just in their classrooms, but across classrooms.


Tell us what you know about the education Twitter chat community, how do you think #Edchat is changing education? Take this #Edchat survey to share your opinion!

Stephani Echeveste

Stephanie Echeveste works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s online Doctor of Education. She loves #Edchat, cappuccinos and volunteering for 826DC.