How to use Twitter as a training & learning tool

How to use Twitter as a training & learning tool


In the last couple of weeks I have written a number of articles on the use of Twitter (micro-blogging platforms) which have proved of interest. Now is the time to take this further.

Before we even look at how twitter can be used for learning, training and education, we need to understand the context before the content. While at a conference this week #iitt09 I was amazed at the number of 'trainers' that did not appear to understand the difference between training and learning. Why do so many people seem to think that training=learning=education… no they are very different and valuable tools.

This is important as training via Twitter can be very difficult - but stimulating learning is very easy…

Two definitions - training and learning

Training:

Training is the conscious and planned process of transferring knowledge, skills and attitudes to others.
The concept of transfer here is critical, as is the element of planning.

Learning:

Learning is the processing and assimilation of what we hear, see or experience that alters or improves our knowledge, skills and attitudes.
The combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes is behaviour. If someone trains us, or we learn something new or different, it is our behaviour that is affected.

If our behaviour is changed, we have learnt something.

Training is active - it is conscious and planned - it does not just happen.

Summary - Training is done TO individuals - Learning is done BY individuals

Back to micro-blogging.

Now we understand the difference between training and learning, we can start to explore the various ways that twitter and other micro-blogging platforms can give us. Twitter is a platform, not a solution. It is a way of getting information from one to many people - in many directions at once. There is no single right or wrong way to engage with the technology. It is this that is causing many barriers to people. If one of your first questions is "How can you train anyone in 140 characters" then you are in the wrong place - if your first question is "How might this technology enable me and other to learn" then you have a chance. Web 2.0 is not about "How can it…"… its is about "how can I…". Technology like this is often a solution waiting for a problem. Much like the first PCs and desktop computers. many said that there was not a place for personal computers

Twitter is a great tool for developing, maintaining and growing communities of practice. people with a common reason to connect. the use of hash-codes (#) has been beneficial in this. Essentially you can search for these in twitter search (and other) and find people tweeting views, opinions and facts from events or about key topics. Topics that are relevant at the time.

Within certain limitations it can be used as a training tool, however it is much more powerful for the learner as a learning tool.

For me, the killer offer from twitter is the fact that it is predominately real time, here and now. Older material is on the whole ignored. As the pace of change increases faster and faster, we need to find out about solutions here and now. Twitter can do that. If we use traditional search engines the content may be 5-10 years old. The 'trick' to twitter is that you do not do something once - you do it several times.



Using Twitter to train English as a second language

In 2007 some research in China was carried out to look at uses of Twitter in education for the teaching of English - it was clearly a tool of value.

Other examples and applications:

Universities like Manchester are experimenting with twitter as a tool for learning

The site teaching technology has 12 tips for using twitter in the classroom

Can twitter be used in the 'classroom' - yes indeed. Twitter and other collaboration and communication tools - This tool, along with other classroom online tools, allows the classroom to move from being a centre of isolation to a centre of learning without walls.

Twitter in the corporate training world

Twitter has its place as a social networking and media tool, but for me it also has a unique place in training and learning:

Training - just in time tips, reminders, prompts, sparks

Learning - current thinking, current opinions, trends in a sector/ discipline, sparks

Some uses of twitter as a training tool:

Reminders of upcoming training events
Reminders of key learning content
Pre-emptive help for learning a new process or procedure
Links to articles of interest
Seminar/classroom attendee communications sharing a relevant point of view
Team communications allowing learners a real time archive to how the team is progressing and issues they are encountering.
For Twitter to work effectively a number of strategies need to be utilized (as the training provider):

Repetition - key messages should be repeated regularly - people see messages here and now - not in history - Just in time stuff!
Repetition - the same message using different words (VAK, preferences etc)
Hash tags - an effective #tag needs to be created for each learning event or subject
Indirect messages should support direct messages
Use quotes to support key learning points
Link to useful articles/ sources of information - say what the benefit is in the tweet
Ensure that linked pages are mobile device friendly
Accessibility

One of the most powerful factors of twitter as a learning and training tools is its accessibility. While many organizations currently block Twitter from internal use, twitter can be easily used on almost any handheld device. This means that it can be used at almost any time in any place. Its simple text based interface means that it is cross platform and not dependant on other technology, and works equally well on a PC screen and a phone screen. This level of accessibility should not be ignored.

If you are using Twitter to point to other relevant links, make sure the link is readable by a handheld device (much like this blog), many sites are too complex or difficult to navigate on a phone or PDA.

Its simplicity and accessibility are what is making this platform successful and will maintain its success.


Mike Morrison
RapidBI.com
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