Twitter for Thinking Publicly

Twitter for Thinking Publicly

From literacy to thinking in the public, the possibilities of Twitter for learners continues to intrigue me.

That is why I’ve been impressed by the risk one of our teachers took with the use of Twitter beyond the usual lower level posting assignments, message blasting, or basic discussion forum-like uses.

Thinking Publicly

With students in the field interning, Mrs. Jones leverages Twitter as a mechanism for students to connect with educators locally as well as globally, develop their professional identity, and explore ideas in the open. In other words, through connected learning these students are thinking publicly as Ritchhard and Perkins describes:

  1. Learning is a consequence of thinking.
  2. Good thinking is not only a matter of skills, but also a matter of dispositions.
  3. The development of thinking is a social endeavor.
  4. Fostering thinking requires making thinking visible.
This visible thinking speaks directly to Jones’ use of Twitter:
[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center” variation=”slategrey” cite=”Ritchhard and Perkins”]Thinking happens mostly in our heads, invisible to others and even to ourselves. Effective thinkers make their thinking visible, meaning they externalize their thoughts through speaking, writing, drawing, or some other method. They can then direct and improve those thoughts. Visible Thinking also emphasizes documenting thinking for later reflection. [/pullquote1]

Using Twitter as a sort of public field journal, learners engage in real-time connecting, curating, and sharing in multiple formats: images, texts, and videos. All of this leads to making thinking public in ways that support engagement, disposition development, reflection, and thinking skills. But it also leads to learning how to build, navigate, and maintain networks.

Not Blogs

One important piece to this use of Twitter was the decision not to use blogs. Quite simply, the microblogging nature, the immediacy of network formation, and the mobile potential afforded by Twitter made it a more viable option.

Could blogs have been used? Sure. However, I doubt with the effectiveness that Twitter brings to this context. In fact, it would have been a different experience entirely. And this is another reason I’ve been impressed by this experience: thoughtfulness. The class explored various possibilities based upon the learning and experience desired. In the end, this level of thoughtfulness is key to meaningful and sustainable shifts in learning.

Image: Writing on the Wall, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from wfiupublicradio’s photostream


  1. I’m with you all the way on this Ryan; until the “no blogs” part. It struck me as contradictory.

    As you quoted above “Visible Thinking also emphasizes documenting thinking for later reflection.” It would be easy to have all the students tweet using a unique hash-tag and then set up an trigger that copies each tweet to a posterous blog. Tweets are hard to find after a couple of weeks or so. It makes perfect sense to capitalize on mobile microblogging using twitter; but twitter is ephemeral in the way a blog isn’t.

    The blog would allow for later reflection for the students and provide a record Mrs. Jones can refer to next year as she plans the next evolution of the project. Don’t you think?

    • Hi Darren:

      In the context of a micro field journal and network learning, Twitter serves as a much better tool. The students wrote reflections as they progressed during their interns but via Docs leveraging their tweets in a Storify way.

      In that sense, it held to the notion of visible thinking on multiple levels.

      These reflections, to your point, could have been done with a blog. When we get to one blog per student that is horizontal and vertical over four years, it makes perfect sense.

      However, blogging instead of tweeting the micro field journal would have changed the direction and pace of the learning piece. From what we targeted and discussed, it would have been the wrong move.

      • I didn’t mean blogging in place of tweeting; I meant tweet » autoarchive tweets on a blog using » later reflect more deeply on experience by culling interesting (as defined by students/teacher) tweets/experiences on the blog/posterous.

        Doesn’t have to be a personal blog; it could be a group blog focused on this particular project.

        • Okay, I understand now. My point at the bottom was about the choice to tweet over blog. It doesn’t have to be either/or but in terms of this approach my point was the teacher made an exceptional choice.

          To your point which points to the next step, a blog would work but I think it was captured in the use of Google Docs and Storify (need to follow up to see if anyone used Storify as part of the reflection).

  2. These ideas are not new. I would argue that Socrates’ persistent, insistent questions are simply a way he forces one to “make your ideas visible”.

    • Hi Ryan:

      The making thinking visible is not new nor claimed to be – many methods get you there that require zero technology as we know it today. The very idea of a discussion be it in a classroom or a coffee house creates that visibility or to extend your idea, the notion of Socratic seminars that draw upon the ancient rhetoric focuses on the importance of open, public thinking.

      What is new and not feasible without the technology is network and connected learning independent of time, place, space, and device. This teacher made thinking visible (long known critical piece to learning & thinking) in a way that leverages technology in meaningful ways to learning vital for today’s society (connected learning).



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