A Twitter reality check!

twitterThis reality check could lend itself to any Social Networking site, so if you don’t use Twitter, don’t think this post doesn’t apply to you!

I have been using Twitter for 2 years now. To start with it was to communicate with the movie crew I was working with, but now I find it invaluable for learning and collaborating with other teachers and e-learning specialists. It has been great for my Personal Learning Network! … read more about personal learning networks.

My next post will be on the BENEFITS of Twitter, but first, lets look at the downfall of when I was jolted back to earth last week…

I had a person ‘following me’ who was extremely helpful when it came to advising me on Mac issues. I began to follow him in return as I found him lively and interesting, plus very knowledgeable. His website is very ‘tech’ oriented and of a high standard.

On Valentines day, my husband I were going to the local Italian restaurant and my Twitter friend announced that he was going to McDonalds next door to this very restaurant. It was pretty unusual that he happened to live nearby, as most people in my networks are spread over the world. He suggested I came down to meet him, so my husband and I popped in to McDonalds before going to our restaurant. When we got there he wasn’t there.

When I returned home, I got this message: ‘Mum is really MEAN and made me go home before you got there’.  ZOING! After several more messages I discovered that he is 13 years old. My family and colleagues found humour in me being seen as a potential ‘predator’. Perhaps it does have its funny side, as I am an older woman with 3 grown up children, plus a TAFE teacher… but it was a HUGE reality check for me! My assumption that he was a male teacher was shot to flames. It turns out his parents just wanted to go home and didn’t think me a predator:)

I sent the link to his website, to my trusted PLN friend Sue Waters and she was also shocked that a 13 year old could be so incredibly clever! I think there is value in my blogging the experience and sharing my thoughts as outcomes.

So here is what I learned from my reality check:

  1. The up and coming generation are brilliant and tech savvy beyond your wildest expectations… be ready for them teachers!
  2. If you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME
  3. We careful what you say and do on the Web. You don’t know who you are being a role model to.
  4. Don’t underestimate or trivialize the opinions of youth. They are smart and know what they want (unlike the baby in the image!).
  5. If you are planning to meet a ‘Twerson’, make sure it is in public and that you bring a friend!

I respect my Twitter friend for his ability to keep himself safe and respect his mothers protection of him. I am still in contact with him and have a renewed disbelief at how clever he is. We may still meet up at our local shopping centre for a coke.. but it will be under different circumstances!

Anyone with other thoughts on my experience? Share them in ‘comments’ and I will reply to you!


Image: http://languagefix.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/baby_at_computer_sm1.jpg



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14 responses to “A Twitter reality check!

  1. Wow Jenny! There is certainly a lesson to be learned for all of us here. Like you, I assume that those I follow, or those who follow me, are adults and generally teachers. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. It may very well save someone an embarrassing, or potentially dangerous, experience.

  2. Based on his sites I would have assumed he was probably between 15- 17 because of what he said in his bio and his level of expertise.

    The trouble with our up and coming generations is we have the extremes. We have students like him – who are extremely skilled. But then what we see with the majority is they are more comfortable with technology but more likely to be particular good at specific aspects of using it e.g. online gaming or texting friends but not particularly good at using it in an educational context.

    Mostly I’m dismayed at how poorly students are at using even the most basic of computer applications; feels almost like each year their teachers have assumed because they grew up with it they already had the skills.

    My biggest embarrassment tends to be I interact with people online and struggle sometimes to work out which person they are when I meet them face to face. Not my fault twitter avatars lie!

  3. I’m thinking the same as Sue here. I wonder if we generalize the population of youth by one instance like this. I’ve two teenage boys in my home and they do not have the skills such as this student you describe. No doubt they could pick the skills up, but the don’t have the desire or need to at this point.

    One of my thoughts lately has been how different SNS are being used by students and by educators. I have much more purpose to use a SNS than that of a student. What I mean is over time, I’ve acquired many more business (learning) contacts, friends, family members (in-laws, cousins, etc.) to connect via SNS than a youth would. In time, they will value the purposes of SNS as the see needs to connect with others more and more.

    As for how I monitor who I follow, I keep it easy… they must have a completed bio with link to a website of their own or I must know them from meeting face-to-face.

  4. jennywood

    Most of my student contact has been with TAFE students who mostly wouldn’t have these skills, but then my eldest son was writing programs and putting them on his own Website at 13 years old. He is now 25 so not in the same generation as the 13yo on my blog post.

    I agree with Sue Waters, that we do have extremes and cant make assumptions about our students and their tech skills. Most of my own students when I was teaching Cert 4 in Disability, were not at all tech savvy, but I suspect that if they were, they probably wouldn’t be doing a course in Human services.

    That is a good rule for following, Brian, I also check bio and link to website… but the 13 year old passed the test with flying colours! It is definitely a good safe guard, however. I am also wary of people who have no avatar picture.

  5. jennywood

    @Sue Waters, I met some of my Twitter ‘friends’ recently at the e-portfolio symposium in Brisbane, I found it also embarrassing and stretching for my brain to connect avatars to real people. It has made my relationship with them more meaningful now though, which is a positive!
    Perhaps we should have a big Twitter party?

  6. This is a funny but very informative story.

    Makes me wonder how many of my followers and followees are under 18.


  7. jennywood

    @Elidet, I discovered another one this morning strangely enough! There is a plague happening I think.

  8. Verna Sciscoe

    Oh my gosh,…I read this page…I am new to twitter, not too impressed…I see that you have a nicer page and addons…i found your post though going through some friends posts on Facebook…Thank you for being so open and sharing. I would like to pass the word on…in general terms with no names I will just tell the story…thanks V.

  9. jennywood

    @Verna Sciscoe, Hi there! Don’t be put off Twitter. The same thing could happen with Facebook or anything. It is just a warning to be careful. I am going to blog ‘The benefits of Twitter’ next time. You are welcome to share the link of my blog if you like.

  10. Great post Jenny,

    I often find myself making assumptions of what other people are assuming…which can be a bit confusing. For example, I follow Allison and found you by looking at Allison’s Flickr page of yesterday’s Tweetup. After reading your tweets and blog posts I followed you. But I felt a bit ‘pervy’ or voyeristic doing so without being introduced. But this is a perfectly normal thing to do in the ‘Twitterverse’ or Social Network world in general. We follow those who interest us.

    It is often tricky merging online world with the ‘real world’ and I think this is where technologies such as Second Life are very usefull as they provide a type of meeting that is a bit more like the familiar physical world. In our physical lives, it would be weird if you were to follow someone around watching what they do without saying hi and introducing yourself. We all have different comfort levels and I feel it is important to connect and communicate with different age groups to expand our awareness and understanding of others.

    I find observing social behaviour individuals and groups fascinating and finding your feet in the Twitterverse can be difficult for some. It seems that younger people are very apt and feel at home in the digital world, while many of my older friends struggle to comprehend Twitter and other Social Networks.

    Is there such a thing as Digital Anthropology? Sign me up.



  11. jennywood

    @Vincent, I agree with what you are saying, but I guess before we decide to make contact we do need to be a bit ‘pervy’ (as you put it) to safeguard ourselves.
    I like to check the person has a bio and if it interests me, before I follow people. It does feel a bit creepy at times but I think the behaviour is considered ‘normal’ to a point!
    I think young people need to do that more. I have noticed some adding ‘friends’ in Facebook who they don’t know etc.

  12. Pingback: Learner Bytes » Blog Archive » to tweet or not to tweet, and if I do, therefore I am & you know…

  13. Pingback: Use Twitter to enhance your Personal Learning Network (PLN) | Jen e-blogger

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