I was talking to Jared Smith the other day about my blog when he informed me that blogging was “soooo 2006.”  He says the new thing is microblogging.  What the heck!  I just found a decent use for blogging and now I have to try microblogging??!  I am familiar with Twitter (a common microblogging tool) but when I first tried it about a year ago I wasn’t impressed so I met with Jared and did some research on my own and here’s what I found…

What is microblogging? – it’s basically writing in short 140 character bursts (often called “tweets”) that can be sent/read online or from a cell phone…any cell phone with texting not just smartphones. Here’s the catch though, unlike in texting it is frowned upon if you send multiple tweets back to back.  This means you have to summarize what you want to say, including any links, in 140 characters!  From what I understand this 140 char. limit is so that it is compatible with SMS (texting).  The most well-known microblogging application is Twitter.  However, like any web 2.0 app there are tons more out there.

What are the benefits of microblogging or twittering? – So far, from what I can tell, there are two primary benefits to this technology.  First, the info can be sent and received via a SMS text message.  This gets  your information out to those who subscribe, very quickly.  They can then write back quickly so you can get immediate feedback.  Second, since there are only 140 characters it really eliminates the fluff from a post.

How can you use it in a genuine way in academia? This is the burning question.  At first glance I thought Twitter was just a place where people told other people what they ate for lunch and when they brushed their teeth.  This, to me, was not worth my time.  However, Jared has helped me see this in a whole new light.  Twitter, and I’m sure other microblogging applications, has a large population of informational posters.  These are folks who are writing about news, current events, conferences, politics, etc. and are documenting things as they happen.  Using the Twitter search engine you can scan all the tweets by specific words or categories (a.k.a hash tags) which can help you learn about things as they happen.  I found several good articles on how to use Twitter in  your classroom to connect with students, get real-time feedback from students and stay abreast of current events.  There was also an article about a teacher that had his class write a collective story using Twitter.  It builds class community and it’s a viable platform for metacognition.   Check out these article/posts for more ideas:

Twitter for Academia, academhack, Tech Tools for Academics, David Parry

Educators Test the Limits of Twitter Microblogging Tool, edweek.org, Katie Ash

An Interview with Dave Parry, Chronicle of Higher Education, video by Jeffery Young

7 Things You Should Know About Twitter (pdf), Educause Connect

Twitter – Web 2.0 Tools in Education