We are accustomed to abbreviations and symbols that signify a message. For as
long as we have communicated we have used abbreviations and symbols to provide messages beyond the words themselves. The term HELP means more than the four characters it consumes. SOS even more and has one less character, and OK one less and still has meaning beyond its two characters. So why is there so much debate over the validity and value associated with using certain forms of social media to communicate, collaborate, and connect among educators through a limited number of characters?
Social media applications including and similar to Twitter have a set number of characters to get your message across to others using the service. With Twitter you are limited to 140 characters but the reality is far less. If you are engaged in a discussion involving a specific topic there is often a hashtag that consumes some of those 140 characters. As a result, critics of this form of communication have stated it has little or no value in the grand scheme of learning, sharing and/or communicating among educators. This view is shortsighted and simplifies an ever growing complex world of communication among educators that starts with a limited number of characters and expands well beyond the initial message. Here’s why:
- Brevity is a skill not often demonstrated in the professional world. Regardless of our jobs and titles most people like to talk beyond the topic. Limiting characters make brevity possible. As a result communication is richer and on target.
- Serious communication, collaboration, and connections through social media in the educational world are initiated through limited character interaction but expand outside of this arena. Most who engage in these opportunities see the 140 characters as a way to start the communication. It’s no different than attending a networking meeting and introducing yourself to someone. The difference is the conversation is not limited to the face to face experience that happens in person. Others can find interest in the dialogue happening on line, join in or connect later.
- This form of communication does not require you to be present when the connection is made. Sending a tweet today can be viewed tomorrow or a week later by someone who has interest in what you have said and then connects with you.
- Limited character messages include links to videos, articles, webpages, shared documents, blogs, etc. This is the true power of social media. With the attachment of a link and the click of your mouse you are transported to another location where there can be more information, resources, dialogue or collaboration. In this case the tweet is a porthole to more way beyond the 140 characters.
Superficially examining the communication of educators through social media and declaring it of little or no value because of limited character use is an indication of a lack of knowledge about these types of applications and how our educational connections carry on beyond the initial message. The reality is if a picture is worth a thousand words, a tweet is worth a thousand connections!