Saturday, November 20, 2010

Twitter and the Teenage Boy

Last week I introduced Twitter to 12 high school seniors (I work in a boys school) in my Digital Journalism class. None of them had used Twitter before. They knew of it, but did not have accounts. Facebook is their go-to social network, but they were interested in learning more about a tool that they had heard so much about. They had the classic response to Twitter - "Why would anyone want to know what I had for breakfast?" and they were surprised to discover that there is much more to Twitter than they knew about.

I showed them the basics, how to find followers, what it means when someone follows you. They learned about the Iran Election, Moldova and Mumbai and we discussed the differences between Facebook and Twitter. They wrote about their reactions. Here is a little bit of what some of them had to say.

"Twitter is a great resource that I intend on making full use of when I’m older, but until then, for me, Twitter will be used only for educational purposes while Facebook dominates as my main means of social media." - Colin E.

"There are also many more things you can do with Facebook that you just can not do with Twitter that involve more personal or direct contact." - Jack

"I do not think Twitter is relevant to people in our age group. From what I have seen, the people on Twitter are either teachers, celebrities, business corporations, or endorsers. I could hardly find people within my age group on Twitter, and I feel a that is a big factor for teenagers." - Agazi

"For now, I will stick to Facebook since my amount of followers is so small and I have nothing interesting to Tweet. However, one day as I hope to own my own company, Twitter may be the tool to spread my new products or works across the globe." -Kevin

Overall, they could see the value of Twitter for others, for the world and for them in the future. But they were in agreement that right now in their lives Facebook does everything Twitter does and more. I wonder if I had girls in the class if they would have responded differently? What do you think?


davidcosand said...

Liz, I see that same reaction in my former students (I teach 5th grade) and with my own teenaged children. My 15 year old son will tweet something every once in a blue moon, but mostly as a nod to me and not because he really sees the value of the medium.
Facebook and texting, however, are hardwired into his DNA. It's that highly direct connection with peers that is appealing to him...not the more apparently impersonal broadcasting of soundbytes.
It will be interesting to watch if his perception and preference change as he grows older and technology continues to evolve.

Theresa Murray said...

Good morning....I think your reaction would be similar with girls. My teenage daughter (young college sophomore and future teacher) uses Twitter to check up on celebs even though she sees me use it regularly as PD.

A few students that I teach in high school use twitter the same way as my daughter.

In some ways, I agree with the teens but in other ways, I really think it can help them expand their knowledge and contacts.

It is a tool I talk about often but have not convinced many to join me. It's really disappointing as I have gained so much knowledge from my contacts and feel it makes me a better teacher.

Adam Green said...

My 22 year old son explained it to me a while back. His generation uses Facebook to keep up with actual friends, people they generally know in the real world. My generation (54) use Twitter to talk to strangers. He has no interest in talking to strangers. I'm sure there are plenty of evolutionary psychology (mating) reasons why teenagers are "hard wired" to connect to peers their age.

Philip said...

Liz, Twitter has many uses, but I think what most of us find beneficial about the medium is the ability to truly network (make and develop new relationships). I don't think the average teen feels a personal need to network. They will, but I'm not sure they can truly understand and benefit from what it has to offer yet. They use Facebook the same way I do, to connect with those I already know. Twitter is for making new connections and I don't think the average student grasps "networking" as a means for growth/exposure.

I work with high school and college students. Most high schoolers don't "get" Twitter, but as my college students graduate and enter the workforce more of them are finding it to be a useful tool. Funny how that works.

Liz Davis said...

I think we all agree that we find Twitter to be a really useful learning tool. I found my students' responses interesting, but not that surprising. They definitely were happy to learn more about Twitter, but decided that it wasn't the tool for them. I can see their point and expect that they will turn to it later in their lives. Hopefully, I've given them a head start on that.

I do think it is ironic that we worry so much about our kids interacting with "strangers" Online, when, in reality, they have no interest in strangers and prefer to network only with the people they know.

Fran Lo said...

You asked about Twitter and girls. I just took a media use survey of my 8th graders, and the only Twitter users (3) are girls. I don't think Twitter or RSS (which they also barely use) meet adolescents' needs, while Facebook and texting do.

Amanda Brewton said...

Hi, Liz! My name is Amanda Brewton, and I'm a student in Dr. Strange's EDM 310 Class at the University of South Alabama (Mobile, AL). We have our own EDM 310 Class Blog. I also have my own class blog: Amanda Brewton's EDM 310 Blog. Feel free to visit anythime!

I think it's great that you introduced your students to Twitter, especially at the age where they're about to graduate high school soon. If they plan on going to college, this may give them an upper hand in networking and college research, if they so choose. I do agree with some of the students in that Twitter may not offer as many applications and games as Facebook. Some of these are geared towards their age group, and the way Facebook is designed seems to appeal to the younger generation.

Having a Twitter account myself, I like to follow my favorite authors, bands, museums, and magazines, for instance. However, I am slightly hesitant to follow my friends on Twitter because I anticipate a constant flurry of status updates that would seem way too overwhelming! I'm trying to figure out a good way to network with students at the university I attend in order to advertise on-campus events and meetings for a club I'm VP of.

I'm glad that they got to experiment with Twitter! Hopefully, they'll find a good use for it in the future! ~Amanda Brewton

Mary Mauceri said...

I had a classmate tell me that I should use twitter if not for anything else but to share my bright ideas no matter what they pertained to because you never know who you could help out or connect with. I am from Dr. Strange's EDM 310 course. I am a student with what sounds like typical student's mentality about twitter but I am slowly learning that twitter and all other communications can be helpful.

David said...

I have a few students who are using Twitter, and they are pretty much using it the same way as I do, as a source of information and post things they find interesting. All three of them start by following me, and I think recognized how I use it quickly. Similarly, all three of them want to share what they are learning.

Note that I have another 4 or 5 students who have have Twitter accounts and are doing nothing with them at all.

One of them has even posted stuff to #edchat before. I don't know if he intends to become a teacher.

Anonymous said...

Liz, can you give me some more info on your job title at belmont hill? what does your job entail?

Rena Mills-Little said...

Good evening,

I believe that my 9th grade language arts students are huge fans of Facebook but do not see the value of Twitter. While some may use the site to follow their favorite celebrities, I believe that most of them are much more interested in themselves and demonstrate this through the personal information and photos they post on their pages. Of course, they also use Facebook to connect with others and make friends outside of their usual social circles. I cannot say I blame them for having no interest in Twitter because I have never used the site myself. However, your post has intrigued me and I might attempt to see what it is all about. If I find anything that might interest my students, I will definitely be sharing it with them in the future. Thanks!