If you are not presently living in hiding in the mountains of a remote land you have no doubt seen Twitter, among other social networking sites, referenced in the mainstream media. My hometown paper here in Raleigh, The News & Observer, has written over 80 articles since the start of 2009 that reference Twitter. Unfortunately, most journalists in the mainstream media craft their articles by pointing to this star or that star who are tweeting or how it's taken Congress by storm. Clearly, they are only seeing with the proverbial 'naked eye' and are missing the potential of these deep and rich knowledge mines.
In education I understand the excitement and hesitation that comes with conversations about using social media in our schools. In my experience, most educators think social media means social networking on Facebook. While Facebook is certainly one tool that can be used, there are many other tools available, each with its own set of positive and negative factors that need to be considered. Twitter, for one, can be quite useful.
Consider this article written by Laura Bauer for McClatchy Papers titled "More people flock to Twitter as a conduit for information." In her article she notes:
"It seems this land of Twitter - where life is documented on the Internet in 140 characters or less - isn't just about celebrities or the silly anymore. It's about real information, in real time."
Bauer, Laura. "More people flock to Twitter as a conduit for information." The Kansas City Star 20 Apr. 2009
What a powerful statement - "It's about real information, in real time." And while this is certainly how many educators choose to treat Twitter, it is clearly not a river of gold where knowledge is constantly flowing every time you dip your mining pan into the water. Rather, it takes hard work to build a trusted network. In fact, one must take the time to dig a little deeper, to explore their surroundings, and take chances on the 'what ifs'.
Think for a moment. If humans never toiled we'd not have precious commodities like gold, diamonds, pearls, and oil. Was it hard work for folks to mine for those precious commodities? Absolutely. Did they toil endlessly for hours finding hundreds and thousands of rocks before striking it rich? Sure.
Twitter, in my opinion, is no different. But once you start digging it can become the largest knowledge mine the world has to offer helping you strike it rich repeatedly.
And while the same holds true when using Social Media to mine for knowledge the main difference is there are many wonderful guides to help you "get rich quick" and avoid the endless toil, sweat, and tears as you venture out on your own.
So where does one go to find these guides? Sites like edSocialMedia.com are a great place to start. However, I'd offer up the following articles, Tweeple, and Bloggers as a fantastic entre into the world of knowledge mining using social media.
SOCIAL MEDIA ARTICLES
-Lorrie Jackson; Message Matters (http://lorriej.wordpress.com)
-Renee Lemley; The Perfect Social Media Trifecta: Have you found yours? (http://www.graymatterminute.com/2009/01/07/social-media-trifecta-on-twitter-linkedin-and-facebook)
-Leo Babauta; HOW TO: Simplify Your Social Media Routine (http://mashable.com/2009/05/14/social-media-routine)
-Ravit Lichtenberg; 10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2009 (http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/10_ways_social_media_will_change_in_2009.php)
TWEEPLE - Educators who tweet on twitter
-Kelly Hines; 4th Grade Teacher (@kellyhines)
-Lisa Parisi; 5th Grade Teacher (@LParisi)
-Kevin Jarrett; K-4 Teachers (@kjarrett)
-Meredith Stewart; 6th Grade Language Arts (@msstewart)
-Heather Mason; MS Language Arts (@hrmason)
BLOGGERS - Educators who log their thoughts on the web and share resources
-Liz B. Davis; The Power of Educational Technology (http://edtechpower.blogspot.com)
-Bill Ferriter; The Tempered Radical (http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/the_tempered_radical)
-Chris Lehman; Practical Theory (http://www.practicaltheory.org/serendipity)
-Jon Becker; Educational Insanity (http://edinsanity.com)
-Alex Ragone; Learning Blog (http://www.learning-blog.org)
So what are you waiting for? Start knowledge mining today!