Tweeting Away the Generation Barrier

by Allie Sivak ‘11

Since its debut in July 2006, the website Twitter has gained popularity worldwide and is estimated to have over 190 million users, generating 65 million tweets and handling more than 800,000 search queries per day.

Senior Josie Wantee recently decided to create a Twitter account to see what all the hype was about. “My friends all had a Twitter and convinced me to make one. At first I thought it was dumb because I didn’t really understand the purpose of it. But now I am constantly tweeting,” she explained.

Teens of today’s generation, like Wantee, utilize advancements in technology constantly to stay connected, and use sites like Twitter to express their thoughts in the form of 140-character mini-messages. It often seems that teens hold the key to a separate vast world of technology that their parents and teachers simply find befuddling. However, while it may appear that all parents are perplexed by their children’s record-speed texting ability and extensive know-how when it comes to computers, many adults actually embrace technology and utilize its advancements, contrary to widespread belief.

In the case of Twitter, computer science teacher Donna Thomas believes social networking sites to be extremely beneficial to entire communities, not just teens. Before pursuing her career in teaching, Thomas worked for 26 years in the technology industry and was the proud owner of a high-tech firm. Many teachers have limited knowledge of sites like Twitter, and are confined to the idea that teens constantly are absorbed in such technological phenomena. Thomas enjoys integrating her background in technology to the classroom, and sees social networking sites as useful to teachers rather than confusing and distracting. For this very reason, she decided to create a Twitter account.

“From the get-go, I became interested in using it as a tool to communicate ideas and information to large groups of people and also learning about developments in the subject areas that interest me,” she said. “I believe Twitter is an excellent way to give quick updates and learn about what is happening in the community. I have encouraged kids to access it and use it. I have a twitter account for homework and one for reporting on computer events as they relate to our student population.”

One of the main concerns voiced often by adults about social networking websites like Twitter is their overuse and addictive nature for teenagers and young adults. Thomas acknowledges that while Twitter and the use of technology can be quite useful in the classroom, as with most things in life, moderation is key to its proper use. “The only burden I see is that technology is evolving so rapidly that students are failing to understand priorities, timelines and deadlines. Without this balance, students are very limited to what they can achieve in life,” Thomas noted. “The only way to solve this problem is to begin to teach and communicate with them by reaching them at their need level. This means using Twitter and other acceptable forms of social networking.”

Indeed, it cannot be ignored that teens are constantly using sites like Twitter and Facebook, but are doing so as a part of their cultural and generational makeup. “I can express myself more on twitter. You can be an individual on Twitter,” said Wantee. Since creating a Twitter account a few months ago, Wantee already has over 17,000 Tweets and admits that she is “addicted” to the site thanks to its easy access and ability to connect her to her peers. With each of her tweets, she can readily let what is on her mind be known.

Thomas’ idea to break the generation barrier that surrounds technology is an obvious

solution for her. “Facebook is a social network, and so is Twitter. Sherwood is a social network.

Teaching and reaching our students involves social networking,” she explained. “Technology has

redefined the lives in which we live, and embracing it as a tool to help with student learning

would be the right way to go.”

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