Cognitive Bonfire – Twitter the Fire River @mcleod @blueskunkblog @ryanbretag

River of Fire – Source: http://goo.gl/4JXEL

While some have characterized Twitter as a stream of global consciousness, wouldn’t it be fun to picture Twitter as a river of fire kindling global imagination, igniting a cognitive bonfire we can all cook marshmallows around?

In Doug Johnson’s blog entry, The 140 Character Discussion,  Doug makes these points:

  1. Discussions on Twitter are like having a debate where everyone gets to shout out their point in 10 words or so at the same time, a cacophony of chaotic cymbals.
  2. Twitter talk is an exercise in “parallel play,” invented by toddlers, that we all engage in without connecting with each other at deeper levels necessary for growth.
  3. Time should be spent reading, responding, writing blog entries that allow for greater elaboration, deeper relationships.
Although I still read many blogs, I find that many return to simple collection of topics. Some are rants, others are restatements of other’s more artful expression, and a very few reflect blogging as once explained to me–a conversation that begins with another’s ideas, interweaves their ideas and involves reflection in ways that catch readers’ minds on fire.
Twitter conversations appear to catch other’s on fire. The brevity of a tweet is rife with meaning, potential misunderstandings that must be worked through. The constant influx of fresh ideas, different takes, become the new source for conversations. More so than blogs which seem to echo many similar perspectives penned by different people, Twitter conversations slice through the miasma of boring education reform talk, although as Doug highlights, they can also result in group think.
While Twitter can enable us to achieve our cognitive potential, how can we get started?

In the article, 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential,  5 approaches are suggested. Ask yourself how Twitter can help you get there.

1. Seek Novelty
Novelty can be a beguiling concept. It means being open to new concepts and ideas. By being open to new experiences, you can learn an incredible amount of information that has great potential in your life. As a Twitter user, I equate new experiences to what I do with what I find on Twitter. I have often seen people equating “professional learning” with the conversations they have on Twitter. In truth, I don’t learn anything unless I do something with it, reflecting on it, then applying it to some aspect of my life. The advice in the article is to be a knowledge junkie; Twitter makes this possible because your PLN provides inputs 24/7.
2. Challenge Yourself
Our brains get more efficient as we do things. While some bemoan the use of Web 2.0 (, I used the term) tools and the professional learning centered on it, saying it’s a waste of time, according to the article, our brain function improves as we learn something, then move onto the next. If we dwell on the same activity–say, how to use an iPad app–then our cortical energy decreases as our brain gets more efficient.
As a result, I don’t agree with the assertion in this tweet:

 @edrethink @mcleod @blueskunkblog @library_jim the fault does fall to the teachers. You have a bad PD program if you are teaching tools

If all you do is play with tools, at the very least, you are improving brain function. This may actually explain why I get a brain boost every time I switch from one tool to another for writing. The novelty, the challenge to my own brain makes my brain work harder. How’s your professional development designed to help teachers learn, unlearn, learn in different ways?
3. Think Creatively
When I read Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse, the main character cast into the role of the incarnation, Death, relies on various matchstick approaches for solving problems. Among the approaches are parallel thinking and divergent thinking. The former is characterized parallel lines, while divergent lines go off in all directions. 
In the parallel approach, all facts lead to the same conclusion. In divergent, the focus is on developing new solutions. As we bring new technologies into schools, it would be easy to continue going around in circles doing what we’ve always done. Twitter conversations foster divergent thinking because they involve ideas coming from a rich variety of perspectives. Rather than parallel thinking where all of us have the same set of facts pointing to one inescapable conclusion, we can find new solutions, new creative insights into the set of mundane facts we deal with. Technology in a K-12 classroom with students and staff. Now what?
4. Do Things The Hard Way
“If you stop using your problem-solving skills, your spatial skills, your logical skills, your cognitive skills—how do you expect your brain to stay in top shape—never mind improve?” asks Andrea Kuszewski in the her article on 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential.
Twitter can help your brain stay in tip-top shape. As Doug points out humorously, Twitter isn’t the easiest medium to track conversations. Yet our brains are able to track conversations, not unlike teens do when sending abbreviated txt msgs to each other. Their brains adapt to a new form of communication, and our brain fills in the holes. The “easy” way for learning these days is to follow longer conversations in blogs, but our brains have grown more efficient than that. Now, we crave more interaction, a higher level of randomness and feedback. We want to reach more people and get more information.
Twitter can help us do that.
5. Network

By networking with other people—either through social media such as Facebook or Twitter, or in face-to-face interactions—you are exposing yourself to the kinds of situations that are going to make objectives 1-4 much easier to achieve. By exposing yourself to new people, ideas, and environments, you are opening yourself up to new opportunities for cognitive growth. Source: Andrea Kuszewski, 5 Ways to Maximize Your Cognitive Potential

A part of me wants to shut the door, do my own thing. But, the truth is that constant interactions available in person and through Twitter drag me physically and intellectually out of my shell. When others appreciate my work online, retweet, I am encouraged to connect with others. Before, the majority of those interactions took place via my blog. Now, they are occurring via Twitter.

The network, my PLN, provides me with great source material to write about, to reflect on and apply to life. I can’t do it all, but I become a knowledge junkie. The fun part is making that knowledge come alive. What a relief that I don’t have to go it alone.


Check out Miguel’s Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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One thought on “Cognitive Bonfire – Twitter the Fire River @mcleod @blueskunkblog @ryanbretag

  1. doug0077 June 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm Reply

    Dude, you used more than 140 characters to make your point.

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