The first thought that went through my mind as I woke up Thursday was, “I wonder if there is a special name for the whiskers on a catfish.”
Normal people do not wake up wondering about catfish whiskers, but I’ve been a writer and writing teacher all my life. Wondering about stuff is what I do.
A couple hours later, someone whose name I had not noticed in my Twitter stream before, posted a clever math comment:
@ronkowitz There’s a fine line between numerator and denominator. (BTW, it called the vinculum)
Not only is that a good pun but also a new word for my vocabulary. I retweeted the comment and asked the author if he knew the proper name for catfish whiskers. In under 5 minutes, I had an answer—and a connection to someone with stimulating, eclectic interests.
I began using Twitter a bit over a year ago. It quickly became a must-have tool for my work—educators’ call it professional development—and my water cooler for casual chat when time permits.
Like many other educators on Twitter, I scanned the Education Next list of the “Top 25 Educator Tweeters” to see if they’d picked my personal favorites. There were names I knew, some whose Tweets I follow, but relatively few with whom I’ve had any interchanges.
That didn’t surprise me.
The tweeter with a gazillion followers isn’t going to have rich, personal relationships with many of them. I’m cool with that. Even as a newspaper reporter, I preferred chatting with the guy who was installing a manure storage tank to interviewing the governor who was going to feed me his scripted comments.
I was amused, however, by the uproar from Tweeters who were incensed that their favorite education Tweeters were not in the top 25.
Bill Ferriter, over at his blog The Tempered Radical, posted the most sensible response to the Education Next list of the “Top 25 Educator Tweeters” that I’ve seen. [Bill moved his blog and the link I had no longer works.]
Bill says the value of Twitter for educators is that it encourages each of us personally to attend to tweeters who are talking now about topics we are interested in now. When our needs and interests change, our personal list of who is influential also changes.
I think Bill’s got it right.
Social media mimics socialization that’s not technology mediated. Changes in your life—from a new job or new baby to a sump pump failure—bring you into contact with people who have a similar focus. When your circumstances change, the degree to which you interact with a familiar group of people may change, too, whether you are online or off.
Twitter has become my go-to place because it has such a diverse community of people I can tap when I need suggestions, links, encouragement, or the odd fact. If you are missing Twitter, you’re missing easy access to professional development.
And you probably aren’t having much fun either.
Just for your information:
- Bill Ferriter Tweets as @plugusin. His new blog is williamferriter.com
- According to @ronkowitz, the side whiskers on a catfish are maxillary barbels.
- The photo of catfish is by Bubbels
- Education Next’s Twitter handle is @EducationNext