Twitter as learning environment #2

During the first #telic1 session, Claire raised a good question about Twitter being a learning environment, or not.

I have been thinking about this during the past week and I agree with Ian that we first need to define what a learning environment is. In fact, the more basic question is: 'what is learning?'. A lot has already been said and written on this matter and I’m not intending to cover everything here on the subject,  but it is very valuable to sum up some definitions of ‘learning’ in order to get back to the question about Twitter being a learning environment.


“Learning is a goal-directed act. Learning is acquiring new, or modifying existing knowledge, behaviours, skills, values or preferences… Learning is not compulsory; it is contextual .”

In this definition I definitely see my Twitter activities as ‘learning’. I have consciously defined my own goals: being able to connect to others, and professionally develop myself.

Definition of a Learning Lab In Ghent Uni:

"Learning can be defined as ‘changes in the behavior of an organism that result from regularities in the environment of the organism".(1)

Here also, Twitter often has changed my behaviour and that is more the result from regularity rather than a one-moment-tweet or situation (although it also has happened that one tweet changed, influenced my behaviour in the long term).

So, considering these definitions, Twitter is a learning environment but  I agree with the question that Ian puts as a conclusion: perhaps a learning environment is only as good as we make it? Not the tool itself is most important but how the learner uses the tool. And this tweet of Charlie Palmgren could not be more spot on …

Apart from the definition of learning it is interesting to look at the conditions that facilitate the learning for me. Charlie Palmgren writes in his book “The Ascent of the Eagle” about the Creative Interchange process and the conditions needed for this process. Simply put, creative interchange is a process in which human beings are working together at their best. And the conditions are: mutual intrinsic worth, trust, curiosity, connectivity and tenacity.(2)

Daniel Willingham also mentions the importance of the right conditions for learning. “People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.” (3)

The conditions that facilitate my Twitter learning are:

1. Trust: the willingness to risk sharing some of the best ‘stuff’ I have, and the humility to be open and receptive to what others bring and say on Twitter.

2. Curiosity: exploring and appreciating new ideas on Twitter. Even if they sometimes seem contradictory to my own thinking (at first).

3.  Connectivity: I love creating links between Twitter ideas and my own situation. Using my imagination to build upon those Twitter connections to create new ideas and solutions (learning with Twitter is a goal-directed act, indeed).

4. Tenacity: the discipline and practice it takes to make new thinking into sustainable habits. Also, showing commitment to engage myself in Twitter discussions, and practicing with new tools such as, to curate my resources etc. Showing tenacity to stop with Twitter once and awhile, because it can be quite addictive.

Conclusion: Twitter is a learning environment but the conditions that facilitate the learning are more important than the tool itself.

(1) De Houwer, J.,  Barnes-Holmes, D., Moors, A., 2013. What is learning? On the nature and merits of a functional definition of learning. Psychon Bull Rev.

(2) Palmgren, C., 2008. The Ascent of the Eagle, p. xiv.

(3) Willingham, D., 2009. Why don’t students like school?, p.3.