Introduction and Caveat
People who microblog often describe a similar history of their reactions to the tools and experience (e.g., academHack). Even when very familiar with the participatory web, early experiences with microblogging often leave one "underwhelmed" - the tools seem limited and the interactions trite. For those who hang on a while, a somewhat different picture begins to emerge. While there still seems some truth in their first impressions, some productive experiences begin to emerge. Perhaps some go on to regard the microblogging experience as indispensible. Using the metaphor of a developmental model, I would presently assign my self to the second stage. I have moved through the stage of confusion and irritation to the stage of mixed reaction and occasional use. I cannot say I have achieved the stage of full immersion.
Given my present impressions and level of experience, I do feel I should now make an attempt to add a discussion of microblogging to our description of participatory web tools and tactics. This section will not be as fully developed as has been our discussion of other tools. Perhaps I will return in a few months to expand and differentiate this discussion using the Tool/Tactic distinction. For now, these comments are positioned as a blogging subtopic. I have concerns with this placement because microblogging seems to me a tool hybrid, but it will have to do for now.
I sometimes find it helpful to rely on terminology that is either of my own creation or is less commonly applied by others. As a label, group microblogging offers some descriptive and organizational advantages. The phrase expands the typical category as used by many others and highlights features I propose are responsible for educational opportunities. A group microblog is a form of blogging that typically makes use of a simple format and is primarily a shared form of expression within a group. Distinctive features here include:
Specific examples of group microblogs differ in a) how groups are formed (or evolve), b) what feature/formats are available and c) the existing population of users presently using that software/service. Understanding these differences should inform decisions matching a service and a purpose. While our review must be somewhat limited, we will at least make some effort to highlight these differences in the examples we use.
We would propose that a group microblog should be considered as the participatory web tool of choice when the goal is to quickly communicate within a group in a way that maintains an organized accessible record of this communication.
When listening to others describe classroom examples of specific tools, I sometimes react by thinking that I have done a similar thing for years with a more traditional tool. I have thought about my own behavior and decided that is some cases this is an appropriate reaction and advocating that educators use a new tool in such a way is unnecessary, but in other situations there are legitimate advantages in the time required to learn the proposed tool or in implementing the activity with the proposed tool.
A listserv, discussion board, or chat allow the exchange of messages with others and with varying degrees of ease allow this content to be stored and searched. In some ways, I see group microblogs as more flexible. While methods for limiting group membership may be important when used as a tool for students, when used as a tool for personal professional development, group microblogs typically allow some powerful strategies that can be used to identify and connect with others around topics of mutual interest. Listservs and discussion boards do not allow individual users the same level of flexibility. With chat, you are pretty much limited to those who make the commitment to enter into a discussion. There is less opportunity to seek out individuals who may offer useful information.
Perhaps the most productive approach in this context would be to describe the rudiments of microblogging and offer some strategies for taking advantage of what such services have to offer. As always, we propose that acquiring some personal experience is essential and such experiences require only that you are willing to invest a little time.