(cartoon via Rob Speekenbrink)
I get involved in lots of discussions whether Twitter- is learning (or nonsense). People are sceptical on what you can learn through 140 characters. Often I answer that you definitely learn through twittering because you can link through to blogposts, articles etc. Basically defending the 140 characters.
Probably the main difference is in the theory about learning that people hold. Is learning what you do in school or in a training or is it something we do continuously? From a social learning point of view, Twitter is an important medium in which people converse, and build relationships. For people who are not active on Twitter this may be quite invisible. If you look at an individual twitter message, it makes no sense. But if you follow people over a longer period of time, you notice the influence it has, on the way you think and act. Like the day I decided to put up the christman tree because many people were twittering about it :).
Last week a conversation made me think about a different angle. (Nb: following is a rather longish story, if it is boring to you you may skip the rest of this paragraph). We have been very busy searching for a good secondary school for our daughter and it took up quite a bit of our time. We visited open days, evenings for parents, classes. There are many things to consider in your decision-making. In the Hague there are also too many pupils per school, so you have a chance to be rejected. In our case, many friends started to apply for a school, and we were about to apply too. Then I talked to a friend in another part of the country and found out there most people wait for the test results (CITO), so that you know the exact school type. This suddenly made a lot of sense to me. So you see how you get influenced by your environment and may overlook the obvious. So we decided to wait for the test results first.
Back to Twitter. I see a twitter network having the same function. Seeing new perspectives, widening your choices. Seeing new solutions to problems you didn't even know you had. Simply by reading a lot of stories. Ofcourse you need to be able to link it back to your own situation, and that depends on the quality of your network. Another example: through my twitter network I learned about prezi as an alternatve for Powerpoint, even though I wasn't looking for it. You may call it serendipity too.
Do you want to do more with twitter? Here's a great handbook: free download!