The incomparable Jane Hart has a list of Learning Professionals on Twitter.

In a recent comment, Don Roddy asked why I just started using Twitter.

Answer: I just thought I ought to know about it. I saw Michelle Lentz give a breakfast byte session at DevLearn. She gave some good examples of how it might be used for learning. I thought I ought to check it out.

I admit I'm skeptical.

My Twitter ID: WillWorkLearn, if you want to follow me.

So here's my first observation.

Twitter's one question is, "What are you doing?"

Wouldn't a better question be, "What are you thinking?"

I suppose it would be too complicated to have two options, a thinking-doing dichotomy. Or maybe thinking is doing. But the prompt connotes action, not thinking…And I think I'd rather know what other people are thinking. At least some other people. Maybe Twitter could enable us to elevate some people to the "What are you thinking?" level, while keeping most in "What are you doing?" level.

Anyway, if you've been thinking you want to check Twitter out, come join me for the ride. It's free to use. Apparently they don't have a business model.

I do think Twitter might be an excellent way to stay in touch with my family. I'm going to see if I can talk them into it.


Just getting back from DevLearn08 I've decided to jump into the Twitter thing. You can follow me @WillWorkLearn.

Before I fully begin my Twitter experience, here's a thought experiment regarding Twitter. If I could talk to God (or some other all-knowing entity), would it be useful for me (if I'm interested in gaining knowledge) to give up a minute of that precious time to talk with the multitudes?

No it would be foolish to give up a 100% chance of gaining true knowledge in a quickly-efficient way for a lesser chance at learning from the mulititudes. I'm assuming of course that neither God nor any other true-knowledge entity is following me on Twitter. What information-gathering entity has time for that?

Of course, knowledge is not everything I might desire. I might want to feel part of a community. I might want to make friends. I might want to do an ethnographic study of The Tworld just for fun. If this all-knowing entity was a bore or decided to use its wisdom to politely keep some personal distance from me, I would be better off talking with the multitudes. But since this is a blog that focuses on Learning, not Relationships, let's get back to the knowledge-gathering question.

Since it is unlikely that some all-knowing entity will have time for me, I will have to rely on entities that will provide me with less than 100% knowledge. If I find a 99%-true-knowledge entity, wouldn't I be better off talking with it, than talking with the multitudes? Yes, I would think so in most cases, though I suppose it depends on its knowledge gaps, and how fast I need the knowledge.

So, where is the breakeven point where I'm equally likely to get true knowledge from a true-knowledge entity and from the multitudes? Is it an 80%-true knowledge entity, a 50% true-knowledge entity, or a 20%-true-knowledge entity? 

Here's the point I think I'm making: If I have access to relatively good sources of information, how do I decide to forsake those sources for the multitudes, where information may be less valid or slower to access?

In other words, would Twitters be better off reading a non-fiction book, an article, or a trusted website?

I suppose we ought to divide our knowledge needs into categories.

  • Deep knowledge, gained over significant amounts of time, requiring a subtle understanding of a topic area, its contingencies, its boundary conditions.
  • Shallow knowledge, gained from one or a few experiences, not weaved tightly together with a network of knowledge.

If we need deep knowledge, we ought to go to a true-knowledge entity (if we know of one). If we just need shallow knowledge, we may be just as succcessful going to the multitudes.

I don't know, what do you think oh wise one?

And then there is the matter of the time horizon. I may learn small things quick or build big understandings over time by interfacing with my multitudes.

And then there is the matter of truthiness. What risk is there in getting information from the multitudes? Probably depends on the query.

I don't know, what do you think oh wise one?


As a person whose career focuses so much on learning, I can't help but notice when learning plays a part in the larger world, and especially in the life of my family, community, and country.

My wife and I, and our daughter, live in the United States. Last night our country elected a new President, Barack Obama.

Right after Republican-party candidate John McCain conceded the election in a very gracious speech, with Democratic-party candidate Barack Obama due to speak to the nation to acknowledge his victory, my wife and I decided to wake up our 5-year-old daughter (she's almost six–a few months really matter at her age).

Both my wife and I have been strong Obama supporters in the general election. For weeks, our daughter has been asking about the election. "Who are you going to vote for?" "Is mommy going to vote for him too?" The questions are repeated and keep coming over time. You can feel her trying to learn how the world works, how we fit into the world. Last night at dinner she said, "I hope Iraq Obama wins." We're still working on getting her to say "Barack."

As we put her to bed, we asked her whether we should wake her up to tell her who won. She said yes.

A little after 11PM, I walked upstairs to her room. In her darkened room she was lying across the bed, her orange sheet covering her body, her bare feet sticking out past the side of the mattress. "Alena, Obama won. Do you want to come downstairs to see him speak?" She popped right up, which is unusual as she usually gets up in a slow series of sleepy disgruntlements. She zoomed downstairs and nudged her way inbetween her mommy and daddy.

We had to wait for Obama to appear. As we gloried in the moment last night, with our daughter between us,
my wife and I were happy parents, proud of our country. Our daughter got to hear the same pledge of allegiance that she
says in her kindergarten classroom every morning. "Do you know
what song that is Alena?" "No." "That's the national anthem. That's our
country's song."

During the wait for Obama, the announcers kept talking about the historic moment, how we were electing our first black President, how women and African Americans hadn't always had the right to vote. Tired, with her head laying on her mommy, then on daddy, then peeking over the sheets laying across us on the couch, she watched and listened and continued to shift back and forth.

"What color skin do you have to have to be President?", she asked. "Any color. You can have any color skin. In the past, a black person couldn't be President, but now they can." "What color skin did they have to have?" "They had to have white skin." "I have both colors (she has some of her mother's Colombian skin)." "Yes, you do, just like him." We point at the TV where Barack Obama is speaking. A moment of quiet reflection. "But a woman can't be President." "Oh yes, a woman can be President. You can be President if you want to." Another moment of quiet reflection, longer this time. Her quiet was surprising because usually when we tell her she can be anything she wants to be, she immediately interrupts and tells us she wants to be a veterinarian because she loves animals.

Alena was riveted to the two Obama girls as they took the stage. When they didn't come out later when the Obamas and Bidens took the stage, she asked where the girls were.

I'm going to bet that my daughter remembers this election. I remember President Kennedy getting shot and killed when I was a little younger than she is now. I remember my mom in tears and not being able to watch cartoons because adult shows preempted the cartoons on the TV. Alena did ask last night if there were any kid shows of the Obama speech. Alas, no…, perhaps a lost opportunity for learning.

Even as a learning expert, it's hard for me to fully fathom how tiny moments have profound learning effects for kids. Some of it is surely emotional and social. Seeing all the faces with tears of joy around the country must have had an impact. Seeing how one's parents cry, beam, and do uncharacteristic things (waking the kids in the middle of the night) must have an effect. Hearing the announcers glow with special rhetoric must make a difference. Seeing all the different types of faces on the stage, brown, white, and in between. Youngsters like the Obama girls. Elders like Biden's fragile steely mom. Hearing Obama's eloquence, his example of the 106 year-old woman voter born before women could vote, must have made a difference. And new research on learning tells us that learning something just before sleeping helps cement that learning. So many factors at play.

I can't help wondering what other wonderful teachable moments we have in store for us. How many teachable moments have already occurred. How this affects not only our children, but us; not only our country, but people around the world. How this has changed us forever.

This Friday the Chicagoland Learning Leaders are meeting in their annual conference.
This is a fantastic group and I know that some of my smartest Chicago-area
clients are going to be there in droves. Unfortunately, I can't make it, but I
heard great things about this last year and if you're in the Chicago area this
is not to be missed. Click
here for more information
. It's their 7th Annual Conference, so they must
know what they're doing!!

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