Do We Learn More through Microblogging? by Tony Ratcliffe

Part of the series: Global Issues in Education

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Microblogging which engages readers can be a powerful source of informal learning. While there are other microblogs, the one at the top of my mind is Twitter.

If tweets (Twitter messages) and re-tweets (RTs) are missed or just glanced at in the Twitter stream of messages, there is likely no learning occurring. Of course, they may be found later during specific searches, and that leads to new circumstances. If they are read, something may be retained in memory. However, when readers respond with comments, send RTs, and even carry on conversations, I suggest the learning is much greater.

I’m thinking of the research about reflective writing. If one writes something that reflects on their prior knowledge or experience, or reflects in writing on a microblog entry and recognizes new learning, that learning may be strengthened by the writing. Tweets and RTs provide many pieces of useful information, and they often provide links to websites and blogs. When the tweets are reflective, this likely strengthens the informal learning.

Yes, the same applies to blogs, and you might expect it to a greater extent with more words used, but I often see blog postings go without comments or further discussion. Is it better with the immediacy of replying on Twitter, do links increase blog discussion, or is the powerful learning opportunity missed too often?

This guest post stemmed from my comments on another blog entry, How to Use Microblogging in Workplace Learning. My past students have been required to use reflective writing in learning journals. Preparing them, I have pointed them to the work of Dr Jenny Moon.


Tony Ratcliffe resides in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. With a Master of Distance Education, he is interested in pursuing doctoral studies in e-learning and learning technologies.
email: tony at

Twitter: @aeratcliffe

What do you think? Do you learn more through microblogging?

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell (@ShellTerrell) is an award winning digital innovator, an international speaker/consultant, and the author of Hacking Digital Learning with EdTech Missions, The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers, and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught English language learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert by organizations, like the US Embassy, UNESCO Bangkok, Cultura Inglesa of Brazil, the British Council in Tel Aviv, IATEFL Slovenia, HUPE Croatia, ISTEK Turkey, and Venezuela TESOL. She has been recognized by several organizations and publications as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development as the founder and organizer of various online conferences, Twitter chats, and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Two of the projects she co-organized were shortlisted for ELTons, #ELTChat and the Virtual Round Table Language and Technology online conference. She was named Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the 10 Most Influential People in EdTech by Tech & Learning. Her greatest joy is being the mother of baby Savannah and Rosco the pug. Shelly has an Honors BA in English with a Minor in Communication and a specialization in Electronic Media from UTSA, a Masters in Curriculum Instruction ESL from the University of Phoenix, and a CELTA from CELT Athens. She regularly shares her tips for effective technology integration via Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and on her blog,, which has won several awards and recognitions as one of the top ESL, Edtech and Elearning blogs. Find over 400 of her slide presentations at


  1. I think that you learn more any time you engage, microblogging seems to encourage this more than blogging. It invites conversation. But, there are many who will still lurk around a microblogging service, never jumping in. When we choose to engage, the learning will increase!

  2. I agree about the immediacy of microblogging tools like Twitter being something that helps learning. If I’m working on something, being able to have Twitter running in the background means that if an interesting link comes up, I can go to it, check it out quickly, bookmark it and save it for later. I think I have learnt about so much since being on Twitter it’s unbelievable.

    I also agree with ktenkely that you learn most when you interact and engage. You also form really interesting bonds with people and colleagues that you would rarely be able to make any other way =)

  3. I think that while lurking and reading can lead to new knowledge, going through the actions of saving a bookmark, tagging the link, commenting via Twitter or blog, and retweeting the content reinforces the new and recently learned content in a stronger way. With the former, you are simply reading and reacting. With microblogging, you are exposed to the content in multiple ways, and have to apply and synthesize to share the information.

  4. I appreciate seeing the responses to my guest blog post, “Do We Learn More through Microblogging?” Ktenkely starts by referring to engagement increasing learning and mikeharrison agrees with the interaction and engagement involved. MissCheska points out the reinforcement of the learning when you have “to apply and synthesize the information to share.” From Cocreatr, we have the need for “focus and aiming for value.” His ‘Ode to Twitter’ link is worth following and reading, as he thanks Twitter friends for their inspiration.

    I also asked a couple of Twitter colleagues for their opinion on whether “tweets can be used for reflective writing?” They responded by direct messages, and I then pointed them to both blogs. Tempted to ask them to write something in the blog, I then realized that ‘140 characters or less’ was all it took to present their thoughts and be open to further discussion. Instead, I asked for, and received, permission to quote them here:

    “yes, definitely. Tweets are like a micro cognism to enhance reflective writing.”

    “Yes, because they force you to be clear and concise! And they can be freeing – you can write just a little at a time, to get going.”

    Thanks to all. There certainly appears to be support for the suggestion that microblogging aids learning. I do see an opportunity to pursue this with discussion of what reflective writing is, supported by a literature search and possible further research.

    This is also a follow up to my own subsequent blog post, “Microblogging, learning, and reflective writing.” (noted for pingback)

  5. I am currently on Twitter, but do not use it for learning purposes. I never really thought about it as a learning tool. But from what I have read it is an awesome source to stay involved. Though it is just one source to a micro-world of many, it is one of the newer updated blog spots. So I think that yes we do learn more from micro blogging.

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