Although this is primarily a post about Twitter, it has implications in a whole range of online communication tools.
There has been a sudden rush of teachers protecting their tweets for a number of reasons, and it’s worthy of considerable thought before making a decision.
Advantages of protecting tweets:
Only people I approve can read what I am saying.
Recently two pupils from school have followed me, and I have blocked them both. One of those pupils is clearly still reading my tweets (presumably from the website – twitter.com/mwclarkson) and keeps dropping hints to that effect. I have had discussions with the pupil about why I have blocked them and about whether it is appropriate for them to be reading my tweets. I have to accept, though, that there is nothing I can do to stop him.
People who do use the website to follow me only ever see my half of the conversation, with absolutely no context whatsoever. If tweets are protected it limits that very one-sided view.
I don’t know who’s watching. If readers have to be followers then there is some accountability. It’s not impossible for someone to use a false name, but creating a persona, gathering followers and making a ‘real’ account is a hell of a leap for someone who just wants to see what I’m up to.
I don’t have to worry quite so much about what I say. I’ll still be posting in a technically open forum – my posts can be retweeted and some of my exisiting followers may be some of those I am trying to isolate myself from by protecting tweets.
Advantages of an open system:
Anyone can read my tweets. As a point of principle, I like that. I’m not ashamed of what I have to say and hope that a wide range of people would find it useful.
When I get followed, I like to look at that person’s tweets before making a decision to follow or not. This means that I might lose out on potentially valuable additions to my network.
As I said at the start, a number of teachers have protected their tweets recently. And I confess that I thought this was largely a knee-jerk reaction to a certain Scottish news story. I dislike knee-jerk reactions, often do the polar opposite indefiance and left mine open as a statement of “Look, it’s fine. I’m confident that what I am doing is right”. Now the knee-jerk reaction has died down I’m haveing a serious think.
I haven’t made a decision as yet, but it is a serious concern. Where will stand if I do end up in front of the governors? I don’t think I’ve done/said anything wrong but will those that don’t understand Twitter agree with me? Will my union back me up?
The same argument applies with my blog and my TES postings. Hopefully my blog is more carefully considered than my tweets (as that’s the point of it). I initially started both under a pseudonym that has been repeatedly worn away to the point that I swapped out the ‘HH’ references for ‘mwclarkson’ in the About page, above.
So if my tweets do become protected, at least you know why – and that I’ve considered it carefully.