That's what I call my oldest son on Twitter. Referring to him by name seems a bit unwise and it helps my couple thousand followers distinguish between kids when I tweet about their antics. With four kids and another on the way (don't worry, I live green in every other way to offset the large carbon footprint generated by all of these kids), I need some sort of system to differentiate them and kid #1-4 seems as good as any.
The other night, though, I happened to refer to him by his former Twitter handle. I say former because Twitter no longer holds any interest for him (and was certainly never his social medium of choice as it has become for me). Since my tweets automatically post to my Facebook page as well, though, he happened to see it and grumped, "I don't even go on Twitter anymore...enough with the @'s".
Obviously there are plenty of young people who use Twitter and teachers are finding interesting ways to use microblogging in class. However, it simply can't compete with Facebook and MySpace for adoption among teens and millennials. They just don't get it.
At the same time, I'm seeing a shift among people my age and older who, even a year ago, found Facebook overwhelming, shifting much of their communication from email to social networking sites. We all know that email is largely unused among teens unless they need to send an assignment to a teacher.
So Twitter's not cutting it. They just can't post enough content and the threading simply isn't there (although other microblogging sites like Plurk that include threaded conversations just aren't capturing market share among young people either). Email is dead for kids and dying even for my generation (even my mom tends to contact me more via Facebook than she does via email anymore). What does that tell us?
I haven't yet found a good way to completely embrace social networking for communication between students, teachers, and parents. Ning provides some useful tools, as do various wikis and collaboration sites, but I'm not convinced that a school-wide social network is the be all to end all communication solution for schools and districts.
What I do know, however, is that we can't expect students to reach out to their teachers (or even parents to reach out to teachers) if we continue to use outmoded methods of communication. I won't say that email is completely dead, but it seems to increasingly be a niche for business-style communications.
Twitter, as well, is obviously too limiting. It isn't called microblogging for nothing and there are many reasons it hasn't taken off among young people in the same way it has for Gen-Xers. Right now, Facebook is it. What's going to be next and what do we need to embrace to ensure that we can stay in easy contact with parents and students?