What Twitter Has Taught Me About Myself

Over a year ago, I decided to start reading up on higher education more actively. I fired up my Feedly RSS reader, updated my subscriptions, and now spend about 20 minutes a day at minimum reading through various articles. Inside Higher Ed, the Chronicle of Higher Education and Education Dive dominate the education space, and Inc.com, CIO and Fast Company fill in with various productivity and business articles. Throw in probably a dozen individual blogs and I keep myself plenty busy with reading.

Now, I figured that reading wasn’t enough. I wanted to share the great things I was reading. So I took to Twitter. If I bothered to read all the way through the article, then I tweeted it. I didn’t mention people, I didn’t use hashtags. I just tweeted it. Partly as a record of what I’d read, but partly because I figured someone out there might appreciate my curation of all these articles. Maybe there’s one person out there that would find my specific reading habits interesting.

As I tweeted more, a few people started retweeting me, or replying. As I started to not only tweet out articles but also comment on them, I started a few conversations. I added a Twitter routine to my mornings and afternoons, going through as much as I could using Tweetdeck. I (re)discovered lists and sorted my feed a few different ways. As time went by, I followed new people, added them to various lists and things kept snowballing. Nothing new here for anyone that has spent anytime on Twitter at all, I know.

What I’ve discovered, though, is that there is a pattern to the topics I tweet about, engage in, retweet, etc. Twitter has taught me something about the things I care about. For instance:

College Affordability

Turns out the rising costs of college is really bothering me. Yes, between Sara Goldrick-Rab @saragoldrickrab (and her book, Paying the Price) and various articles I sate this thirst pretty easily. But I do care about it a lot. Considering I work at a small liberal arts institution in the northeast (and with a price tag consistent with this type of institution), I have found this passion interesting.

Student Debt (and Loan Forgiveness/Borrower Defense)

This is certainly related to affordability, but a bit different. We all know student debt is rising, and default rates are, too (though some good nuance to this generalization in a book I’m reading now – Breakpoint by Jon McGee). So that’s a big thing right there. But then there are a lot of students that have been seeking forgiveness due to debt accrued while attending defunct institutions (I think mostly if not all for-profit ones). The current administration has made these borrower defense options harder and harder to take advantage of, which is just upsetting in general.

I am lucky that I finished at a very expensive undergrad institution with little debt. But I did loans for the vast majority of my MBA and I’m still paying that off. Overall, it’s been over 18 years of paying off education debt, and I certainly wasn’t bilked out of my money by an institution that went belly-up and left me high and dry without a degree.

Viability of the Small College Business Model

This might be more about the college model in general, and it’s related to affordability. But I find myself reading a lot about this school having to layoff staff or even faculty, another school going through troubles, and a few schools even closing down. I’m fascinated and dismayed at the dynamics of this situation. Bryan Alexander in particular does a great job analyzing not only the space in general of failing smaller institutions but of specific failures, queen’s sacrifices, etc.

And other technology stuff

Kind of had to have a heading for this one. Obviously miscellaneous technology stuff interests me. I’m particularly intrigued just the last few days by the wild back and forth swings of opinion on smart devices (such as Amazon Echos and Google Homes) in the higher ed environment. Some institutions are using them in residences, adding new “skills” all the time to make them more and more advance and integrated with the educational experience. Some faculty are using them in classrooms to augment learning. You get some writers commenting on the powerful impact of these tools. And others that feel it’s Armageddon. I”m not sure where I sit on it. I certainly oppose a surveillance type of situation; I’m just not sure where these tools are in terms of the type of surveillance I oppose. Are there positives to them? Can they engage students in new ways that affect retention and success? Can that¬†ever justify the other things they do? Is there a middle ground, with some kind of new smart device that is more narrowly focused in its design and data gathering?

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