Twitter? Tweeting? Twibes? Come on, you say, isn’t all that stuff ridiculous? No, it isn’t. Used in certain ways, twittering is an amazing tool that allows you to “map the discourse” of any particular topic or field that you may be interested in. Used properly, twittering gives you access to people, topics, and resources that can help you create virtual communities and networks, generate new ideas, and anticipate trends. If you are involved in the outdoor, environmental, and/or experiential education fields, twittering, done right, has amazing potential.  I have been “twittering” for awhile now and here is what I have learned along the way.

First, twittering is much more than the update function from Facebook on steroids. Sure, you can use it that way (e.g. “I am now going out for coffee,” “I just got on the plane,” “lying on a beach in Puerto Vallarta” ) but to use it purposefully, you need to be more careful and deliberate. Download (for free) a twitter application platform (like tweetdeck http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/). This allows you to set automatic search functions for anyone tweeting on a topic of interest to you and also display tweets in a quickly scan-able format. My search terms are: experiential education, environmental education, outdoor education, education, and climate change. You can also combine terms into one search (outdoor + experiential education). Once this is set up, it literally allows you to see who is tweeting on those topics from all over the world– pretty cool! I have used tweets and links I have found from tweets in my research, my classes, and to scan for recent events and news that I ought to be aware of in my fields of interest.

Don’t follow just anybody. Make sure they are tweeting purposefully about the topic(s) you care about. The last thing you need is some joker who tweets every five minutes about picking his nose. Post thoughtfully. Just as you should not follow the joker above, don’t become the same said joker above. When you have a question, find a cool website, or have something you want to get out there into the tweet-o-sphere, go for it!

Join a “twibe.” A twibe is a special interest group on Twitter (it’s a brand new function). I started one called “Experiential Education” http://www.twibes.com/group/ExperientialEducation. These can be sites for networking, information sharing, and mobilization on matters of importance to the twibe.

If you are a business or organization, you can also create your own organizational twitter profile. This lets you update folks about events that you may be hosting, new products you wish to feature, or get out any other news. If you are good and you get lots of followers, it can be a tremendous marketing tool. The Wilderness Program at Earlham has a twitter profile and we use it to announce special events to the community. It’s a whole lot easier than updating a web-page and more efficient than Facebook.

The experiential/outdoor field cannot be resistant to technology (in fact, any cursory look at the latest gear shows that we are in fact quite the opposite). Yet, sometimes, we get caught in the mindset that computer-based technology somehow diminishes the Good life. This is not necessarily so. In fact, used properly, places like outdoored.com, blogs, and yes… twitter can advance the field by more effectively and efficiently linking communities of interest in ways we couldn’t have dreamed of even 10 years ago.

So go on, step out of that comfort zone and fire off a tweet or two! http://www.twitter.com