Thursday, July 1, 2010

Twitter & Foursquare-A Game Worth Playing?

My blog posts, for the most part, follow a predictable pattern. I blog about experiences in ed tech or maybe a new tool I've found that I feel deserves attention. I generally avoid topics that I think will create a stir, in part because I cross-post on my department's blog, but also because I don't like to publicly rain on parades. However, sometimes a lot can be learned from a discourse on a subject and maybe a good comment to a blog post will help me learn something.

So here goes . . . I don't like Foursquare, and I think it deters efforts to encourage educators to use Twitter.

I'm not a "foursquare expert," but I'll explain it as best I can. On Wikipedia, Foursquare is described as a location-based social networking website that allows users to "check in" at locations and earn points, badges, etc. . . . Foursquare can be integrated with Twitter so when a Foursquare user "checks in" the update is broadcast in Twitter.

In the past year I've spent some time talking about the ways I think Twitter can be a great tool for educators to build a PLN that will share ideas and resources related to learning and education. I've tried to dispel the notion that Twitter is for movie stars and narcissists who think the rest of the world cares what they are doing. Because I believe Twitter is a great tool for making connections and sharing ideas with other skilled, passionate educators from around the globe. Then along comes Foursquare which allows users to turn in location-based reporting into a game. Collecting badges and ousting others from their "foursquare Mayor" duties.

Now I'm not arguing there couldn't be educational value attached to Foursquare (on field trips, for example), and I know there is a need to learn technology ourselves so we can help guide students to make wise decisions using mobile technology. I won't even scratch the surface on some of the privacy issues that need to be considered with any location-based programs. And I don't have issues with geolocation games (who doesn't like games?).

I'm focused on Foursquare's impact on Twitter because my twitterstream will now occasionally include:

"John Doe just became Mayor of Best Buy"
"Jane Doe just unlocked her newbie badge"
"I'm at Chick-fil-a at Northgate Mall"

(Sigh) Now I know I could "unfollow" users of Foursquare and these updates would disappear. But a lot of these people often bring real value to my network. I respect and learn with many of these educators, and I don't want to lose that value. And I am not against some of the social aspects of Twitter. I really enjoy some of the support and water cooler banter that is on Twitter every day. So I'll tolerate the updates on where you ate lunch because I value you, your ideas and your commitment to education.

But for the new user, the skeptic, the teacher short on time who is still evaluating Twitter or the tech dept making decisions about whether Twitter is a website worth unblocking for teachers, I think Foursquare is a negative force. I think it adds to the notion that Twitter is just a social tool meant to report "What's happening?" I think while Foursquare helps Twitter become a more "social" tool, it harms the credibility of Twitter as a "learning" tool.

So Foursquare users am I uniformed? Not giving Foursquare a fair chance? Missing out?

Additional Reading:
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Both images used were licensed under CreativeCommons

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