Voluntary vs Forced Interaction

A recent free report published in Faculty focus summarizes a survey of Twitter usage and trends among higher ed faculty. As noted in the summary to the report, about 20% are familiar or very familiar with Twitter and of those who use it 7% use it in the classroom. It is this group of teachers who scare me a bit and begs a familiar question that has been nagging at me for some time. Should twitter (or any social-networking tool) be forced on to learners to facilitate their social interactions? Just because the teacher finds value for their own personal and professional development, what evidence do we have that a similar benefit will accrue to their students forced into the social network? I also wonder what we can generalize about the habits and conversations of a VOLUNTARY network of Twitter users. Can their behavior shed light on the behavior of those who have the network forced upon them? My gut-feeling hunch is "nope" ...

Certainly discussion boards are forced upon learners which IMHO often lead to highly unproductive "busy work" uninformed-leading-the-uninformed discussions. Those motivated enough to put deep thought into the endeavor are often left to read (and reply to) the "me, too" posts of those hoping to get class credit for the number (not quality) of the post. I guess this is (again) where I struggle with those who offer blanket prescriptions for social interaction in the classroom. I wonder aloud (again and again) do we KNOW that forced interaction and communication among peers benefits (all, some, no) learners?

I wonder (again and again) if time would be better spent on meaningful self-reflection ... or even self-reflection openly broadcast for commentary by others. Picking up from my post yesterday about the motivations of bloggers, would "rhetorically subservient" commentary posts to a personal reflection be more (or at least as) effective as attempts for meaningful (but frequently elusive) two-way critical dialogue among peers in a educational setting? In a personal reflection post followed by rhetorically subservient comment interaction, at least ONE party in the interaction cares about the interaction ;)