Friday, 18 September 2009

Twitter for education - for beginners!

I've recently been dabbling with Twitter, and think I may be beginning to be converted from really not 'getting it', to maybe having an inkling of what it's all about. There are plenty out there who believe Twitter is great for learning... so I want to see what I'm missing out on.

I thought I'd post some basics, and a few observations here, and invite the more active and experienced Twitterers of H808 to help explore its potential and suggest why it might be a valuable elearning tool.

The Basics
  • Twitter is a 'micro-blogging' tool - you make posts (called 'Tweets') with a maximum of 140 characters in length
  • Like everything else 'web', you create an account - from here you can post your tweets and follow those of other Twitterers
  • Twitter suggests you use your tweets to answer the question 'What are you doing?', but reading posts such as "I'm eating a cheese sandwich" is dull (and possibly not very educational!) and so many Twitterers post whatever they like
  • You can follow other Twitterers - this means that any tweets they make are added to your Twitter home page

Taking it a little further
  • You can search Twitter - for whatever you like. It'll return tweets with your search term in (obviously!)
  • You can add hashtags to a word in your tweet, e.g. "I'm studying ePortfolios for #H808 at the moment". This makes it easy to create communities of people interested in the same topic by making it easier for them to find and share info on their topic
  • You can reply to another user's tweet, or address a tweet to them by including @ in front of their username, e.g. "Great presentation by @davidjones at Serious Games conference today"
  • You can 're-tweet', i.e. duplicating/forwarding someone else's tweet, web link or blog post - and it's not cheating! In fact, having your thoughts or comments re-tweeted is a compliment and social currency. Just include RT at the start of your post to indicate that it's a re-tweet
  • All usernames and hashtags in tweets become automatically hyperlinked - so if someone tweets "RT @rob_roy blogging on #eLearning critique", I can click on rob_roy to see all of that user's tweets, or on #eLearning to see all posts including that tag. This also makes it really quick to move around a community and get introduced to new Twitterers
  • You can add links to your tweets to pass on items which have caught your interest. It's good practice to use tinyurl (or similar) to reduce the length of the URL you paste in.

As I said, I'm pretty new to Twitter. When I had to visit the Twitter web site to see people's tweets, I didn't get round to it much. Similarly, when I only followed one or two friends there wasn't much point - I got more info about them from Facebook or other streams. I really couldn't see why it was any use for education. It was 3 things that helped me to start thinking differently:
  1. understanding hashtags and search - allowing me to quickly find tweets that are on topics of interest
  2. getting the TwitterFox add-on for Firefox, meaning I get updated tweets from those that I follow automatically delivered to my browser - I don't have to go to the Twitter home page (and I don't have an internet phone). There are all sorts of other similar gadgets out there - others with more knowledge will be able to advise better than I.
  3. finding Carol Cooper-Taylor's eLearning blog posting on 50 ideas for using twitter for education

I hope this might encourage anyone who is reluctant about Twitter, as I was. Now, anyone who's already using Twitter have any thoughts on its educational uses? Or on its uses for helping us in studying H808?

And, while I know that there was some very early sharing of Twitter usernames in one of the course forums, does anyone want to continue this? I'll start this off by giving my username - my_wonderland. Hope to see you there!

1 comment:

  1. Alice

    This is an incredibly helpful Blog, thanks.

    In my line of work, I focus on helping people and organisations adapt to and thrive on changing situations. I have found that the most powerful advocates and enablers of change are those individuals who begin with a critical, or even cynical, attitude to the change. If those individuals can be convinced of the relevance of a change to their own life, they can become converts to an idea, and are often better placed to win over others than the pioneers who launched off with the new direction in the first place.

    Your explanation of how you have become more comfortable with using Twitter, and how you are integrating Twitter into your own view of the world has encouraged me to keep going with my (still rather pathetic) attempts to get to grips with this medium.

    Those who seem to grab the Twitter headlines are often public (or would-be) public figures who are promoting their own interest groups or Personal Brand. As you say, however, their must be great examples of those who use Twitter for educational purposes, and the H8xx participants who have become converted must be prime exemplars.

    For me, the major obstacle that I have to overcome in my own mind is how to filter out the 'noise' from these social media; I only have so much of my life available for reading steams of consciousness that don't connect to my own interests.

    The piece of the emergence of web 2.0 with which I struggle most is the lack of editorial judgment that comes along with the freedom of the web. I guess what we all have to learn is how to become editors of content and input ourselves. But if we only ever read contributions from trusted and respected sources, will we ever be provoked to consider genuinely new points of view? Very tricky, but I am sure that social media can help. I just have to work out how they can work for me.

    Once again, thanks for sharing your insights. Your summaries are particularly useful as action aids.