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Twitter in the University Classroom: Live-Tweeting During Lectures

January 3, 2013 3 comments

My second blog post reflecting on teaching innovations of 2012 is dedicated to my use of Twitter during one undergraduate module in the year just passed. My original intention, in embedding a Twitter widget within one of my Moodle pages, was merely to issue the occasional message to students to aid communication of, for instance, my progress with marking of their assessments. However, when I announced our ‘official’ Twitter hashtag to the students, to my surprise and delight, they started to use it not just for my module but to tweet about other areas of the programme as well. Even students not on the module started using the hashtag!

A few weeks into my module, I discovered that students who brought to class mobile devices that were connected to the wireless network (see my previous post on BYOD) had been tweeting on the lecture during the lecture, prompting me to tweet back during the break. At this point, with the help of several colleagues from the Learning Development Centre (thanks are due to Neal Sumner, Siân Lindsay, and particularly Ajmal Sultany), I investigated a means of live-tweeting during lectures without interrupting the rest of the teaching such as my use of PowerPoint and audiovisual examples.

Chris Wiley - Live-Tweeting During LecturesHaving looked into a number of different desktop-based Twitter clients to see whether they would meet my rather specific requirements, I found that Twhirl worked perfectly, with a search set up for the hashtag. I needed to increase the number of seconds for which the desktop alert is displayed, to give the students sufficient time to read it before it disappeared (I have to confess that since the alerts are only visible for c.15 seconds, a student and I had to mock up the photograph, right). I also found it necessary to lower the resolution on my laptop, because otherwise the alerts would have appeared off the far right-hand side of the screen when projected through the teaching pod.

It took a little while to get it just right, but having found workarounds for the various technological and logistical challenges, in several classes (with the aid of my trusty iPad) I provided a running Twitter feed before, during, and after the lecture, which helped keep students’ attention focussed on the key points and issues particularly when audiovisual examples were playing. A few students (though perhaps not as many as I’d hoped) followed my lead and tweeted their own thoughts too, all of which were displayed in real-time on the projector screen at the front of the classroom. We also received tweets from former students who have taken the module in the past, from staff elsewhere in the University who picked up news of the lectures via Twitter, and even, occasionally, retweets from users unknown to us – an ideal reminder that we were discussing real-life issues that have a bearing on the real world, beyond the confines of the University.

Disadvantages to live-tweeting include that the author of a given message is publicly identified rather than anonymous (perhaps this was why some students were using the hashtag only outside the classroom, rather than having their tweets appear on the projector screen during class), and that the tutor cannot anticipate the appearance or content of a tweet so there is a danger that it might interrupt the flow of the lecture. Nonetheless, although an ambitious undertaking it did seem to be an effective way of using Twitter to enhance teaching, without placing it at the centre of teaching. It also provided a novel means of engaging the students – including some who might not have been quick to contribute to face-to-face class discussion.

Were I to take Twitter back into the University classroom in the future, there are a couple of additional possibilities I might seek to implement. One is to pass a mobile device or two round the class and appoint specific students to be responsible for providing a running Twitter commentary for a given lecture. Another is to embed tweets within my PowerPoint presentation via add-in Twitter Tools, such that they are automatically posted (and the alert received) upon reaching the associated slide. Using these Twitter Tools, it is even possible to include a tweet cloud in a PowerPoint presentation, and to embed a real-time Twitter ticker feed at the bottom of each slide, which might ultimately obviate the need to use a desktop-based client. Much to think about for 2013!

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Digital Researcher 2012

February 24, 2012 1 comment

Digital Researcher 2012.

British Library 20.02.2012.

Having been placed on the waiting list for this event I was pleased to discover three days beforehand that I had managed to squeeze in as one of the 113 participants in the Digital Researcher 2012 workshop at the British Library. There were many more virtual participants via Twitter and Facebook.

Dr Tristram Hooley, event director,  set the context for the day by proposing that, whilst digital technologies in general, and social media in particular are transforming academic life, the current  evidence suggests that researchers are not using social media to its full potential due to a lack of training and development in the use of these tools. Yet there is a growing recognition that, given the social nature of the research process, recent developments in digital technologies have much to offer the research community.

The day consisted of 4 workshops: Identifying knowledge, Creating knowledge, Quality Assuring knowledge and Dissemination of knowledge of which participants were able to attend two. A flavour of the materials, tools and topics covered can be accessed from the presentations posted in advance of the sessions. I attended Identifying knowledge and Quality Assuring knowledge, which, though very different in style, were both stimulating and informative: the first about the tools which can help to meet the challenge of information overload, the second on the pros and cons of open publishing and the associated issues of intellectual property.

The highlight of the day for me was the opportunity to reconnect with Martin Weller, Professor of Educational Technology at the Open University, who gave the keynote address to close the event. Drawing on his recent book, The Digital Scholar, itself an exemplar of the move towards open access publishing, Martin outlined how social media is impacting on many aspects of academic life, including the challenge of teaching in the attention economy, how universities adapt to a pedagogy of abundance from a pedagogy of scarcity, how digital distribution of knowledge may produce new forms of public engagement with university research.

Attending the event has given me ideas for ‘Developing the Digital Researcher’ workshops at City University London, details of which will be announced soon.

If you would like to know more then please contact me.

Neal Sumner
n.sumner@city.ac.uk

Digital Literacies JISC Workshop. Bristol 6th October 2011.

October 10, 2011 Leave a comment

JISC Design Studio

This was one of a series of JISC workshops rolled out across the UK this year ‘to support the development and implementation of institutional approaches to digital literacies across the entire workforce and including students’. It was expertly facilitated by Helen Beetham, Greg Benfield and Paul Bailey, who introduced us to a range of concepts and tools to analyse and progress the implementation of digital literacies. These were in part based on the experiences of nine institutions which had taken part in pilot schemes. Details can be found on this link.
https://wiki.brookes.ac.uk/display/slida/Home

Digital literacy is defined by JISC as ‘ those capabilities which equip an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society’ (JISC LLiDA, 2009). For example, the use of digital tools to undertake academic research, writing and critical thinking; digital professionalism; the use of specialist digital tools and data sets; communicating ideas effectively in a range of media; producing, sharing and critically evaluating information; collaborating in virtual networks; using digital technologies to support reflection and PDP; managing digital reputation and showcasing achievements.
It is increasingly recognised that digital literacy is an important attribute of 21st century ‘graduateness’. This requires institutions to develop strategies for the development of these skills at all levels of the workforce. JISC has produced audit tools to help identify the challenges which face institutions in upskilling the staff and student body: as one participant observed staff can’t expect students to develop these skills if they don’t themselves model digitally literate behaviours – ‘walk the walk, not just talk the talk’! The relevant toolkits for carrying out audits as well as managing and implementing change are available from the first link on this page.
The workshop explored several areas which can be impacted by placing digital literacy at the heart of institutional strategy, including the transformation of curriculum design and delivery, the design of learning spaces and the development of staff and students. If you would like to discuss the implications of embedding digital literacy in your own area or you would like more information about the workshop, please contact Neal Sumner at the LDC.

Digital researcher event. British Library 16.05.2011.

Hosted by Vitae

http://www.vitae.ac.uk

This was a fascinating series of 6 presentations about different aspects of digital research, followed by a tour of the British Library’s Growing Knowledge exhibition where some of the tools under development for the next stage of the digital revolution were demonstrated to us.
All of the presentations were valuable, but two stood out as having particular interest given the discussions going on here at City University about how we support our post-graduate community in this, the Digital Age. The first of these was a case study by Dr Sarah-Louise Quinnell entitled ‘Using Social Media for Research and Researcher Development’. This traced her own experience of connecting with a group of like-minded researchers through the use of social media – mainly Twitter and blogs – to create and sustain a community of practice who shared an interest in the subject area (bio-technology use in Sub-Saharan Africa) as well as a wider community who are interested in using Social media tools to support their research more generally. Issues of developing an online ‘brand identity’ were covered, as well as discussion some of the affordances of using social media to support aspects of the research process.

For more on these developments see the twitter feed @phdchat and for support from post doctoral students to support PhD students see http://thethesiswhisperer.wordpress.com/?ref=spelling

The other presentation which made an impact was on Digital Technologies for Research Dialogues by Dr Shailey Minocha from the Open University. This covered a range of topics and tools which digital researchers use for their research, recording their dialogues with their supervisors, informal interactions with fellow students, document sharing and storage and reflecting on their progress. A range of other issues were touched on, for example about what happens to intellectual property rights in the digital world, digital footprint as compared to print footprint and measuring digital impact.

I (Neal) will be producing a position paper on the implications of the growing use of digital tools to support research and researchers at City University in the coming weeks. In the meantime if you would like to know more about any of the ideas mentioned above then please leave a message here or get in touch with me.

Neal and Tom

Grainne Conole from Open University @ Moodlemoot 2011

May 9, 2011 1 comment

New Pedagogies for Social and Participatory Media

Conole’s keynote explored open resources for enhancing teaching and learning. How increased use of the extensive open and online tools that are available could enable us to build on each others ideas and research. She promotes the idea of mixing the use of closed institutional tools with open resources.

Open design, delivery, research and evaluation

  • Fostering creativity
  • Needing new online skills for lecturers and students
  • Keeping up with fast changing technology

Sharing tools

  • Allows peer critique, creating valued critical info for research.
  • Discussions on teaching and learning i.e. OU’s use of Cloudworks ‘a place to share, find and discuss learning and teaching ideas and experiences.’ How a quick question can develop into a flash debate see ‘Is Twitter killing Blogs?’.
  • The Open Education Resource (OER)  movement was highlighted as an important move forward.
  • Conole advocates a mix of closed institutional tools and open options. Personalising our own resources, but shifting from design as individual to one that is sharable.
  • Opal Project focus on practices around use of OER, what support, design, guidelines are provided to help teachers.

Diversity of students

  • Consider that while many students are digitally aware, some don’t use social media appropriately whilst others may lack the criticality for effective use.

Relating pedagogies of e-learning to online tools- See slideshare for more details

Grainne Conole@Moodlemoot 2011

Relationship between the tools and users

  • Allowing reflective dialogue, aggregation, interactivity and characteristics and preferences of users should be evolving practices. ‘Learning through play.’
  • Developing new forms of creative practice i.e. Twitter technology simple but to use effectively is complex and personal.
  • Technologies are not being fully exploited. Predominance of old practices. Why is this happening? – lack of time, resources, skills, support?

The Solution – Open technologically mediated learning

  • Sharing of content and research. Making raw data available so others can manipulate it.
  • Focus on open practices. Speak to peers to find out what went right or wrong.
  • Look at the delivery and use of free tools.
  • Encourage reflectivity.
  • Use research repositories such as Academia.edu, a semantic wiki for open research.

Favourite Tweets from the keynote

@TechCzech: My take on the importance of community for open research http://t.co/Ewxla8w #mootuk11

@tutor2u_econ: Your top open web resource? I have put a few here http://www.tutor2u.net/learning/presentations/creativeweb/player.html

@TechCzech: http://mattlingard.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/moodlemoot-2011-keynote-via-twitter. Great example of Twitter for keynote notetaking

View Conole’s Moodlemoot Slideshare Presentation here.

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