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Technologies

Novel uses for Twitter – a different kind of book club

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

For those of you out there who still think Twitter is a banal social networking site good enough only to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ or Steven Fry’s latest gastronomic delights, I have some news for you.

I recently came across a book club run entirely online with discussions taking place on Twitter. The book club is LrnBk Chat, a brainchild of the social media guru Jane Bozarth. The book club runs like this:

A new discussion topic is announced on the dedicated blog (LrnBk Chat) giving details of the book to be read. An agreed number of chapters was agreed at 2 being manageable and series of dates are listed for each. On the morning of each discussion period, a series of questions are published on the blog to consider when reading the set chapters. The conversation starts and so it continues.

So people can follow the conversation, a dedicated hashtag is used – in this case #lrnbkpull for the latest topic being discussed.

Although the conversation is designed to be carried out on Twitter, Jane decides to use Hootcourse (“an online classroom …instead of cumbersome forums or complicated lesson-plan formats, HootCourse uses a combination of the most popular social networks and blogging platforms to provide a new type of online classroom”). Hootcourse allows bookworms to sign in using their Twitter or Facebook account.  Hootcourse can post comments publicly to Twitter or kept private but I’ll go into this another time.

‘It’s a book club, Jim, but not as we know it!’

It just goes to show that with a little creative thinking and shaking off of those blinkers which are narrowing our views and create some really engaging alternative activities to be run online.

So what if you can’t use Twitter or Facebook? What if your organisation blocks these sites. Well, let’s see what you have already that can be used just as effectively. Take a look at the online tools you currently have in your organisation for communication. They may not be used for learning at the moment but we can always high-jack them. We did it with PowerPoint after all.

You may well have a VLE/LMS (virtual learning environment/learning management system) such as Moodle to run your online courses. These provide communication tools in one place including forums and blogs as well as a live chat facility that could be used along the same lines as Twitter. So, for instance, you could create your own book club (or work on a case study in stages) and arrange a time to meet for the live chat or just continue using an asynchronous discussion if this is more appropriate.

What creative ideas can you think of?

Technologies

Collaboration tools – can we include virtual worlds and social networks?

Today I came across a question in one of the LinkedIn groups about whether we could classify virtual worlds and social networks as collaborative communication tools referring specifically to Second Life, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. It was an interesting discussion topic and one which I felt the need to respond. I would like to share my response with you here.

I would say the answer is – yes. Any place where individuals can join and network can be used for collaboration. It is WHAT we use these for and learning HOW they work that will determine their success in what we want to do.
Indeed, at the moment, we see the usual suspects being used by organisations for collaboration as Valerie mentions above; and they are brilliant tools for bringing colleagues together to discuss ideas, situations and projects. However, with the emerging social learning environments such as Elgg that can be hosted within an organisations firewall or others such as Ning where organisations can create their own social platform, these are excellent tools to encourage cross-organisation collaboration to share ideas and working practices.

Areas can be set up to discuss ‘hot’ topics and they can also be restricted to particular members. Facebook, on the other hand, initially seems like a fun place just to hang out, play silly games and ‘throw cows’ at each other. On first glance, it may seem there is little it can be used for seriously. However, if you look a little closer, there are many worthwhile groups already using Facebook to collaborate.

Take a look at Centre for Learning and Performance Technology and, just one more for now – Virtual Learning Community of Practice.

So, for instance, an account could be created whereby different conversations can be started up, ideas collated, awareness heightened and changes happening. Remember that security settings on these tools are there to help and members (or friends) may only join if the account holder approves.

Twitter is another underestimated social media tool that is increasingly being used for learning collaboration. If not in the formal sense, certainly for informal learning and there are plenty of experts out there with whom collaboration proves invaluable in pursuing a goal or interest.

As for LinkedIn – well, are they doing there, if not collaborating. A topic is posted and ideas, opinions and expertise shared.

If this was a collaborative exercise with a specific outcome, then I would expect to see an objective set for the exercise, a time limit, some ground rules / guidelines and a summary giving the findings of the exercise at the end. All of that should be set for any collaborative exercise for any collaborative tool chosen, whether it is in a more controlled situation like WebEx, within an organisations intranet form or a more open platform such as Twitter or Facebook. Therefore, it is the ground rules and activities set that dictate these tools’ use.

Of course, you will have to decide which would be most appropriate for your situation but beware of dismissing them out of hand. Research them, and think creatively. After all, I’m sure there were plenty of skeptics who couldn’t see how this new-fangled gadget could at all be useful in sharing ideas without having to meet in little groups. Now we can’t live without them and even take to carrying them around in our pockets so we’re always connected. What’s that you say ….. the telephone!

Well that was my response to the post in LinkedIn but I would also be interested in what creative ideas others may have in how these social tools have been used by you for learning and collaboration and how you might have overcome the ‘security’ barriers that are often associated with them.