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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.

Technologies

Becoming a Tweeter

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

On my ‘travel’s around various blog posting recently there have been a few articles on how people are using Twitter so I thought I would share how I became a Tweeter. I have never been much of a social animal – ever. I feel very comfortable in my own company and my husband often has trouble persuading me to get out of the house and ‘party’. If had to contact anyone, I would always wish they were on e-mail. Growing up as a very shy child right into adulthood, it took a lot for me to interact and I would get very nervous meeting people. Fortunately, with the support of wonderful work colleagues and, in recent years, my husband the shy wall flower is now a trainer who thrives with every new challenge. Who would have thought it? Indeed, early last year I even delivered a presentation to a huge room full of people. While I was nervous, the adrenaline pumped, I took a deep breath, smiled and made sure I was myself. Nerve wracking – yes – but afterward it was exhilarating and I was so proud of myself.

You would think that social networking would be right up my street; but my view of social networking for ‘fun socialising’ wasn’t for me. If I am not the social animal in a face to face social environment, how on earth could I be one virtually? Besides, you need to have someone to be social with and because of my lack of real life socialising, who on earth could I socialise with virtually?

No – it didn’t seem my kind of thing.

What changed my views? Well, curiosity I guess. That and the fact that a few years back I began delivering courses on blended learning and e-learning and began experimenting with social media. Everything I looked at, I tried to think
how this could be used for learning as well as socialising. I was hooked. I had joined Facebook some time before but didn’t get on with it at first. Mainly because most of those I knew socially were technophobes or just not interested in social networking. It was also very ‘open’ and I am very guarded about what I share with people as regards personal information. I really only wanted to share my personal musings with a select few, not everyone who wanted to be my ‘friend'(creepy!).

It is much better now with the security settings. Then, about a year ago, I thought I would try this Twitter thing. At first I sat there in twitter waiting for something interesting to happen. I followed a few celebrities but got bored hearing about their everyday lives and also like an eavesdropper hearing a one-sided conversation as they ‘replied’ openly to their followers. I quickly unfollowed and rarely logged in. The trouble was, I didn’t really know what I wanted to use it for or, indeed, how to use it effectively. I was drowning in this virtual sea of tweets.

It all started to come together for me when I decided what it was going to be my learning vessel. Somewhere I could get bite-sized snippets of information and, perhaps, keep in touch with experts in the area of learning technologies and e-learning. I have gained so much from it already. It is also a brilliant dissemination tool through which I will share great resources I have come across in my blogging travels and, hopefully, enrich others’ lives with widening their professional network or otherwise through my tweets. There is so much more to learn though. I just don’t have the time to be a Twitterholic and I am thoroughly confused about ‘hash tags’ amongst others. I also find the Twitter site itself difficult to use and much prefer a Twitter aggregator such as Tweetdeck on my desktop. I think without something like Tweetdeck, I would have fallen by the wayside long ago. Once you are following a large number of other people, scrolling through Twitter to keep up with their latest tweets is time consuming and frustrating. With Tweetdeck or Twirl you can sort your Tweets. This has made it much easier and quicker for me to scan and home in on those that look interesting.

There are a few things I learned along the way so here are my tips:
• Twitter can be a time vampire – you have to be very self disciplined
• Accept that you may not be able to read every tweet every day
• Use the search facility if you think you might have missed something interesting
• Use something like Tweetdeck or Twirl and either disable the audible alert or only open at specific times and manage your tweets superbly
• It’s ok to unfollow people (some people can be too prolific)
• it’s ok to not return the favour if someone follows you

By the way – if I had an iPhone I’m sure I would become more of a Twitterholic

{;oD

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