Over the years I have created several Twitter accounts, however, for one reason or another I have never used them, other than during the initial sign up session (which it appears is also true of a number of other people, link to follow).
I have now been a fully fledged user of Twitter for the last three weeks, mainly due to the medium I am now using to access it (An Apple iPad, more of which in a future post). During this rather brief flirtation with the micro blogging site, I have been exposed to more useful information related to technology and teaching and learning, than I have come across in the past year (and it is my job to research this kind of information).
This has been possible thanks to the educational groups and conference hash tags (#) which I have managed to follow, over the last few weeks. Educational chats such as #edchat and #ukedchat, have enabled me to identify people who have similar educational interests to me, and by following them I have been able to identify more people and related conference links to follow, such as #gtauk and #mootustx10. In three short weeks, this methodology, of finding and following educationalists, has enabled me to create a very effective personal learning network (PLN), which consists of me currently following 625 people and 340 people following me.
As an e-learning strategist and MSc elearning & multimedia student, my current work is focused on using technology in order to create an improved personalised learning experience, for our learners. To this end, we are currently developing a personalised learning environment (PLE), which currently consists of a Moodle Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), E-portfolio, Google Apps for Education and a variety of additional Web 2.o technologies. Following my experiences using Twitter, and the fact that we are able to embed a live feed from Twitter into Moodle courses, I believe Twitter would be an excellent addition to our PLE.
I like the way Twitter enables people to create their own PLN and believe learners will autonomously create their own PLNs, if we can kick start this process, by exposing them to certain subject related hash tags to follow (in the same way I followed the predefined tags #edchat and #ukedchat).
This is where I now find myself in a dilemma, due to my lack of knowledge and experience using Twitter. I have tried to establish whether there is an existing protocol for educational hash tags, (by tweeting and asking) and it appears that most, but not all tags, include the word ‘chat’ (I may be wrong here and if I am please let me know) e.g. educational chat is #educhat or #ukedchat, new teacher chat is #ntchat and elementary teachers chat is #elemchat etc. I understand there are some subject related tags with Literacy using #litchat, #writechat, #writing, #publishing, #amwriting and #amreading while Numeracy use #mathchat and #math. My question here would be: are these focused on teachers sharing content and experiences or on learners too? I expect these are teacher centric and therefore, a learner focused tag is required, but again I could be wrong.
As I stated earlier, I would like to create a more personalised learning environment by enabling learners to participate in their own personal learning networks. In the first instance, we will be doing this internally via Moodle, using meta courses, which will enable all learners on a course to communicate with everyone else who is studying the same subject, regardless of time or location. This will also enable sharing between learners on different levels thus encouraging peer mentoring. In addition, we would like to encourage further collaboration outside of college, by running live Twitter feeds within each Moodle course, which will link to a subject specific hash tag like #eduhair (hairdressing), #educater (catering), #edupublic (Public services) etc. With the expectation learners studying these subjects anywhere in the world, could use these tags to share their blogs and useful websites. I have already received positive feedback from colleagues from home and abroad who are keen to link their learners together via this method.
If there is an existing protocol for educational subjects (particularly vocational subjects), then I’d obviously like to follow it, as there will already tweets out there. However, if there isn’t, I just want to make sure I use the right kind logic structure, which will make it easy for people to remember and add more as required. Hence a simple #edu prefix for the subject. We could also narrow the tag by location by using a uk/us/aus/nz suffix for country, if required, and even perhaps a bc (Bolton College) could be added to identify the institution. I am sure once learners connect, they will autonomously create their own PLNs and associated tags.
I know delicious can help learners share links to blogs, websites etc, however, I believe Twitter and critically the live feed (push), will offer the ability for learners to receive dynamic information, as and when learners (and tutors) discover and share new resources, as so many tutors already do. Eventually, we could have learners asking questions at all times of day and night and another learner answering it, from somewhere else around the globe, which is happening to me now.
My initial suggestions for tags for consideration would be: (note none of these currently return a find during search apart from my own tweets)
#educater – Catering
#eduhair – Hairdressing
#educare – Care services
#eduict – ICT
#edumath or #edunum – Numeracy
#edulit – Literacy
#edubeauty – Beauty Therapy
#edumotor – Motor Vehicle
#edupublic – Public Services
#edusport – Sport
As I have said continuously throughout this post I am new to Twitter and therefore I could be missing something rather obvious. I’d appreciate feedback/comments from anyone who can assist me or would like to be involved in widening their learners’ PLN.
I can be found on Twitter @moodlemckean