Guide to Twitter for academics

LSE Guide To TwitterRecently a number of colleagues have asked whether there is a guide to Twitter aimed at academics who have never previously tweeted. Fortunately there is – an excellent introduction, produced by Amy Mollett, Danielle Moran and Patrick Dunleavy of the LSE Public Policy Group, and made available under a Creative Commons licence.

Using Twitter in University Research, Teaching and Impact Activities

This is full of sound, practical advice and is the best guide I’ve seen.

See also the social media guidelines produced by Marketing and Communications here at Loughborough.

Socrative: alternative tool for classroom voting / interaction

Socrative Logo

Following my last post on the SAP Powerpoint Twitter tools, I’ve been looking at the Socrative online voting system which has been around for several years now.

As with Twitter-based voting (until that stopped working!), Socrative has the advantage by contrast with dedicated electronic voting systems (such as Turning Point which we support centrally at Loughborough) that students can respond to questions using their own mobile devices – smartphones, tablets or laptops. This means that you don’t have the hassle of booking out the equipment, distributing the handsets at the start of the lecture, and collecting them back in at the end.

It’s very easy (and free) to set up an account as a teacher, and creating and running quizzes is equally straightforward. From the students’ point of view, all they to need is navigate to http://m.socrative.com, enter the ‘room’ number you give them, and then answer each question as prompted. The only downside is that there is a limit of 50 students, although there are ways you can get round this.

I’m aware of a couple of colleagues who have already been using Socrative and hope to have an update on their experiences soon which I’ll post here.

Twitter-based voting in Powerpoint: update

If you’ve been using the SAP Twitter tools for Powerpoint, about which I blogged back in the autumn, you’ll be disappointed to here that because of a change to the Twitter service itself, they will soon stop working correctly, according to a newsflash on Timo Elliott’s website.

There are some alternatives you might like to consider. Of course, if you’re using the the tools together with Twitter as a way of getting students to ‘vote’ / answer questions in the classroom, you could use the Turning Point dedicated voting system instead.

Or if you were using Twitter to get informal, unstructured feedback from students, you could use a Twitter ‘visualisation’ service such as Twitterfontana. Here’s how one Loughborough colleague has been using Twitterfontana.

Using Twitter and Twitterfontana in Geography teaching

Twitterfontana

Prompted by earlier posts on the use of Twitter in History teaching, Dr Sarah Mills in the Department of Geography has been trying out Twitter in a reading seminar. She reports:

Just to say thanks for the advice about Twitter!  The reading group went well this afternoon – 15 students, 3 sub-groups based on who had chosen which article to read (I gave them an option of 3 beforehand) and then three hashtags…  I fed in questions to each group individually and they accessed these via their smartphones, but on the big screen I uploaded three tabs of Twitterfontana for each hashtag and regularly switched between the three so the comments were scrolling on each.  I recommended one person per group tweet, but a few had a couple doing it.  One group didn’t send their own tweets, but used the running thread of questions to place their Ipad in the middle of their group and just kept talking and making notes on paper – but it still worked well.

 Sometimes I tweeted the same question to all three sub-groups.  After about 8-10 minutes, I would stop to speak to them verbally, getting them to expand on the 140 characters of their tweet – giving them time to explain their answers/make connections listening to the other groups.

 A bit of an experiment, a bit frantic in parts!!!, but the student feedback at the end was great.

 I think I’d perhaps use the SAP Powerpoint Twitter tools  as Marcus does if the whole class had done the same reading, but the seminar’s objective was to show 3 different types of new work in Geography and so I had to maintain the three articles and relatively open discussion between the three.

 

More on BoB and Twitter…

Marcus CollinsHistorian Dr Marcus Collins is another ‘early adopter’ of the BoB (Box of Broadcasts) service and, as with his colleague Prof Chris Szejnmann, he has been combining it with Twitter in the classroom. He comments:

I’m also a great fan of both BoB and Twitter. So far, I’ve been using both in just one module: a third-year seminar on the Beatles and the 1960s. I’ve used Twitter as a way of encouraging directed small-group discussions at various stages in the class, then using their Tweets in discussion within the whole group of 37 students. The students are initially bemused by the idea that Twitter has educational uses, but soon get into the swing of things and end up talking more in the seminars than they’d otherwise do. The only problem I’ve found is that not every small group tweets every time. […]

 As for BoB, I’m using it in a slightly different way from Chris. The first thing I’ve done is to show the Beatles’ students its riches as a research tool. They’re all writing papers comparing the Beatles and another musical act, and I’ve created playlists of documentaries and performances of the Beatles and their contemporaries for this purpose. Next semester, I’m considering asking each student in my class on twentieth-century Britain to pick a documentary and write an essay suggesting revisions on the basis of their reading of written secondary sources. I am open-mouthed at the extent of the archive and its ease of use.

 If you’re a member of staff at Loughborough, trying logging in to http://bobnational.net and searching for ‘Beatles’ and you’ll see what Marcus means. Remember that all the programmes and playlists that are displayed in the search results are material that can legitimately be shown in the classroom.

BoB and Twitter… together

Prof Chris SzejnmannProf Chris Szejnmann, who features regularly in case studies on this blog, has been trialling a combination of learning technologies in the last few weeks on one of his History modules. BoB (Box of Broadcasts) has been particularly useful for him as it has so much valuable source material for use in the teaching room. Now Chris is using Twitter as well, with the SAP Powerpoint Twitter tools I blogged on last week, as a way of promoting and capturing debate around video clips found on BoB. He comments:

Both are brilliant! For the two hour lecture to around 140 students I am using 2-3 clips from BoB per session that add material to what I am covering in the lecture. This gives essential visual input, plus it allows me to debate the clips with students. The debate is a mix between verbal comments from the students which I type live into the Powerpoint, and tweets that come in which we all look at and comment on. Most tweets are now “serious” and engaged, and one has to be relaxed about tweets that are not that serious …

Twitter-based voting in Powerpoint

Powerpoint Twitter VotingFollowing on from my last blog post on Quick Wins, there’s been quite a lot of interest in the use of Twitter in the teaching room. I’ve started using and telling colleagues about the free Powerpoint Twitter tools developed by Timo Elliott from SAP. You can download these from http://timoelliott.com/blog/powerpoint-twitter-tools . The tools are embedded in a single Powerpoint presentation that has various interactive slides you can copy and paste into your own presentations.

The two most useful slides to my mind are the Twitter Feedback and Twitter Voting slides. The latter essentially gives you a Twitter-based alternative to Turning Point, with the following pros and cons:

 

Pros

– It works!
– It’s free.
– You don’t have to distribute handsets because students use their own devices.
– You don’t even need to have a Twitter account yourself (although this may help in terms of familiarity with Twitter!)
– It only takes a few moments to copy/paste the slide and set it up.
– It’s integrated with Powerpoint, a tool most people are familiar with. (Also true with Turning Point, of course.)
– Your students *may* appreciate you for being technologically savvy…

Cons

– Doesn’t work with Powerpoint on Mac.
– You don’t have the range of slide / voting options Turning Point gives you.
– Students need (but may not have) Twitter accounts and some kind of mobile device (laptop / smartphone / tablet / iPod) in order to vote by tweeting.
– It won’t work if the network is down…

The Twitter feedback slide has much the same pros and cons. What it does is display tweets with a particular hashtag (which could be a topical one, or one that is likely to be unique to you (such as #yourmodulecode, as described in this University of Kent blog post).  You could of course simply alt-tab from Powerpoint to your web browser and bring up http://www.twitter.com/ , but this method has the advantage of being embedded in your presentation. There is a third option here, which is to use a third-party website such as http://www.twitterfontana.com/ to display tweets with your chosen hashtag – the benefit here is that you can customise the way in which the tweets are animated.

Lboro colleagues: if you try this out, please do let me know how you get on.