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Posts Tagged ‘twitter

Talks are the least effectiveness way to effect change, but they are a necessary evil because people still organise them and the talks can have extensive reach.

But when I conduct talks, seminars, or keynotes, I ensure that I interact with my audience richly in a few ways.

Why do this? Most speakers will use an “e” word like engagement or even entertainment. I do not play these games because I know my participants are smarter than to fall for that.

I use tools to interact so that my audience (listeners) become participants (thinkers, doers). I do not wish to merely engage, I want to participants to take ownership of learning and responsibility of action.

Beth Kanter shared some ideas last week. I am weighing in on my own and I suggest free tools combined with basic principles of educational psychology.

BACKCHANNEL
A backchannel is an online space for participants to comment, discuss, and ask questions while I am speaking or after I have asked them to consider an issue.

My favourite backchannel tools are Twitter and TodaysMeet.

Twitter is great when an organiser already has one or more event #hashtags that participants can use. This presumes that a sizeable number of participants already use Twitter or are willing to get on it quickly.

Twitter backchannel.

TodaysMeet is better when participants have not committed to any particular platform. If they can text or SMS, then can use TodaysMeet.

With my own free TodaysMeet account, I can create an online text-based interaction space and define how long it will be open for. I then invite participants to it by sharing the access URL. (Pro tip: Create a custom URL with bit.ly and a QR code with this generator.)

One of the most recent versions of Google Slides lets you invite questions from the audience. The URL for participants to submit questions appears at the top of your slides and they can vote up the best questions. (Read my review of Google Slides audience tool.)

Audience Tool URL as overlay.

This is not quite a backchannel because it is not designed for chatter. It favours focused queries. This tool might be better for less adventurous participants who are not used to switching quickly between tasks.

Whatever the backchannel tool, its use must be guided by sound educational principles. You might want to provide participants with a space to be heard immediately instead of waiting till the end, or you want to monitor their thoughts, sense their doubts, or get feedback.

VISUALISATIONS
The visualisations I am referring to are not images and videos. These are show-and-tell elements which are attempts to engage, but have little to do with interacting with participants.

My most common strategy of participative visualisation is to incorporate data collecting and collating tools like Google Forms and AnswerGarden.

Both these tools require user inputs that can be visualised. For example, I could ask the room which major phone platform they are on: Android, iOS, other in a Google Form.

The data they provide is collated in a Google Sheet and can be visualised in a pie chart or bar graph. The relative proportions are more obvious to see than asking the participants to raise their hands.

There are many tools that do what Google Forms and Sheets do, possibly a bit quicker and slicker. But these normally come at a premium. The GSuite is free.

One way to visualise a group’s grasp of concepts is to use a word cloud. For example, I am fond of asking participants what they consider the most important 21st century competencies.

AnswerGarden word cloud.

I invite them to share words or short phrases in an AnswerGarden in brainstorming mode. The most commonly cited concepts appear large while the less common ones become small.

The purpose of such illustrations is not just to leverage on the fact that we are visual creatures and the visuals make an immediate impact. I want participants to get involved in real time and this helps also me illustrate how the technology enables more current forms of learning and work.

TOPIC CHOICE AND FOCUS
One of the worst things I could do as a speaker is talk about something that the audience has no interest in. As it is, some or most of the people there might be present as an obligation and not by choice. So I try to find out what they might want to learn.

I often use Google Forms to find out beforehand and present the popular suggested topics in the form of a chart.

With smaller seminars, I might use Dotstorming to determine which direction to take midway through the event. I ask participants to suggest areas to explore and they vote on topics each others topics.

Dotstorming is similar to Padlet in that users input ideas on online stickies. However, Dotstorming allows me to let them vote on the best ideas and arrange the notes by popularity.

Dotstorming example.

The idea here is to give the participant a say in what gets covered or uncovered. It is about providing and fulfilling user choice instead of focusing on a potentially irrelevant curriculum or plan.

QUIZZING
My perennial favourite for quick-quizzing participants is Flubaroo, an add-on to Google Forms for auto-grading quizzes as well as providing feedback and answers to my learners.

Google Forms has since upped its game to offer quiz-like functions, but it still lags behind the leader, Flubaroo in some ways. This site provides a detailed breakdown of a Forms quiz vs a Flubaroo one.

Quiz is coming!

The point of quizzing is not just to keep participants on their toes. Some might be driven by such a challenge, but all benefit from evaluating themselves in terms of learning. The results can also be an indicator of how much my talk was understood.

REFLECTION AND TAKEAWAYS
I am fond of using Padlet and Google Forms for pitstops and one-minute papers.

Pitstops are pauses in my sessions for participants to collect their thoughts and think of questions. They are an opportunity for them to see if they can link the negotiated outcomes with their current state of learning, and to see where they still need to go.
 

 
A takeaway or “dabao” (in local vernacular) is a terminal activity in which I ask participants to tell me their biggest learning outcome from the session.

In both I find that there is an even mix of planned and unplanned learning outcomes. This is a good thing because the internalisation and ownership of learning is important, not just the blind reception of information.

TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
I do not only like to connect with participants before and during a talk, but also after it. I do so a few ways.

I leave my social media information in one of the final slides.

Contact me.

If I use a backchannel, participants can contact me indefinitely on Twitter and up to several days or weeks after on TodaysMeet.

I also use my blog to reflect on the events and to answer questions I might not have been able to address during the session.

 
A few times every week I get harassed, pleaded with, bribed, cajoled, threatened, insert-thesaurus-word-here. All because I was an early adopter of Twitter in 2007.

I can probably count on just one hand the number of people who have been polite about asking for my Twitter handle.

Twitter reminds me that I signed up in early 2007, but I posted my first tweet only in October that same year.

Since then I have tweeted regularly and fended off the curious, lazy, greedy, aggressive, etc. coveters of my handle.

But Twitter will not verify my account because I am not a brand or famous Ashley. Surely the labour of love over the last decade is worth that acknowledgement.

Once in a blue moon I check the stats that Twitter maintains for my account. Every time I do that I say, “That’s typical!”

I shared these two tweets recently:

This were the returns as of yesterday.

The numbers indicate the tweet views. To keep the screenshot readable, I cropped out the engagements which were 37 and 16 respectively.

What is typical is that I can share something on education and it will walk on stubby legs, if at all. But when I share something that rides on popularity or celebrity, it takes long strides.

That seems typical of reactions on Twitter. That is also sad given that I prefer to tweet as an educator about education. Such action and content is not as “sexy” and it cannot compete with entertainment. It should not.

However, blaming the nature of the tweets and their linked content is focusing on the symptoms. A deeper fault is likely mine and yours. It is mine for not cultivating a bigger following of passionate educators who will share and retweet. It is yours for not knowing what the rules of the game are and which to break.

I have been around the Twitter block since January 2007. I have learnt that sometimes I have to block and report other Twitter users.
 

 
The first category is scammers and spammers. Both might be bots or semi-bots that send scams and spam to #hashtagged chats, or to @handles publicly or via private DM. Blocking this group is essential for a clean and focused Twitter experience.

The spammers and scammers are easy to spot. They tend to have:

  • nearly identical messages sent out to different people
  • identical or nearly identical messages sent from different accounts
  • different profiles but the same personal website URL
  • dubious-sounding claims, promises, or links

The second category is trolls. This is an ugly, venomous lot. They tend to be attracted to celebrities and the entertainment industry, but a few wander into the edu-Twitterverse. Trolls need to not only be blocked but also reported to Twitter so that they can be blacklisted or removed.

The trolls are tend to be negative, but not critically so. The problem with this definition is that what is negative depends on how tolerant a person is. A tweeter can be negative but constructive, and that does not make him or her a troll. Trolls tend to attack people instead of ideas. It is best to observe that person over a period of time to gauge overall behaviour and monitor the responses that others may have.

The third category is people who do not know how to use the right handles. This might be something reserved for people with unique handles like me (@ashley). I get lots of misdirected tweets and retweets every day. Make that every hour. No, make that every minute.

Sometimes this is an honest mistake. Other times these tweets are from Twitter newbies or lazy tweeters.

If the tweeter seems to have made an honest mistake or is a newbie, I take less drastic action by muting instead of blocking.

I block recalcitrants. If I do not block or mute these folk, I suffer a slew misdirected messages from them that were intended for someone else. The messages can be abusive, personal, x-rated, or otherwise undesirable.

In the last year or so, I have noticed a surge of poorly curated “myfollowers” lists. This is when people I do not know or follow add me to their “myfollowers” list. These folk could be spammers, scammers, or newbies.

If they are not educators, I tend to block them. If they are and have added me by mistake, I remove myself from their lists (original guide).

  1. Visit your profile on Twitter
  2. Click on lists and then on “Member of”
  3. Visit the profile of the person who created the list
  4. Block that person for a few seconds
  5. Unblock them

Why not simply grin and bear with the spam, scam, trolls, misdirected tweets, or improperly curated lists? I know that ignoring the problems will not make them go away. Not doing anything is defeatist and irresponsible. I choose to be empowered, not helpless.

I failed to get verified as @ashley on Twitter.

When I read that Twitter was opening up the Twitter verified account to anyone, I thought I would give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Apparently, something ventured also led to nothing gained.

I jumped through hoops and provided information in a form. It took a few days for me to receive this rejection email.

Twitter rejection email.

Twitter did not say why I could not get a blue check mark against my handle “at this time”. So, maybe much later?

I can guess why the verification was rejected though. I am not a celebrity Ashley or an otherwise famous one. My account is not of enough public interest.

It does not matter that I have had @ashley since January 2007 and that Twitter is the only social media platform I believe in and am active on.

It does not matter that I have ignored threats and monetary offers for my Twitter handle.

It does not matter that I promote edu-tweeting when I can.

A little over 2000 followers does not pass muster. It is a drop in a celebrity ocean. This is my fault since I block between 30-50 people every day for assorted Twitter sins. Imagine how many I would have it I did not stand my ground.


Video source

Twitter is 10-years-old on 21 Mar 2016. However, it is not a perfect ten.

Matt Santoro gives a nice roundup on Twitter by highlighting five facts about it in five minutes. The information is rather US-centric and I have not found an education equivalent video.

However, I learnt something quite astounding from Santoro. He cited a statistic that about 44% of all Twitter accounts have not tweeted.

Imagine if four out of ten students in class were marked as present, but were not there. Actually there is no need to imagine this. Kids disappear from class all the time. Not physically, but mentally.

Tags: ,

Twitter has a lot of problems. It has to contend with the loss of current users, how new users do not want to jump on the bandwagon, and if new users do join they quickly jump off. There is also the problem of Twitter zombies.

So the Twitter higher-ups and tech folk come up with features like algorithmic timelines, GIF-adding buttons, adding videos to DMs, increasing the character count in tweets, etc. In other words, they are thinking of technical solutions to social problems like buy in and ownership.

Most of Twitter’s problems have social roots. Trolls want to put others down, spam bots are created by the greedy, and fake accounts can be harvested by the insecure. These are the more obvious ills.

There are more insidious ones like individuals who add you to “my follower” lists. I am not sure how exactly this benefits these folk. Perhaps they like the proximity.

My plan is to do what I already do with fake followers. I will go on a culling spree by blocking not just those who follow me erroneously, I will also block those who claim I follow them but actually do not.

There is no automatic auditing tool from Twitter to do this and add-ons from third parties are blunt instruments. So I will have to block each account one by one. This will be my new weekly routine and I expect the experience to be like a Zen garden of peaceful repetition.
 


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