Sunday, September 28, 2008

Rockin' Robin, Tweet, Tweet, Tweet... My adventure with Twitter

It has been awhile since I have posted to this blog because I've been focused on sharing ideas and connecting with folks in different ways (e.g., through my Ideation blog, webinars, online newsletters, LMS). For example, one social networking tool I've been exploring with students and colleagues is Twitter.

My reason for getting into Twitter, and inviting interested online students to try it out with me, is because I wanted to have an informal, playful way for my online students and I to connect throughout the day (see the my course ideation blog for an overview of my decision to use Twitter and my immediate thoughts after launching it). This has to do with me overarching interest in enhancing social presence in online learning experiences. I have found that I can't accomplish all I want to accomplish in terms of social presence withing the structure of a learning management system (LMS). What has consistently been lacking for me is the informal, playful banter and chit-chat that I have with students in my on-campus courses. This banter helps students connect with me, experience my personality. And, it helps them connect with each other in a more emotional way. To address this in the LMS, I have incorporated weekly fun activities (such as coming up with captions for goofy photos, or competing in an online game), established discussion forums for non-academic topics, had students produce music playlists for the week, and so on. But, although helpful, these strategies didn't seem to do enough to enhance social presence. Twitter seems to have potential to further support my efforts in this arena, and the results so far have been positive (although I now wish that I had more strongly encouraged all of the students to participate).

I have also used Twitter to connect with colleagues, especially within the university, via Twitter and have found this type of connection rewarding. Besides our playful banter which I have found refreshing, we are able to immediately point each other to interesting articles, YouTube videos, webinars, events, and the like. And, we also use it to ask questions, in a pop-into-your-office sort of way. For example, I have been in meetings and needed a quick answer to a question, posted my question in Twitter, and quickly received responses that I then shared with the meeting group to help the discussion move forward. That's pretty powerful.

At this point, I am not following or be followed by that many folks. That works for me. But, some folks have very large social networks in Twitter. That's exciting. When used effectively, Twitter helps you stay connected with students and colleagues in a fun and meaningful way...and provides immediately connection with a brain-trust of practitioners and experts that can provide on-the-job performance support. And, can tell you when there is free pie in the lobby!

Check out Twitter...and connect with me. My username in Twitter is jonidunlap.

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