Monday, 26 March 2012

#Twitter in the #classroom?

A month ago or so, I was asked to provide a chapter proposal for a book on some applications of Twitter in education. I was thinking on writing a draft for it, and it kind of made sense to write a post about it first. After all, what are blogs for? ;)

I have been using Twitter since 2008. According to When Did You Join Twitter?, I created my account on July 31st 2008. Which makes sense; if I'm not mistaken, this was during my first stay at Leicester, working with the BDRA team and discovering Web 2.0 and PLEs.

I started using Twitter with my students in October 2008, as part of the PELICANS project, a collaboration with BDRA, for which I was running the pilot in Barcelona. This became one of the case studies for my PhD dissertation.

What we did in the context of that project (actually, its first iteration), was show Twitter to the group and propose to try it for communication regarding the course. Students adopted it pretty fast, and in a couple of weeks it became the main channel for communications, not only academic, but also for personal messages. We then added more tools and students gradually built their PLEs.

In 2009, I started a project called Hort Digital (loosely translated as Digital Orchard), inspired by BDRA's Media Zoo but aimed at secondary school teachers. The project was supported by Citilab, where the sessions took place; the project is now in its third year, and we have worked with approximately 120 teachers, of both primary and secondary school level. Several of these teachers had their first experience with Twitter in the context of that project, and have adopted it as one of their main sources of information. One of them, in particular, wrote a very interesting blog post that you can read here (in Catalan).

One of the tools I discovered when I started working with Web 2.0 tools was I got hooked, as it combines music -something I love- with microblogging. It was very useful to help introduce my students to the concept of microblogging, and the proper use of @ and #; it also features badges, so it was very easy to design activities and contests around them. I'm using the past tense here not because the tools has disappeared, but because for a while now it hasn't been working as smoothly as before. The badges are not being awarded, which of course annoys those people that make an effort to earn them. I know they had some kind of problem with streaming songs, copyright and availability of some tracks, but it doesn't look like this is going to be solved anytime soon. I have tried to contact them both through email and on Twitter, but to no avail; in the past, they usually answered pretty quickly. It gives the impression that, sadly, they are going to close the site.

Last year, I was asked to participate in the Madhouse of Ideas project, which in turn was based on the Bazar de los Locos project. Bazar de los Locos is an initiative by @eraser and @FrancescLlorens, and has now been edited as a book. I also got invited to participate there, but as I have problems finding inspiration and actually writing in Spanish, I passed. When @lindacq led the English version, I did submit a post, which you can read here.

The post was based on an idea I had (and have also seen developed a couple of times by other bloggers), about how Twitter changes the way we communicate and how some people deal with these changes. I was thinking on the 5 stages of grief model, and how it is usually related to major changes in our lives.

Since last year, I have been working on an activity based around Twitter, for a module I teach at a Business Management Masters; the students choose some companies from the Forbes 2000 list, and try to interact with them through Twitter. The idea is to see how some of the most successful companies in the world have adopted (or not) this new channel to get in touch with their customers. Although the contacts have not always been successful, I think the activity has, in the sense that the students (most of them, anyway) try the application and actually see the point in using it.

So, what are your experiences with Twitter in the classroom? Any tips, ideas, suggestions?

Friday, 9 March 2012

1 pic a day 2012: February

Well, the good news is that I have managed to keep up with the challenge and post one picture a day during February too! This has originated a set of questions, though: where should I store/organise them? What app is better for taking the pictures and editing them? And, most importantly, will I be able to keep doing this throughout 2012? (it seems so; I've managed March so far).

Let's look at the pictures first, before attempting to answer any of these questions. This time, they are in chronological order. (Thumbnails link to the Flickr set)

There's a lot of yellow here, something I hadn't noticed. Blue, as usual, and some grey on account, I guess, of it being winter. Managed to keep flowers & plants, and food, under control.

The black picture on the right doesn't look like much but I'm pretty proud/happy with it. It shows Jupiter, Venus and the Moon almost aligned. Didn't think my iPhone was up to it, but it turned out alright!

That picture is the last one in a series that started on the 19th and continued until the 24th: I got the flu, and it hit me pretty hard. So much, in fact, that for the first time in years I cancelled all my classes and stayed home for the whole week. Mostly in bed, which explains the rest of the pictures that week: the lamp on the ceiling of the bedroom, the plant we have on top of the fridge, my "comfy paws", the drapes and finally the alignment of celestial objects, taken from the window (I was feeling better).

Flowers will probably start to show up more and more; spring is almost here, and we have some serious (balcony) gardening work ahead of us. One of the advantages of Mediterranean weather!

Now for the questions; I started saving the pictures on Flickr. As I mentioned in a previous post, I started doing this following Cristina's invitation to join a group there. I also started posting on Facebook too, but I forgot I intended to start using Twitter for this. Will try and start this month. Anyway, Flickr informed me yesterday that I'm about to reach a 200-pictures limit, and that would be a marvelous idea if I were to purchase a Pro plan. The price is not that much, really, so that's not an issue; but I haven't made up my mind yet. I like Flickr a lot. Have been using it with my students for several years, and I think its social elements are much better than some of the other options available. We'll see.

I have been using my iPhone to take the pictures; it's always with me, it's convenient, and the quality is pretty good. I just downloaded Camera Awesome, and will give it a try, but I mostly use the iPhone camera app and SnapSeed for editing. It has a nice range of effects and tools; I haven't really tried Instagram yet. Downloaded, created an account, but that's pretty much it. Will try it for some of the March pictures.

The last question will have to answer itself, later this year. I'll keep doing my best!

Anyone else trying this? It would be good to know of your experience, and whether you follow a theme, have some kind of "requirement" for the pictures you post, what device do you use and what are your thoughts on editing pictures before posting.