I've just been reading yet another article that expresses the view that Twitter is a trivial, inconsequential tool and has no place in learning, so I thought I'd write this posting on my experiences of using Twitter in a face-to-face Workshop.
On Friday 30 April, as a Day 3 stream at the Informatology Conference in London I ran a one-day Masterclass on Social Media in Learning. The purpose of the event was to look at how social media can be used to support learning and performance within an organisational context. However, as I was planning this event there were a number of key ways that I wanted to "deliver" it:
- I wanted to keep it to a small, manageable group of people (max 15) who could easily work and learn together collaboratively.
- I wanted it to be a highly participative, interactive and social event - not a presentational-style workshop
- Although it was a face-to-face event, since we were talking about social media I wanted to make good (and appropriate) use of social media in the event. That is, I didn't just want to demo social media sites, nor indeed get participants to do exercises or activities on social media sites, but to actually USE social media as part of their own participation - and hence learning - at the event.
I therefore decided to make use of Twitter throughout the whole event, as it is a very easy-to-use tool - and at the same time very powerful tool. Registration instructions for the event asked participants to set up a Twitter account in advance of the session (if they hadn't already got one); the reason for this was I didnt want to spend valuable time doing this at the event. Additionally, as there would be no computing facilities in the room participants were asked to bring their wireless-enabled laptop, iPhone or other mobile device to use Twitter.
I began the session by reiterating the points about it being a highly participative social event and that we would be using Twtter throughout the event to record our thoughts and deliberations, and that I would use Tweetdoc to produce a PDF of all the Twitter activity.
- I started by explaining how we could keep all related tweets together by all using the same hashtag - #jhmc - in our tweets.
- I then asked participants to start by introducing themselves in a tweet. At this point it became clear who was able to use Twitter unaided, so the next thing was to get participants to "buddy up", ie for an experienced tweeter to support a less experienced tweeter. We got most of the introductions completed, but after some investigation we found that the two outstanding tweets weren't appearing in the hashtag stream because their owners had protected the tweets, and this was sorted out. However, this very simple introductory task not only got everyone up and running with Twitter, but also talking and chatting with one another. For me this was the best icebreaker I've ever used!
- Now we were off. I explained the basics of using Twitter send messages to one another and to re-tweet, how Twitter would be both our backchannel and frontchannel for the event - if they had a question, they could tweet it, if they wanted to make a comment, they could tweet it, and so on. It would be our event recording tool; we wouldn't use a whiteboard. However, it wouldn't REPLACE the face-to-face interaction but SUPPLEMENT and EXTEND it. And furthermore, others outside the workshop could respond to tweets if they wanted and become part of/and add to our discussions.
- Although I had set up a number of presentation slides, these were very much used as prompts for me to share information with the group, as well as for discussion and reflection. Participants tweeted their thoughts and comments as we went through the day.
- I had set up a series of questions on the slideset in advance (using the SAP Web 2.0 tools for PowerPoint created by Timo Elliott) to auto- tweet questions. This left me free to watch the live stream of tweets coming in, to pick up interesting points or to ask participants to develop them further. [Note: I used another Twitter account for auto-tweeting at the workshop so as not to confuse my normal Twitter followers!]
- As we worked through the day's programme, we talked about a number of different social media tools, and participants shared their favourite tools and how they were using them. However, (within the different learning contexts that we were discussing) I was also able to demonstrate the potential of Twitter for learning:
- for keeping up to date with colleagues and industry news
- for problem solving
- for serendipitous learning
- for resource and file sharing - and as an example of how partiicipants were quick and willing to contribute to the event, Jon Ingham @joningham quickly shared with us, in a tweet, some pictures he had taken on his iPhone - see the one at the top of this posting of me sitting near the screen, and the one below, which shows a few of the participants in the informal table-less setting (Note: 2 were using laptops and 2 were using phones to tweet)
- for synchronous learning - we were actually doing a form of that ourselves, but I also cited the example of #lrnchat
- for micro-learning - as in my 140university example
- for polling and feedback
- for group tweeting
- as well as alternatives to Twitter in the workplace
- During the course of the day, our tweets also attracted input from a number of tweeters outside the workshop in response to both my tweeted questions and participants' own comments, which really added to the body of tweeted content produced.
- Following the event, I created the Tweetdoc PDF of all the twitter activity, which you can view here asa record of our discussion, as the tweets would soon "die" on Twitter itself
As the presenter, I really enjoyed the Masterclass and was overwhelmed by the way that all the participants shared and collaborated with one another so easily, happily and so well. I am convinced that using Twitter added something extra into the session that wouldn't have been there without it; it really helped to create a social and collaborative learning event. But of course it's not just about what I thought of the day, what did the participants think?
Well, during the morning one of the participants, Craig Taylor @CraigTaylor74, said he would like to use his new Ultra Flip camera to record the thoughts of participants on the Masterclass. This was a fabulous idea, so in the breaks he recorded some interviews, then uploaded the video to YouTube, and shared the link with us all in a tweet. Here's the video.
Craig has already written a blog posting about his experiences on the day From Anti-Social to Social and I know there a few more positngs in the pipeline, so I will add them in here as I read them. (UPDATE: Here's Jon Ingham's)
As for me, I will continue to use a similar approach in f2f workshops in the future, and variants of this approach in more formal conference presentations that I will be delivering.
As far as the content of the workshop goes, I already have a couple of upcoming engagements to provide similar in-house sessions to organisations, so if you are interested in hosting a workshop in your organisation, take a look here. I am also in the process of converting this workshop into an online programme, so if you are interested in this approach, just let me know.
Finally, don't forget my free resource How to use Twitter for Social Learning, which explains and expands on all the ways I used Twitter in my workshop.