Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A high-risk Twitter experiment

Just one of the strategies for the Learning2014 project (described in the last blogpost) is to provide opportunities for staff to have the experiences we are planning for our students. This post describes one such experience.

At the end of each year, the Vice-Chancellor hosts an all-day Senior Managers Forum which often involves groupwork (which many dread). This year, I was invited to lead a session on “The Future of Higher Education in the world of MOOCs” and decided to use a high-risk strategy of asking attendees to use Twitter within their groupwork. I am told there was a reasonably high level of angst about this across the university.

In the lead-up,  I gave a demonstration to the Senior Executive on how to set up a twitter account, how to participate, and so on. We ran introductory classes for others on 2 different occassions, but attendance was fairly low. 

In preparation for collating the responses to the groupwork, I posted the following tweet:

Is there an App that will produce a diagram of keywords from tweets with a common #hashtag? #cfhe12

I received a number of suggestions and reviewed them all, but ultimately decided to use the following tools.

I set up screens around the venue to display the general hashtag tweets for the forum using two different tools:
http://cloud.li/    produced a tag cloud, and
http://visibletweets.com produced a colourful animation of individual tweets with the option to display as a tag cloud

This worked reasonably well, and there was polite interest J in them.

The really big pay-off was in the use of Twitter to collect feedback from the two groupwork activities. Each activity had a focus question to which they were asked to respond using a dedicated hashtag. I then used
http://www.infomous.com/  to display a tag cloud for the responses (one of which is displayed in the header). At the podium, I could click on a particular keyword response and display all the tweets related to that word.

For the only time I can remember, the groupwork activities received the greatest praise for the day both in verbal comments, and in the following tweets:

Participants not groaning about groupwork. Lively debate on game changing or not #smfuts12_gc

Table engaged in f2f conversation and connected learning - sharing app

Kudos to senior managers at UTS - leading by example through #smfuts12 twitter stream. Making the future happen!

There was even a tweet from someone external to the university:

Loving the soc.media leadership & livetweets coming from #smfuts12 - UTS event w/snr managers. #research #strategy #transparency

So, thank you to everyone who sent suggestions on the best tools to use. They really helped make the day a big success in terms of demonstrating the value of the use of tools such as Twitter that many had previously thought to be of little value. It also dramatically improved the experience of groupwork – so many people commented that they felt their voice was not lost in the ‘group reportback'.

And finally, the majority of those who joined Twitter specifically for the event, continue to use it.


  1. Wow! Great work! We are investigating alternatives to initiate social media implementation within our institution and I will certainly bring this kind of "learning analytics" idea to the table. Much appreciated! Verena :)

  2. Just saw this posting - further tools to visualise twitter - thought I'd mention it for others looking to do similar things