Fun and Games and the Power of Twitter

Though in and of themselves the Winter Olympics in Sochi are not necessarily that funny, it is one more occasion on which I am again amazed at the power of Twitter. No, that’s wrong. Amazed at what people can do with Twitter if they have a bit of time on their hands and a brain that is wide awake. And, OK, a sense of humour, too.

Since the start of the Olympics someone is active under the Twitter handle @SochiProb and sharing impressions of the Games and the environment in which the sports men and women and entourage are working.

It reminds me of the two Twitter accounts that appeared last summer after the team bus of the Australian Orica-GreenEdge cycling team had got stuck under the finish of the first stage of the Tour de France not that long before the riders were due to arrive there for the final sprint, deciding who would wear the yellow leader’s jersey.

You may find these tweets as funny as I do, or you may not find them so special at all.

Either way, I find it interesting to see how people can use Twitter as a medium to play a role and to see that others react to that, without even having any clue as to who the people behind the Twitter handles are. We, the audience, join the make believe, and reply to the Orica-GreenEdge team bus and to Sochi Problems as if they were our long time friends.

This ‘role playing’ is also used for educational purposes, like in the case of the Twitter account @RealTimeWWII

Of course, one cannot really compare @SochiProb to @RealTimeWWII in terms of content. But both accounts do provide us a window onto places most of us can never see for ourselves and, more importantly, both give a certain different or new perspective on a situation we all think we know about from books and television.

For me, that new perspective is a crucial step in any learning process, and it is why I like Twitter so much. Without always being aware of it, I shape my view of the world  and of the people in it every day thanks to those tweeps I follow.

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Book: Social Media for Trainers

Book Cover Social Media for Trainers

Book Cover Social Media for Trainers

I recently had the pleasure of reading the book “Social Media for Trainers – Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning” by Jane Bozarth (published by Pfeiffer in 2010). It is a wonderfully practical and concrete book that I can warmly recommend to anyone working with groups in the capacity of a trainer, coordinator or leader. The main tools presented in the book are Twitter, Facebook, blogs and wikis. All of these I know by experience, and still the book provided me with new ideas and insights.

 

Structured Content Social Media for Trainers

Structured Content Social Media for Trainers

Bozarth goes through the 4 main tools in a structured way: explaining the basics, paying attention to advantages and disadvantages, and showing when and how it can be used. All chapters contain clear examples of questions and exercises that can be used with the tool, as well as real life examples of use of the tool in a bigger organisation or company. If you’re still not convinced: there are screen shots, too, so you can actually visualise what she is describing even if you do not have any personal experience with the tool.

While I have come to see Twitter definitely as a tool for learning I so far was focused more on how it is a tremendous source of information validated by people whose judgement I trust or whose perspective interests me (the people I am following). Bozarth showed me a new perspective: how to engage learners or a community through Twitter. You can ask them to introduce themselves on Twitter, they can answer start up questions or receive reading or other assignments. But you can also organise role plays, or use Twitter as a back channel for engaging learners or community members in a conversation in parallel to a class or webinar. And you could even schedule tweets asking evaluation questions one or more weeks after an event, and get feedback on how people are using newly gained knowledge and ideas in practice. For all these ideas, Bozarth lists clear sample questions suitable for the Twitter environment.

Similarly, she presents clear examples for use of Facebook (groups or pages), blogs and wikis in learning and community environments. As well as a few ideas concerning a small selection of other social media tools like SlideShare, Youtube, TeacherTube and Delicious.Through this all, she shows keen understanding of needs of learners and community members and shares her experiences with communities of practice and in the (virtual) class room.

In all, a valuable and inspirational resource for all of us interested in engaging people in processes – whether they be for learning or otherwise.  I wish you happy reading!

Find Jane Bozarth

Jane Bozarth on blogspot

Jane Bozarth on Twitter

Jane Bozarth on Facebook

Jane Bozarth on Google+

Short description of Jane Bozarth on Learning Solutions Mag

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Tools for Learning

Jane Hart, C4LPT

Jane Hart, C4LPT

One of the websites that inspired me in 2011 is Top-100 Tools for Learning as developed by Jane Hart, founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies C4LPT. In the last 5 years this list was compiled annually, based on learning professionals’ experiences and input.

The list triggers my curiosity by providing just a short description in the list (Nr 1 – Twitter:  micro-sharing site), and by providing comments from those that recommended the tool if you click on it. From there you can directly link to the tool’s web address. This year, there is a neat summary available via Slideshare (embedded below), in addition to the list in text form.

What makes the list interesting and useful is not just the fact that it is a great resource, but that it makes you consider the tools on it in a different light. For instance, Twitter has been number 1 since 2009. Before I was directed towards the Top-100 in a workshop on Social Media for Learning and Change, I would not have viewed Twitter as a potential learning tool. Like many others, I thought Twitter was just to share how many coffees you’d been drinking that day, where you were and what you might be doing next. Since then, I have discovered I was wrong there and found that indeed there is a lot to be learned through Twitter.

That’s what makes the list a small adventure for me – there is always a small or big discovery to be had. If you are interested in learning and in online tools to facilitate learning, it is a must-check website!

In 2011 I have explored several learning and training tools that were new to me; some of them I found through the Top-100 and some through other channels. I have dedicated a few posts to my experiences with tools that I found to be (potentially) useful for NGOs I work with, like Delicious, Wordle, Yammer and a few TED Talks that I found inspirational. I plan to continue exploring new tools in 2012 and will share exciting finds through my blog of course.

But as I am sure I will not manage all 100 tools (let alone the 50 tools that did not make the list) I would invite you to experience the richness of the list for yourselves as well. I am looking forward to hearing about your adventures!

Resources

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011

View more presentations from Jane Hart

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