Archive for June, 2013

‘I’m a teacher and I just joined Twitter…now what?’

Last week I was walking a colleague through Twitter and thought now may be a good time to pen a post with some tips for new users. In particular I want to encourage new users in the education sector to build their profile on Twitter and explore its potential as a personal learning network.

I am a big fan of the microblogging service, using it for personal learning, professional sharing and even teaching. The things I like about Twitter the most are:

  • I can check in any time and browse items that have been tweeted by people I have decided to follow
  • It’s not full of banal updates about people’s personal life, as on Facebook
  • If I don’t check it for ages I don’t get in trouble and there is no obligation to ‘catch up’ (unlike email)
  • I have found the most amazing connections from around the world that I otherwise would not have – it is a real networking platform

In just a couple of weeks from now our Queensland English and literacy teaching associations are co-hosting our annual national conference. We have set up a Twitter handle (@EngLit2013) and declared a hashtag (#BNW13) for the event. With luck this medium will take off during the event and lots of teachers will experiment with using Twitter, perhaps for the first time.

This post, therefore, is written with school teachers and English/literacy educators in mind, as well as my colleagues at university.

If you have joined Twitter but still don’t really know what to do with it, this post is for you!

1. Hatch your egg

Many people I talk to feel nervous about writing their first tweet and following lots of people. So let’s not start there!

The first thing I like to get people doing with Twitter is making their profile page inviting to potential followers.

When you first create a profile on Twitter you will be given the default egg image as your picture. But you are not an egg! You aren’t even a chicken! You are a person!

It’s very important to update your profile picture, or ‘hatch you egg’, to show others that you are active online. By adding an avatar that better represents you, the service will also start to seem more interesting to you.

hatch the egg

2. Add a bio

I rarely follow anyone who doesn’t have a bio, and many others have the same rule. Why? Not because I’m a Twitter-snob, but because without a bio it’s hard to tell who you freakin are!

Some people are reluctant to add a bio, worried that it will reveal too much about them, breach their privacy, or make them identifiable to their employer.

My tips for educators that are worried about such things are:

  • Don’t feel pressured to name your workplace. Terms like ‘maths teacher’ or ‘science educator’ give us enough information to go on.
  • Avoid declaring your religious or political affiliations, unless you are very comfortable doing so.
  • Get in the habit of only saying things online that you would proudly stand by if your employer saw it.
  • Don’t include your location if you have concerns about privacy or safety. You can always add this in later, once you are comfortable.

If in doubt, just browse a few other profiles until you get a feel for the kind of things people write. Many people are happy sharing that they are a husband, wife, parent of three, dog-lover etc. Writing such things is OK and entirely within the genre of a ‘professional’ bio. It’s all up to you and what you want to signal about yourself and your passions/priorities to others.

3. Follow about 15 people

I’ve heard a lot of recommendations about the ideal number of people to follow to get connections happening on Twitter. I suggest you will need to follow at least 50 people to see real ‘action’ on your feed…but following that many people is very overwhelming to most new users!

If you don’t follow enough people though, it will be difficult to see the point of Twitter.

So if you are a teacher trying to get the hang of microblogging I advise following about 15 other profiles straight away. This will give you enough material to read when you check Twitter that you are bound to find interesting things and start to see ‘the point’.

Here is a selection of profiles that I often recommend to English teachers new to Twitter:

If you are happy to follow celebrities there is also @MargaretAtwood, @stephenfry and @rickygervais. Sometimes they tweet A LOT though, so if that gets too intense, always feel free to UNFOLLOW people – we don’t take it personally on Twitter!

4. Write a tweet!

This is actually the easiest part.

You can choose to say something, ask a question, or share a link with others.

What you must keep in mind though is that Twitter is NOT Facebook. There are no ‘likes’ (though tweets can be re-tweeted or added to a favourites list) and many times you will say things that get no reply or comment. Not single one. Don’t be sad about this!

Be confident in the knowledge that people may be reading your tweets, but not replying. You will do this to them too – it’s OK.

Also be confident that even if no-one notices your tweet, that what you wrote was still worth saying. You might even come back to your own tweets every now and then to rediscover links or information you have shared. Your Twitter feed is as much for you as it is for others.

If you want lots of people to see your tweet you can include what is called a hashtag in your post – popular ones include #edchat and #edtech. There are also subject-specific hashtags, such as the #ozengchat tag for Australian English teachers to use for chatting.

5. That’s enough for now…go and get a coffee 🙂

Once you’ve added a profile picture and a bio, followed some people and posted a tweet, you are well on your way to being an effective microblogger.

Tweeting directly to people by including their handle (e.g. @kmcg2375) in your post and including hashtags can increase the number of replies you get, but you will find this out as you go.

One final thought for those of you who are wary of joining ‘yet another’ social media service…not all social networks are the same.

Give Twitter a decent try, checking in at least once a week for a month, you’ll see what I mean 🙂

xo

twitter v facebook

 

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Ingress

Resistance is never futile.

Resistance is never futile.

There is a new game in town, and it’s called Ingress.

It’s an Augmented Reality Game (ARG) and it’s only available for Android – you get it from the Google Play store. But before you can play, you have to request an invite.

Once you have an invite, it is very important that you join the RESISTANCE team. Because that is the team I am on. And it is the best team. (You might think that I would go with the Enlightened, but oh no…I’ve seen the Terminator series. I know about Skynet.)

Click here for more information about factions in the game.

If you want to get an invite faster, you can join the Google+ community for Ingress and submit an artwork or other offering. Because the game is made by Google, this strategy actually does get your invite to come faster! Here is one of the art offerings I made to get my invite – a digital collage made using Polyvore:

Ingress invitation to play

Ingress invitation to play

After playing this game for a few months I am now up to level 6 and fairly active in protecting the portals in my university precinct.  It’s been a great game for learning about where historic landmarks and public art is in Brisbane, as well as for getting a lot of exercise walking around the city to find portals!

Review of Ingress: November 2012, Android Police

If anyone in Brisbane starts playing, let me know!

Ditto friends in Sydney – we can go for an Ingress run next time I’m down south 🙂

BUT ONLY IF YOU JOIN THE RESISTANCE!

 

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Spoken Word Poem: Mathematics

I love this spoken word poem by Hollie McNish!

Uploaded in February this year, a colleague shared it with me today. It has been viewed over 665,000 times.

As well as being a stand out piece of speech, this poem would be useful for English teachers looking for texts to explore issues of immigration and racism (arguably with links to ‘numeracy’ capabilities as well!)

Press Play. Sit Back. Enjoy:

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Where I was: The 2013 MILID meeting in Cairo

I’ve been back from overseas now for a few weeks and have almost (almost) accomplished the Great Assignment Marking Catchup. We’re all faced with one from time to time, but for me having a trip overseas is still always worth it!

Part of my overseas stay was, amazingly, in Cairo. I had never been to Egypt before, or anywhere in the Arab region. Most of my time was spent at the MILID Week meetings at Cairo University, which was the event I was there to be part of.

Cairo University, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

What is MILID?

MILID stands for ‘Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue‘. UNESCO, together with the United Nations Alliance of Civilisations (UNAOC) have created a UNITWIN Cooperation Program and Global Chair on ‘MILID’, to focus resources and efforts across partner universities from around the globe on Media and Information Literacy.

To give you an idea of what the group does, here are two of the seven objectives of the MILID network:

  • Act as a Observatory for critically analyzing: the role of Media and Information Literacy (“MIL”) as a catalyst for civic participation, democracy and development; for the promotion of free, independent and pluralistic media; as well as MIL’s contribution to the prevention and resolution of conflicts and intercultural tensions and polarizations.
  • Enhance intercultural and cooperative research on MIL and the exchanges between universities and mass media, encouraging MIL’s initiatives towards respecting human rights and dignity and cultural diversity. (http://www.unaoc.org/communities/academia/unesco-unaoc-milid/)

How did I get involved?

Across the globe there are eight universities involved as Chairs in the MILID program. My institution, Queensland University of Technology, is the Chair from Australia. Other countries represented are: Spain (Autonomous University of Barcelona), Egypt (Cairo University), China (Tsinghau University), USA (Temple University), Brazil (University of Sao Paulo), Jamaica (University of the West Indies), Morocco (Mohamed Ben Abdellah University).

This semester QUT has run a pilot course in Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue, using the UNESCO Curriculum for MIL. Along with Michael Dezuanni and Hilary Hughes, I’ve been teaching the course to students online, for free, from over 70 countries.

Most of the MILID Global Chairs

Most of the MILID Global Chairs

 

MILID Week

MILID WEEK is a space to promote contact and cooperation between international organizations, associations, NGOs, universities, media, research groups, researchers, teachers, and students from around the world working in media literacy and information and intercultural dialogue. (http://milidweek2013.blogspot.com.es/p/presentation.html)

This year Cairo University was the host of MILID week, which ran from 22-25 April. Last year the week was hosted in Barcelona, Spain; next year the week will be hosted in Beijing, China.

What I liked best about my first MILID week was the opportunity it provided to speak in depth with colleagues in this specialised field. Over the days of debates and presentations we shared information about how media is being used (and subverted) in our countries and regions, as well as the politics of information literacy in schools and communities. This event gave us space to find common interests and develop shared strategies for promoting the concept of MIL.

MILID week media pack and audience

MILID week media pack and audience

What did I learn?

It was eye opening to consider such questions during the MILID week as: How can we plan collaboration via social media in a group that includes members from China? How can we share media texts across national boundaries to promote intercultural dialogue? How can media and information literacy support social justice initiatives?

Mostly I was interested to learn about how other universities worked and how much attention is given to media literacy and/or information literacy in different places. I came away with the impression that Australia is relatively well-placed in terms of access to traditional and new media, connection to the internet, and use of social media. But I wonder whether Australian students are exposed to practices of citizen journalism as much as they might be? It struck me that in a place like Egypt, citizens currently have a lot of motivation to produce their own stories and information…by contrast the culture of media consumption in Australia seemed complacent to me.

And, as always when spending time with folks from a range of countries, I was reminded of how monolingual my world is. I speak next to no words in other languages; most of the people around me from Anglophone countries were in the same boat.

If I can’t go in person to the MILID Week in China next year I’ll be disappointed now, as I feel like I only just got to know this group and my place in it! However with the week falling in April/May, right in the middle of semester 1 in most Australian universities, I can’t say I will be able to take this kind of a break away from classes again for awhile. Either way, I’ll be continuing to promote the new MILID journal and contribute online to the Clearinghouse.

Soon the MIL Curriculum will be available via an interactive module-based website, to complement the existing PDF of the Curriculum. I’ll be sure to post again with details once the site is launched!

Thanks to QUT Faculty of Education and UNESCO for supporting this travel and development opportunity.

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