Wednesday, 21 August 2013

GETTING INVOLVED IN SOCIAL LEARNING - SOME PRACTICAL STEPS (2)



Continuing my summer series to help people new to technology, social media  and internet supported learning understand, get involved and get some experience with the exciting new learning world……..

In my last post I started to lead you through some of the media, tools, and other information sources that make up the sometimes bewildering field of modern learning. I encouraged you to get involved on Twitter as an individual – but there is more to Twitter than just being there with a network of followers and people you follow. 

Twitter has provided the vehicle for a large number of vibrant, informative and thoughtful communities in the learning field called Twitter chats. They have been created by and for people involved in the learning field at all levels and from all sectors of life – often providing a meeting place for education and workplace based people, strategists and instructional designers, vendors and consultants, enterprises and institutions etc. The point is to have places where people with a common interest can share, discuss, seek help, ask questions for debate, provide resources, make contacts. Some that I have personally found useful and which are frequently referred to by members of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) are:

#chat2lrn – alternate Thursdays at 1600UK time
#lrnchat – every Thursday 20.30 Eastern time
#edchat – every Tuesday 12.00 and 19.00 Eastern time
#swchat – every Thursday 16.00 Eastern time

You can find directories of Twitter chats through your browser and search engine. Some of them are easily searchable, others less so and new #chats are coming into being regularly.  It is by building your own network that you will discover new ones that people in the field find useful.

HOW DO #CHATS WORK?

Many #chats have an associated URL – either a full website or a blog which outlines their purpose, who is behind them and gives detail of how they work.

Basically one “joins” a chat by logging onto it and then responding to what happens next!  Mostly those running the chat will announce a topic to be discussed and will follow this with a series of questions for the chat to respond to at intervals throughout it. Some #chats offer pre-reading so that people come to the chat focussed on the topic. To contribute to the chat, simply write a tweet and conclude it with the # tag and the name of the chat (eg #lrnchat, #chat2lrn). It will be posted in the chat stream and everyone present has the benefit of seeing and being able to respond to it.

Until you have a real feel for how #chats work, my suggestion is to log in and then “lurk” – watch what is going on without contributing. Some #chats have over 100 participants from all over the world and the action has huge pace to it - sometimes almost overwhelming, but what is being generated is a huge, rich collection of ideas, contacts, sources etc which are normally transcribed and made available after the event for a more relaxed study.

A moment will come when you decide you are confident enough and “just have to” contribute – so post your tweet and wait for responses……

To take part in #chats on Twitter many people use a client to enable them to follow the stream of the chat.  What is a twitter client? It is another piece of free downloadable software that allows you to follow the stream of the conversation while a chat is taking place.  Two clients that I and my PLN find useful are Twubs (http://twubs.com) and www.tchat.io. I also use Tweetdeck which allows me to view my chosen streams of Twitter activity all from the same screen.

My personal experience is that I have massively increased my own network of professional contacts through the use of Twitter.  It is one of my most important tools for finding new information and for seeking assistance with my work.


The next post in this series will look at some other types of public online communities that are useful for learning.

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