Discover Microblogging (Draft)

Note Draft Microblogging (the act of broadcasting short, real-time messages) allows people to express themselves in new ways. It offers people a new communication channel to broadcast and share updates about what they are reading, thinking, experiencing, watching and doing. Educationalists that choose to incorporate Microblogs into their courses could refocus Microblogging as a peer to peer learning activity and use this tool to
· share information
· build community and foster collaboration and,
· encourage reflection.
This Discover Microblogging fact sheet is intended to introduce the concept of microblogging, the two main platforms (Facebook and Twitter) and “poke” academics, teachers and other professionals into thinking about how they could use a subset of social media to assist post graduate or part time students become co-contributions to their own knowledge instead of passive consumers of information.
Update (3 Nov 2009): Sometimes the Slideshare server takes a while to load
Discover Microblogging (PDF) is also available from this blog.

Update (4 Nov 2009): Created a slideshow to accompany the microblogging document

To Twit or to Facebook with KZN teachers

facebookvsTwitterPre service and in service teachers need to be introduced, taught about, with and through ICTS. But the problems of access make implementation of this goal difficult. I’ve counted phone numbers, fax, email addresses etc of schools in the KZN Midlands region. Out of the 506 schools

  • 96% have mobile numbers,
  • 74% have landlines,
  • 45% have fax,
  • 19% have email &
  • 3% have websites.

Worrying that 25% schools that do not have a telephone. But heartening that only 4% are beyond reach of ICTS (thanks Martin Cooper).

Implications for ICT

What does access to ICT in KZN mean for our intentions to use the Internet with teachers. Time to abandon the desktop and move onto mobile? The above statistics make it clear.  There are limited opportunities for a teacher to use an office bound computer and access the internet via landline or broadband connection.But it’s not helpful to see this as a choice between two platforms. The university has plenty facilities. Intenet Cafes and Public Intenet Terminals allow users to use a computer. Desktop space, and mobile space are not in competition, they are converging. A desktop offers the user a better interface and superior processing power. Mobiles offers users ubiquitous access.

Social Media and Learning

Restricted ICT opportunities mean that teachers will not be able to use ICTs for information transfer. But they can use ICTs for commincations. Within social media field, the most popular web sites are those that allow ICT users to connect with other ICT users are Facebook and Twitter. Both work on multiple platforms.

Twitter

  • Twitter enables direct and immediate communication
  • Structured interface that is easy to navigate
  • Hard to explain it’s use.
  • People don’t understand why you would want to Twit
  • The 140 characters restriction is an inherent constraints that limits the time investment required to benefit from the site
  • Encourages you to connect with people beyond your social circle
  • Twitter is not SMS enabled in South Africa

Facebook

  • Facebook is feature-rich and offers a range of communication tools.
  • The range of customisations makes the interface confusing
  • Easy to explain its use.
  • People can grasp the use of connecting to friends and family using facebook
  • Understanding comes fairly quickly with an explanation
  • Sustained investment of time is necessary to reap the benefits
  • Encourages you to connect within a social circle
  • Vodacom subscribers can use SMS to post and receive updates to Facebook

Interactivity or Access – Which way to go

So if pre service and in service teachers in KZN are to go mobile, and use social media to connect with each other and their instructors, then which direction should we follow. The differences between Twitter and Facebook are significant. If access is the key criteria then Facebook is winning the battle in this part of the world. Facebook is working hard to reposition itself for the mobile field. The FB barrier to entry is lower than Twitter (at least in my South African experience).

If interactivity is the key measurement of suitability, then Twitter is the route for KZN teachers. The ability within Twitter to quickly follow and gather followers allows teachers and their instructors to set up an active network rapidly.

Comparisons between the two applications could be inappropriate. Perhaps the question shouldn’t be an either or choice. Twitter is good if you are looking for active conversations amongst your users. Busy people have time to enter 140 characters into their twitter account. Facebook and its customisations allow the user new flexibility. This flexibility can even allow you to you to SMS to Facebook and automatically transfer the SMS to Twitter. But it’s time to let the users speak. I’m posting this to my question to my Twitter account and my Facebook page.

“Is Facebook or Twitter the platform for KZN teachers (Asking this on both platforms). Will collect votes in 24 hours http://bit.ly/KzcS9 #fb”