Three steps to a Twitter +

Wouldn’t be useful if public posts on Google +were also published on Twitter?

It’s helpful when platforms can talk to each other. My tweets with links, for example, are automatically stored in my delicious account, thanks to packrati.us Google + looks like it has a future with other Google sites, but I’d like it to connect further – with Twitter.

To get the two connected, follow these three steps

  1. You are just a number to Google + but your unique number is special. Find it when you click on your Google + profile, then take a look in the URL bar and note that number.
  2. Go to plusfeed and create an unofficial atom feed.  Just paste your Google + account number after the above URL and it will generate an atom feed of your public posts.
  3. Signup for a service like Twitterfeed that enables you to send RSS feeds to your Twitter (or Facebook) account.

There – Google + is linked to Twitter. Your thought stream is now available as an information stream. Now all my public posts on Google + are also published on Twitter.

Twitter from Higher down to Primary Education

Some thoroughly confused PGCE students of mine have admitted that they just “don’t get Twitter“. That’s fine. Your confusion over Twitter is shared by many. Media literacies are determined by our social identities. We start reading books because we see others reading. We get an e-mail address because other people want to contact us. We work out predictive text because we’d like to respond quickly to others SMS. If your connections are limited to email and texting, and you don’t want another “web-borne intrusion“, you’ll have a lot more time for marking, lesson planning and other important teacher activities.

If your reason for not understanding Twitter is that you can’t understand how a teacher might find Twitter useful, then the slide share below looks at examples of how some education institutions are using Twitter.

Although some South African Universities are on Twitter, fewer teachers or schools that have gone the Twitter route. Innovation fatigue, “digital dongas” or principled opposition to social media (i.e. this is a teenage fad) have been cited as reasons for non participation. I however think that the real reason is simply that other South African teachers are not using it. I’m the Twit that’s in the minority. But stick with me (and Twitter). I’m hoping to introduce you to a concept called a Personal Learning Network. Soon you’ll see that Twitter is part of a bigger picture, and its usefulness is better experienced than explained.

Inform, don’t meform

Plugins

Plugins

“Inform them, catch their attention, don’t meform and angst” say the Social Media gurus. Always on the look out for tools that can assist me do the above – and I’ve recently installed two WordPress plugins that offered information possibilities.

  • Twitter Tools
  • Link Within.
    • Twitter Tools is plugin that integrates your WordPress blog and your Twitter account. Meaning…the mutterings that I make to myself (and occasionally with some amazing people) are archived publicly on my blog. Now I know some people just drool profound / clever witty thought, but frankly, my Tweets are generally are not worth ruminating on, let alone digesting. So this tool might be unplugged for a while.

      Link Within, my second WordPress plugin has done some really clever coding and planning, and has released a plugin that “retrieves and indexes all stories from my blog archive” so that new readers can see what else I’ve written , not just recent stories. Small problem is, my writing has not been uploaded to my blog. So the choice of different articles (for those that do trip up and find this hidden space) is fairly limited. Time to start finishing off those articles and uploading them to the blog.

      Both plugins impressed me with how quick and simple they were to install and use. But clever tools soon become ordinary and unless they assist with sharing ideas, their impressesiveness soon looses novelty. I read blogs to find out more about the people that have impressed me with their interesting online ideas. If a tool helps me see them explore ideas, visualize creativity, and catalogue intuitive leaps, fantastic. But if the tool simply tells me more about themselves – then they’re meforming.

      The exception to this is the Twitter landing page. In this example, @marciamarcia introduces herself and her interests. Martin Weller takes this introduction concept further. When he meets “followers” face to face he has Seven Conversation Starters for taking the conversation beyond blogging. Both clever ideas where WordPress plugins can be used.

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”