Monday, 29 August 2011

Personal Learning Points From Undertaking the Twitter/Diigo Experiment

The Twitter/Diigo Experiment has given me the opportunity to assess the value of implementing web-based tools in a formal and structured way. The trial has also necessitated a vast range of personal learning. Having never undertaken a research project before, elements of this project have been both challenging and rewarding.

Even though much time was spent carefully planning and preparing for the trial, it was difficult to anticipate how participants would respond and how the activities would progress. I needed to reflect on the activities as they were happening, and make changes where necessary. I now realise that this is linked to Schon’s model of “reflection in action”.

I would have liked to have worked through this process with the full involvement of the academic programme team and with more student participation. This would have increased the validity and reliability of the study. It would be interesting to re-run the trial in the context of a live module, during academic term time.

I now realise that my position within the team limits my ability to influence organisational change. However, I have demonstrated the potential of the tools and will continue to enthuse about the technologies.

Working though the processes involved in action research methodology has been a new and particularly useful area of learning that will be beneficial to my professional practice. I now have the insight and confidence to transpose this methodology onto other projects to examine current practice, test ideas and introduce new initiatives.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Tools and Models Explored In Relation To The Trial

Apart from the main micro-blogging and social bookmarking tools, Twitter and Diigo implemented in this trial, additional web-based tools and third party applications were explored and applied throughout the process of undertaking this research and were also used for presenting related information.

Web-based drawing tool Cacoo was used to create Rich Pictures to illustrate CATWOE considerations and scope out initial ideas and modifications relating to the Appreciative Inquiry of the project. A Cacoo diagram of key stakeholders in the project was mapped out in a stakeholder analysis. A SWOT analysis for the pilot was also considered and presented using Cacoo. Time-line diagrams and outline plans were visualised using Cacoo.

The presentation tool Slideshare was used to transform word documents and PDFs into a format that could be uploaded to the blog.

Online survey tool SurveyGizmo was used for pre and post pilot questionnaires.

Widgets utilised on the Masters Action Research blog were, “Best content in Diigo” for the Creative Technologies Diigo group and a Twitter widget to display recent Tweets on the blog site. A Diigo tag cloud for the Creative Technologies Diigo group was also added to the blog, presenting a visual representation of key words used as tags by the participating group when book marking to Diigo.
These widgets provided visualisations of research activity and provided access to additional content.

The model of synchronous learning activities was explored through a live Twitter chat session. Here, a number of third party applications were recommended and utilised. Tweetdeck, Twitterfall and Tweetchat were explored and implemented as methods of engaging in a live chat event.

Web based data collecting tools, the Archivist, Mention Map, Twitter Counter were explored as ways of collecting statistical information. Twapperkeeper was used to archive the live chat. Tweetdoc was used to present the stream of live chat posts, through Slideshare, in a visually engaging way on the blog.

Over the four weeks of the trial activities, pre-existing technical advice, resources and instructional material was distributed to the participants to prepare the group for their involvement in tasks. These resources also helped to raise awareness of social bookmarking, use of Twitter in education and ideas behind networked learning and collaboration. These resources were sourced from existing media found on YouTube, Slideshare and Vimeo. Media used as instructional resources are listed here.

How to open a new Twitter account (4.24 mins)
All about Diigo (3.37mins)
How to set up Diigolet
David Cormier’s video on Community as Curriculum
Guidelines on Twitter chats
Demonstration on how to set up Tweetdeck

Interim Assessment – Twitter/Diigo Experiment

A programme of activities was designed as a trial exercise to test the potential of micro-blogging and social bookmarking to enhance collaborative learning on the Masters course. Reports are available for week 1, week 2, week 3 and week 4 of the trial.

Data was collected from feedback presented on pre/post pilot questionnaires, researchers observations and statistical information on levels of participation.

9 of 56 students signed up to the trial. The majority of responses came from pre-enrolled students. The Programme Leader was invited to take part in order to develop an awareness of the potential of the tools. Students and academics gave initial positive responses to the trial, however levels of participation were disappointing.

Overambitious plans in addition to low levels of interest and participation prompted frequent redefining and reconstruction of research plans and activities, resulting in a scaled down version of the project.

Collaboration with academic colleagues proved difficult, as did encouraging student participation. Running the trial during term-time may have increased levels of interest and participation. However, researching issues affecting participation was fascinating. Feedback indicated that the main factors affecting participation were, “other priorities” and “lack of participation of others”.

Exploring action research as a methodology has been a new and inspiring experience. Action research has proven a useful way of testing new ideas, and developing professional practice.

Initial findings suggest that it may be beneficial to test the integration of Twitter and possibly Diigo in a live Masters module. A Summer School of live Twitter chat sessions may be recommended. Feedback has also suggested considering Google+ and Facebook as alternative tools.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Trial - Week 4 Report – Live Twitter Chat on Thursday 11th August 2011

Session Title:

Part 1 - Collaboration and “Community and Curriculum”
Part 2 – Evaluation and feedback

@IOCT_DMUMasters moderated the session.

Session Summary:

The Masters Twittter/Diigo experiment’s live chat session was an exploratory activity to test the potential of Twitter live chat to amplify the enhancement of collaborative learning on the MA/MSc in Creative Technologies. Twitter live chat was also tested as a method of collecting instant student feedback and evaluation.

The chat was attended by a group of pre-enrolled students, an alumni student and Masters programme staff. 8 contributors participated in answering direct questions and engaging in some discussion. 129 tweets were posted and participants were based across the locations of Bulgaria, Singapore, Nottingham and Leicester. None of the participants had taken part in a live Twitter chat before. The chat maintained a vibrant and positive tone throughout.

Pre-chat preparation for the participants involved setting up a third party Twitter application, Tweetdeck, Tweetchat or Twitterfall and watching David Cormier’s video on “Community as Curriculum”. Participants were asked to consider the theme of collaboration and were given the option of preparing tweets on the theme.

The live chat session began as tweets were posted to confirm attendance.
After the participants had posted their introductory tweets, the moderator posted a series of questions with the aim of providing an opportunity for students to reflect on ideas presented in the video and to tease out thoughts on the topic of collaboration in general.

It was quickly agreed that David Cormier’s engaging presentation made the concepts of collaborative and networked learning, clear and understandable.
One twitterer posted @tweeter5 I love the way it is presented as it gives a friendly “way in” to the topic. Technology needs a friendly face #ioctx

As the questions moved on, the group were asked to make a group definition of collaboration. Tweets included:
@tweeter3 #ioctx sharing of information
@Tweeter1 #ioctx Understanding together
@Tweeter6 expanding your ideas & knowledge by other people input!? #ioctx
@Tweeter2 #ioctx learning and working together. Finding ways to understand each other better.
@Tweeter5 in collaboration you don't have to do things the same time but people can have an 'ambient awareness' of what's going on #ioctx
@Tweeter7 Q2 #ioctx Collaborative learning – “joint intellectual effort by students and teachers together” (Smith and MacGregor, 1992)

In thinking about the different role of a teacher in the “old” school, “new” school and “networked school”, participants agreed that the teacher role transforms throughout the various schools, shifting from teacher-led to shared learning through to everyone in a network, building knowledge together.

The group identified key skills needed for successful collaboration. Openness, and a positive aptitude for experimenting, exploration and curiosity were the skills that dominated the call for key skills required. Understanding was also one of the most frequently mentioned skills. Other skills identified as being important to participants were; an awareness of others and a willingness to take part, confidence in own abilities/ideas, the ability to compromise and listen. Resourcefulness, patience and responsibility were also identified as key skills in successful collaboration as were persistence, sensitivity and flexibility.

In gathering opinion on the benefits and challenges of collaboration,
the group identified the main beneficial outcomes of collaboration as being:
Increased innovation, “broadened horizons”, considered multiple perspectives, new ideas created, unexpected and alternative results achieved, own practice challenged, knowledge widened and increased networking, complex problems solved.

The issue of the time-consuming nature of working with others was identified as the main challenge of collaboration. Other challenges highlighted by participants made reference to conflicting ideas, resistance to change, lack of confidence and the challenge of establishing common language and common goals.

Part 2 - Feedback and evaluations

In providing feedback on the live Twitter chat the participants viewed the session as being useful and enjoyable.

@Tweeter2 #ioctx The live chat is a great (and a bit challenging) way of sharing information

@Tweeter3 #ioctx infact we get to know each other here even before our 1st hand shake!! :D

@Tweeter1 #ioctx It’s like a tiny speed collaboration :P

When asked to state their preferred tool of the experiment as a whole, a clear expression of both the benefits and drawbacks of each tool (Twitter and Diigo) was indicated.

Feedback gathered through the live chat on the Twitter/Diigo experiment in general suggested that participants had enjoyed using the tools and also enjoyed the social elements of the activities.

@Twitter1 #ioctx yes, lets do it again and please invite me!

Notable Web Links Highlighted During the Session:

David Cormier’s video on “Community as Curriculum”,

Points of Reference:

Smith and MacGregor, 1992, What is Collaborative Learning

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Trial - Week Three Report - Inter-session Activities

The penultimate week’s trial activities have focused on testing micro-blogging service Twitter as a tool for supporting inter-session activities. Inter-session activities and discussions assist learners to stay focused and reflect whilst applying new knowledge and also encourage students to continue in dialogue with each other outside class (Bozarth 2010). Some examples of intersession activities include, post session discussions, posting news and events, sharing information and resources, completing tasks, and reflecting on learning.

To ensure that the activities were relevant to the trial participants, tasks were simulated to encourage the group to reflect, share knowledge and further skills in using Diigo and Twitter. In a live Masters programme module, integrating inter-session tasks would involve careful consideration and alignment to the defined module learning outcomes (Dunlap and Lowenthal 2009). For trial purposes a series of short activities were designed to resemble inter-session instructional material. Participants were asked to express their experience of using the tools encountered on the trial so far, to install a third party Twitter application as a preparation task for a forthcoming activity and to research and share with others an unexplored feature of social bookmarking and micro-blogging tools. Participants were also asked to reply to a request about their attendance at a live event next week.

Below is an example of exchange between two participants reflecting on their experiences of using Twitter.

@IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx What I don’t really like about Twitter is the limitation of symbols. I often find it hard to express an opinion. (Tweeter2)

@Tweeter2 @IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx Agreed. They should be a little more flexible. It’s like the old sms days here as it is now!Argh! (Tweeter1)

Levels of participation dropped between weeks two and three of the trial, leaving a core group of four active contributors to week three’s tasks. I joined in the activities using my own personal Twitter account in order to increase critical mass, model responses and act a contributor in the trial community. Reasons for non-participation may have been due to week three falling in the main holiday period. Explanation for this drop in contributions will be established through the post trial questionnaire.

Literature searches this week have explored methods of using assessment rubrics and educational frameworks, models and approaches to encourage online discussions and collaborations. This has proved an interesting area of research, highlighting Grice’s (1975) Cooperative Principle, Pelz’s (2004) discussion rubrics, Chickering and Gamson’s (1987) Seven Principles of Good Practice in Education, Salmon’s (2002) Five-stage Framework, the Stages of Collaboration (Palloff and Pratt, 2005), the Phases of Engagement (Conrad and Donaldson, 2004), Connectivist metrics (Downes, 2009 and Baxi, 2009) and Blogging rubric (Fisher, 2010 and Cofino, 2010).
These references can be found on Diigo - see my recent book marks

Consideration will be given to how these methods and approaches can be applied to the Maters programme if the tools are integrated into specific modules beyond the trial.

The final week of the trial, next week, will test the potential of integrating live Twitter chats into module content as a way of enhancing collaborative learning. The live chat session will also be tested to establish the effectiveness of Twitter chats to act as a forum for collecting feedback and evaluation material.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Trial – Week Two Report - Introductions/interactions

The initial weeks of the trial have focused on testing the use of micro-blogging and social bookmarking as tools to facilitate student introductions and prior assessment and to encourage dialogue and interaction between students in relation to their work and ideas.

Students were asked to use Twitter to introduce themselves, to offer three key words that represent creative technologies and to state the biggest challenge they face in relation to their work/learning in the area of creative technologies. 6 out of 10 members of the group responded offering diverse and insightful information.

The main trial activity in week two has involved participants contributing to the Creative Technologies Diigo group. Participants were invited to bookmark websites featuring their own work along with projects that they have been involved in. Members of the group were also invited to bookmark websites that illustrated their own interests in the area of creative technologies.

31 items have been bookmarked in the Creative Technologies group, bringing together the creative work and interests of IOCT Masters students, across cohorts and disciplines. These contributions have been made by 5 of 10 participants. The group was asked to comment on each others content in the Diigo group resulting in a reasonable rate of response and good levels of positive engagement, with 6 of 10 participants posting comments.
Reflecting on feedback, linking levels of motivation to having enough time to participate in activities, additional planned tasks were discarded to allow more time for bookmarking and engagement through Diigo. This proved to be a beneficial amendment.

This is the tag cloud at week two of social bookmarking in the Creative Technologies Diigo group.

Best content in the Diigo Creative Technologies group now features as a list of links and RSS feed in the right hand column on this blog. To access or join the group go to

Reflecting on participant feedback linking levels of participation with the relevance of the activity, plans were revised and an impromptu Twitter activity was set to explore the unique opportunity of networking between alumni students and students about to embark on the Masters course. Participants we asked to share course information and experiences, ask questions to students who have already undertaken the course and to offer supportive advice and encouragement to new students. 3 of 10 participants took part in this activity. The potential of this forum can been realised from the tweets posted
by tweeter1.

@IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx Choose modules outside your comfort zone! It’s hard but it’s worth it.

@IOCT_DMUMasters #ioctx You do this course for yourself more than anybody else. Don’t think that you “should” take module X when you want Y.

Setting up a private group on Twitter using a tool available from may have helped individuals to feel more comfortable and open to asking and answering course related questions. Opinion on this will be collected through the post pilot questionnaire.

Activities scheduled for next week look at the potential of the tools to facilitate intersession learning.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The Trial – Preparations and Week 1 Report

Over the four weeks of the trial, these blog posts will report on the progress of the pilot study, indicating processes undertaken, participant feedback, lessons learned and recommendations.

The trial, testing the potential of micro-blogging and social bookmarking tools Twitter and Diigo to enhance collaborative learning on the MA/MSc in Creative Technologies, has made a positive start with reasonable levels of participation.

During the preparation stages, a four-week scheme of Twitter and Diigo activities was designed outlining weekly aims, researcher activity, participant activity, task assessment and tool evaluation methods. The four-week trial will test the tools for their potential to assess prior knowledge, to encourage dialogue and debate between students, to provide intersession support/learning and to collect feedback and evaluations. See the scheme of activities on Slideshare

Preparations for the trial started with a literature search, highlighting case studies and examples of using micro-blogging and social bookmarking in educational settings. The literature has helped to refine the purpose of the enquiry and has provided a background and rationale for this study.

Invitation emails were distributed to 56 students from Masters cohorts, starting from 2007 through to students due to join the Masters programme in September 2011. With invitation take up rate reaching 20%, it was decided that the pilot would go ahead as a small-scale test.

A good return rate of completed initial questionnaires indicated a majority view that implementing tools on the Masters programme would have a beneficial effect on sharing information and networking. Barriers to participation were identified as lack of time and lack of experience in using the tools. A small number of participants commented that Google + would have been their preferred tool.
A small percentage of the participants have highlighted technical issues with Diigo not being compatible with dated browsers and with the Diigo site being periodically unavailable.

The following data sets will be collected for the pilot study:
• A short questionnaire to establish current opinion of IOCT information sharing methods and assess attitudes towards using Twitter and Diigo tools.
• Researchers log of observations of participation and engagement
• Statistical information through TwapperKeeper, The Archivist and Twitter Counter
• Feedback from participants via Twitter, email or blog post comments.
• Post pilot questionnaire to evaluate the pilot and provide feedback

Using principles of triangulation, data will be analysed in relation to researcher observations and feedback from participants.

Over the preparation period and the initial week of the trial several questions have developed as areas to un-pick and explore further. Collaboration is difficult – why? Attitudes to using Twitter and Diigo range from positive and upbeat to distinctively cynical. Why is this? Keeping track of asynchronous communications posted in the Twitter stream is time consuming and posts can easily be missed. How would this affect assessed Twitter activities? What issues would this raise for module leaders with large class numbers?

The trial may have benefited from being piloted as part of a Masters programme module, as this would have increased the relevance of the activities. Activities could have been set against module content and module assessment criteria.

Participation from academic collaborators would have been more likely if the pilot could have been arranged to take place during term time. Take up in participation generally, may have increased if the trial was not taking place over the main holiday period.