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.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Statement on Ethics

The Masters action research project is being undertaken to explore how opportunities for collaborative learning between Masters students and staff can be enhanced, by using Diigo and Twitter to share knowledge, information and learning resources.

This project will investigate using the social bookmarking tool Diigo to facilitate and encourage the co-creation of Creative Technologies content and knowledge in order to develop a collaborative and transdisciplinary research resource that will enhance collaborative learning opportunities for IoCT Masters course students.

In addition, the project will seek to experiment with the use of Twitter to encourage collaborative learning opportunities for IoCT Masters course students. A schedule of Twitter activities (synchronous and asynchronous) will be devised and implemented for existing students, alumni students and a pre-enrolled cohort of students.

It is important that you are aware that your participation in these activities involves the use of social media tools and that your contributions will therefore, be in the public domain. You will therefore be identifiable by your user name throughout the activities of this project. However, I will not use any names or contact details in the final project report.

I will not disclose any information gathered from questionnaires and interviews to third parties, unless permission has been granted to do so. Any data collected will only be used for the research purposes of this project.

Your Right To Comment
Every effort will be made to keep you informed on the progress of this research project. If at any stage you wish to comment on the emerging results or the final report, you may do so. I agree to listen to your comments and make changes if appropriate.
You are encouraged to post your comments on the project blog. By contributing comments to the project blog you are also giving your permission for these comments to be used as part of my research findings. However, all contributions and comments will be anonymised within the final research report. This blog is in the public domain and could be viewed by people outside the research collaborators group. If you would rather make comments and give feedback privately, please email me on

Data Protection
I will comply with the Data Protection Act1998 in relation to the storage of personal emails and other personal or sensitive details that I may have access to as part of this research and/or as part of my role in the workplace environment.
In line with the Freedom of Information Act 2000, you have the right to see any written records associated with you involvement in the research, including the final report. You have the right to request that any record or relevant section be destroyed or deleted.

The Final Report
The final report will inform the Programme Enhancement Plan recommendations for integrating web-based tools into the Masters programme to create increased intersession learning, increased opportunities for collaborative learning and support, improved access to cross discipline information and resources and a developed programme communication system for learning support and peer group exchange.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Data Collection Methods – Twitter

One of the technological risk factors identified for this pilot project is the possibility of failing to successfully archive themed Twitter conversations, live Twitter chats, and general Twitter engagement and development for @IOCT_DMUMaster.

In seeking to address this issue and minimise the risk of losing critical data, I have investigated and set up free statistical and analytical tools suitable for quantitative and qualitative data for the pilot project: -

Archivist offers a way to save and analyse tweets using visualisations and graphic representations of captured data. Data includes numbers of tweets, top users, ratio of tweets vs re-tweets and top words.

Mention Map displays an interactive visualisation of any Twitter account network, highlighting which people the account holder interacts with the most and details hash tagged conversations.

Twitter Counter is a service that will send weekly email updates and shows graphic quantitative representations of numbers of followers, numbers of people following and number of tweets for @IOCT_DMUMasters

I would have liked to have used TweetSheep to provides information about followers analysing words found in their profiles, however I was unable to access their website.

proved unsuccessful in providing information on the Masters account because of a vast number of users requesting information.

After researching various methods and tools, it seems that TwapperKeeper although complicated to set up, will be the most useful tool to freely record tweets from live Twitter chats. I will run a preliminary live chat to test TwapperKeeper.