Is it polite to tweet during lectures?

This past ALT-C was the first conference I’ve attended at which I decided to tweet the proceedings. I wanted to see if tweeting at a conference would help me, would it help other people, does it make sense to do at all? I could not attend all of the conference days, so I figured I could follow via Twitter what I could not attend. And on a related note, following ALT-C via Twitter would give me a flavour of  experiencing an online conference rather than a face-to-face conference. Since we at Beyond Distance are holding our Learning Futures Festival 2010 online only, I thought I would try and see for myself what an online conference is like. And finally, if nothing else, my own tweets could serve as online notes for the conference, reminding me of what I learned.

I found that tweeting during keynote and other presentations helped me to digest what was being said. Perhaps the practice of distilling what I heard into 140-character tweets was forcing me to boil down the presentations into a series of take-home messages which I could retain more easily. Moreover, while I am excellent at losing pens and little notebooks, I can’t lose Twitter, so I can go back onto Twitter and re-read the notes I took at ALT-C.

But I found that the most valuable aspect of using Twitter was the social one. I was reading other delegates’ tweets, and could direct message them and thus establish a more direct connection with elearning practitioners who are definitely knowledgeable. I’m reaping the benefits now, continuing and building on Twitter some of the conversations begun during ALT-C.

I did not faithfully follow the Twitter backchannel during presentations. For myself, I felt I would miss too much of the presentation if I did, although I believe other users who claim they are so used to Twitter that they can tweet and read whilst still paying attention to the presenter. I’m also not so sure it’s always a good thing to post up the twitter feed at the front so everyone can follow it during the presentation.”I may not agree with what you tweet but will defend to the death your right to tweet it,” yet I don’t like it when backchannels get nasty as I don’t think it helps anyone.

What about lectures -are students tweeting during lectures? Some certainly are; I have read the “Can’t stay awake in this lecture, out too late last night” sort of tweet coming from a student or two. However, natural-born-students-who-tweet seem to be in the minority. As social networking sites go, Twitter is unusual in that it is not a “young” phenomenon; comScore and Nielsen report that most Twitter users are between 45 and 54 years old.

However, I think it is only a matter of time before students realise the learning and social power of Twitter. Instructors seem to be slightly ahead of the students this time: I’ve recently read of higher ed lecturers who are actively encouraging students to use Twitter, especially during lectures. For example Professor Monica Rankin at University of Texas at Dallas “uses a weekly hashtag to organize comments, questions and feedback posted by students to Twitter during class. Some of the students have downloaded Tweetdeck to their computers, others post by SMS or by writing questions on a piece of paper. Rankin then projects a giant image of live Tweets in the front of the class for discussion and suggests that students refer back to the messages later when studying.” Martin Hawksey blogs here about how to combine Twitter with Yahoo Pipes to approximate an audience response system – the students’ mobile phones are their “clickers.”

Tweet during lectures? It would be impolite not to!

(And no jokes about my surname, either!)

Terese Bird

To tweet or not to tweet?

That is the question. I was talking with my fellow learning technologists Simon and Terese yesterday about the benefits of Twitter. I’m still yet to succumb to the lure of Twitter partly because I don’t think anybody wants to listen to what I do.  I can see the benefit of tweeting if you are at a conference or an event and have a purpose to your message but I’m not sure that I can include a purpose to my message in general day-to-day activities.  Nobody wants to know that I’m running late for the train!

In particular we were discussing the merits of hashtags.  Simply put, hashtags are a way of categorising tweets; if a group of people tweet using #beyonddistance you are then able to search and find all tweets within that category.  It’s a good way to start promoting your brand, your company or your organisation, but to be successful the more people that tweet using your hashtag the better.  When myself, Simon and Terese were discussing this I felt that we would need to get everyone on board within our team to really make this a success.  Which then brought me back to thinking: do I want to tweet?

It could simply be that Twitter isn’t the web 2.0 technology for me.  Not every technology will suit everyone.  But finding the benefits of Twitter for e-learning and how Beyond Distance can utilise these benefits does interest me as a learning technologist.  I read an article in .net magazine yesterday about ‘The pros and cons of Twitter marketing’.  One of the points that I picked up on, that I think could be an avenue for Beyond Distance to explore, is the idea of customer feedback.  Some of our ‘customers’, or students as we tend to call them, are distance learners and we can’t always receive face to face or verbal feedback from them.  Having short, succinct messages or tweets as feedback could be the way forward.  Twitter is a personal communication tool after all.

One other key point that I’ll be taking with me from that article is the need for planning. ‘Have a plan before diving in head-first.  Who has overall responsibility of the Twitter account? Are you prepared to respond and act on a moment’s notice (timing is key)?’ When it comes to web design and development I’m a big fan of planning. Obviously in unknown waters issues can arise that are difficult to plan for but an overall aim and objective and how these will be implemented can only help you to succeed.

Does this mean I’ve convinced myself to start tweeting?  Maybe not on a personal level but as part of an organisation with a wider reach and a shared vision amongst the team you might just see me tweeting in the future, with a proper plan in place first of course.

Emma Davies
Learning Technologist

Is it really me?

Good morning. Well of course it may be evening for you. This is David speaking –writing or typing. Or is it? Somebody or something is typing, that’s certain. For a blog, in blog genre, for reading only on or after July 5.

Or is this going to be a Tweet? This morning I read the following, courtesy of Zen’s monthly newsletter:


Getting too busy to Tweet? There is a workaround. Spend an hour planning your Tweets in advance and your followers will never know the difference. There are a number of sites to help – dedicated to setting up pre-scheduled Tweets – and FutureTweets is one of the best. It offers a totally free scheduling service, complete with the ability to pre-schedule automated messages to Twitter, set up recurring Tweets, and more.

So maybe you’re reading this after it’s been through some FutureBlog. Using the settings in WordPress, I can ensure that you get this, even if it turns out to be posthumous! Ah-ha, so you thought I was still alive. I assure you I am, though I may be in Timbuktu or Antofagasta for all you know.

However, I could be arranging to carry on indefinitely and would you know the difference? Zen’s newsletter also tells me the following:


Are you growing weary of keeping up appearances at all the social media sites you’ve signed up for? It can be exhausting as well as time-consuming. Once you have a presence to maintain across a spectrum of social media locations, the idea of updating your status regularly at multiple locations can be overwhelming. is a tool that can update information for you across dozens of sites. The service covers the top 40 resources, including Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, Bebo and Linkedin.

If I were to sign up for this service, combining it with FutureTweets and WordPress’s futureblogs, you could have the benefit of my thoughts far into the future, through all the channels. For my part, all I would need then is an automated thinker, programmed by Madelaine (very human, not a computer). Maybe I should randomise the content, to prevent reader boredom setting in. I could sit back and let it roll. The possibilities for e-learning are enormous.

Have I fooled you this time? Do you still think it’s me? Good night.

David (so he says)

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