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

Learning transition; purpose, processes and promises

Initiation rites are performed in many societies of the world to mark the passing from one phase of life unto another. Whilst they vary in their purposes, processes and activities, the central objective is the celebration of the end of one phase of life and transition into a new phase. Initiation rites thus acknowledge maturity, development, transformation and change as an ongoing process. Such transition provides the link between discontinuity and continuity, ending and new beginning, the past and the future following prescribed social rules, norms, and conventions. The occasion provides the individuals involved with the necessary instructions, support and guidance to discover and fulfil their personal ambitions and to live purposeful lives.

The rite of adulthood is perhaps the most important of the many sets of initiation rites. In western culture the status of adulthood is characterised by the 18th birthday which is the age at which most young people make the transition from secondary school or college into Higher Education. The event is marked by matriculation ceremonies in some institutions to both welcome and induct new learners into their respective HE community.

Academic discourse on learning transition (from FE to HE) has been the focus of much writing aimed at addressing concerns of learners in terms of adjusting into their new learning environment. Issues which have engaged the attention of most writers include, but are not limited to the factors influencing student retention, the impact of socio-cultural backgrounds on learner transition, student expectation of HE learning environments, information behavior of students preparing for transition, and type of support provided by institutions to help students make successful transition.

The question to be asked is, with the increasing move by most higher educational institutions to “online learning” and “learning across locations”, what new challenges will learner transitions bring and how do we reconceptualise learning support to make learning transition both meaningful and engaging? The IMPALA4T project provides a lot of food for thought.

Samuel Nikoi (12 May 2009)

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