Tag: Twitter (page 9 of 11)

3 ways to prevent being ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter

Some people reading the title of this blog post may claim not to be bothered when they’re ‘unfollowed’ on Twitter, FriendFeed, etc.  I don’t believe them.*  😉

Most people on Twitter also have a blog. The reason you have a blog rather than write in a personal diary is to share your ideas with the world. You’d like to influence others in some way.

As a result, whether you like it or not, if you’ve got a blog you’re in the marketing business. You are (potentially) a global micro-brand.

All this sounds a bit business-like, especially for an educator with a professed aim to change the education system for the better. But, as I have blogged about recently, our ideas gaining acceptance is one way to achieve a sort of immortality. And if we do want to change the education system, we need to influence as many people as possible! 😀

So yes, you do need to be concerned when people ‘unfollow’ you on Twitter. One or two may not be a problem, but if there’s somewhat of an exodus, it means that they’re not getting what they thought you’d be delivering. Let’s see how we can make sure that state of affairs doesn’t obtain…

1. Speak in full sentences

When I teach lessons that involve students answering questions, I stress the importance of making sure they don’t start their answer to a question with ‘because’, and that they explain the context. Otherwise, when they come to revise, they won’t ‘get it’. Similarly with Twitter, you’re not just having a conversation with another individual – people who are following you are also listening. Don’t say ‘it’ – say what you mean and link to what you’re talking about (if relevant) – and in every tweet involved.

2. ‘Direct message’ people more

Just because someone’s used an @ reply to you (e.g. @dajbelshaw: my interesting message) doesn’t mean you have to do likewise to them. If what you’re going to say is unlikely to interest others apart from that individual, send them a direct message. Just be sure to double-check that you’re following them as well, otherwise it could be slightly embarrassing. I talk from experience… 😮

3. Don’t binge-tweet

I use FriendFeed as well as Twitter. FriendFeed summarises when someone sends more than one tweet in quick succession. Yesterday, someone I follow posted 25 messages in quick succession. When you’re following hundreds of people, that’s too much to handle. Be focused.

I’m always very aware that my tweets are one of the first things you see when you visit dougbelshaw.com. That means I try to keep the most recent tweet fairly interesting and relevant to both Twitter followers and visitors to my site. If I post a reply which may be useful to others but fairly geeky, I try to follow it up quickly with something of greater relevance.

These ideas may not work for everyone, but they work for me. What do you use Twitter for? What are your tips for using it?

* This post came about after a discussion about a new service called Qwitter that emails you when someone stops following you on Twitter.

(Image by Mykl Roventine @ Flickr)

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Posterous

Today, I helped Phil Rowland set up a blog to use primarily with his BTEC Sport class. We’d previously set one up via Edublogs, but it didn’t really get off the ground.

The blog platform I introduced to Phil was Posterous. I chose Posterous because it’s so easy to use. Here’s what you do:

  1. Email post@nullposterous.com from any email account of your choosing. The subject of your email is the title of your first post and the body of the email the content of the post.
  2. Posterous emails back asking you to click on a link to validate your blog. You are then logged-in and ready to setup your username (giving you username.posterous.com) and password.
  3. Further emails from the account you used to Posterous add more post to your new blog. Attachments are dealt with in an intelligent way: for example a YouTube video link automatically embeds that video in the blog post. It does similarly great things with Word documents, Powerpoint files, MP3s, etc.
  4. You can configure your profile by logging into Posterous – avatar, details about yourself, and link to other accounts you’ve got online – Flickr, Twitter, and more!

Phil’s still playing about with and getting used to his new blog – you can visit it at: http://mrrowland.posterous.com. I’m sure he’d appreciate a comment or two. 🙂

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90% digital, or 12 ways my teaching ecosystem is evolving.

I’m looking forward to the new academic year. Having said that, I’m not hugely excited about the Web 2.0 tools I’ll be using next year – and I believe that’s a good thing. It shows that such tools have become part of my teaching ecosystem. As I read recently, “The music is not in the piano.” (i.e. it is but a tool, just like technology)

The only reason my teaching ecosystem isn’t 100% digital is because of outside influences: documents from colleagues and marking student books. It’s part of my aim for my E-Learning Staff Tutor position to put more digital tools in the hands of colleagues. I’ll be using the new elearnr site to help with that. 🙂

This week I came across Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008. It’s made up of a large number of educators’ top 10 lists of elearning tools. I haven’t tried to stick to 10 in what follows – it’s just a list of what I’m going to be using (in order of what I’ll be using most!) 😀

1. Google Calendar

I’ve been using Google Calendar for a couple of years now for my day-to-day planning (see here and here). Although it takes around half an hour to enter your timetable initially, you can then set this to repeat until a certain date (i.e. the end of the academic year).

I use a ‘double-star system’ (see screenshot below). Before a lesson has been planned it has two asterisk after it. Removing one star means that I’ve entered the title and lesson objective (and homework, if applicable). Removing the second star means that the lesson is fully planned.

After the lesson, if there’s anything I need to remember for the next lesson with the class, I just add it to the comments section.

Obviously things like meetings, parents evenings can be entered ad-hoc. As you can access Google Calendar via mobile phone as well, it means I’ve got my day-to-day planning everywhere. 🙂

2. Attendance/Homework checkers

I run a two-laptop classroom. I’ve got my school-provided laptop at the front of my classroom running the interactive whiteboard (a SMARTboard) and my netbook (an MSI Wind-like Advent 4211 now running Mac OSX) is for everything else.

Whilst I could use Google Spreadsheets for my attendance registers, there’s two reasons I don’t. First of all it just doesn’t update very quickly, being web-based. Second, I’ve got to have a register – even if Internet access goes down at school. So I use Microsoft Excel with some conditional formatting goodness that I blogged about ages ago.

3. Google Docs

I’d be the first to hold my hand up and say that I’m a last-minute planner. What I do in the next lesson with a class depends very much upon what happened in the previous. Students have different questions and things can go off at a tangent. That’s not to say I don’t medium-term plan, however!

For my medium-term planning I use Google Docs. Nothing fancy, just a table with columns for lesson title, objective and possible content. The great thing about this is that I don’t have to remember to back it up and I can drop in links to any online resources quickly and easily. I do about a half-term at a time, having worked out before how much I need to cover to get everything done within the year. :-p

4. Evernote

You’re not going to believe this but my school still doesn’t use email as the primary method of contact between members of staff. Hard to believe, I know! Consequently, I’m overwhelmed by a deluge of paper. To counteract this, I started taking a photograph of the documents using the camera in my Nokia N95. The trouble was that organizing these images was difficult and time-consuming. In the end, I just gave up.

Then I was invited to take part in the private beta for Evernote. This program is available cross-platform and is now out of beta, so it’s available to everyone. It takes the image you’ve taken and transferred to your laptop (e.g. via Bluetooth) and recognises the words – even when they’re hand-written! You can add tags to the photos and they’re automatically (securely) synced with your account on their server. That means they’re available wherever you’ve got an Internet connection.

Evernote’s a great system no matter what phone/digital camera/laptop combo you’ve got, but if you’ve got an iPhone, you really do need to download it from the App Store!

5. Google Presentations

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for still using Powerpoint. After all, I’m training colleagues to use software such as SMART Notebook when I rarely use it myself. The truth is, Powerpoint is compatible, flexible, and has great clipart.

The problem comes when you want to get a Powerpoint online. Say that you’ve drawn on top of a diagram and want to make it accessible for students outside the classroom. In the past I’ve had to use OpenOffice to convert it into Flash, upload it to my website, and then create an HTML page in which to embed it.

Not any more. Now I just upload it to Google Docs and it’s transformed into a Google Presentation. This can then be easily embedded into a blog, wiki or website. Marvellous! 🙂

6. Google Sites

I used a self-hosted installation of WordPress for a couple of years successfully at learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk. That’s the place I direct students to in order to access homework activities and resources to aid their learning. At the end of last academic year, however, I switched over to Google Sites. My version actually comes as part of Google Apps Education Edition, but there’s no advantage in this other than the ability to customise the domain name.

I’ve found it really useful and reliable. Because it’s hosted by Google, I’ve never experienced any downtime and, of course, it’s not blocked by the school network’s proxy. You can edit things in a straightforward, easy-to-use manner. The built-in navigation features make it simple for students to navigate. Embedding objects is easy – I could ask for any more! 😀

7. Twitter

I’m disappointed that Twitter, the micro social-networking service, has made the decision to stop the ability to receive SMS updates when you receive direct messages or replies. It means that I’m unlikely to use it with my GCSE students this time around.

To neglect to add it to my list, however, would be misleading. I’ll still be using it both in and out of school in a professional development capacity. I can’t imagine being connected only via blogs now (as in the early days of the edublogosphere). Twitter and other real-time tools make professional development fun!

8. Edublogs

With my last cohort of GCSE History students I installed WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) edition at mrbelshaw.co.uk. Whilst it worked fine and the students took to it well, the system took some configuring and was a bit of a nightmare when I transferred web hosting companies.

This year, I’m going to be using Edublogs. It, after all, is a giant installation of WPMU, but they host it for you, make hundreds of themes available and there’s added values with wiki and forum integration (to name but two). It should cut down on hassle. I track what students are up to via the RSS feed for the blog entries and comments. 🙂

9. Google Earth

It’s fair to say that I use Google Earth a lot. In fact, when I had to teach Geography to a Year 8 Set 4 class last academic year, I think I used it every lesson! It’s also of great use in history as it’s so much more than a mapping application; the ‘layers’ and ability to create tours add huge amounts of value.

I’ll be using it next academic year, as I have in previous years, to plot the route of Hannibal’s march with elephants on Rome, doing a flyover tour of Engladn in 1066, building up the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a lot more. I’ve shared some of the resources I’ve created for Google Earth over at the historyshareforum.

10. Simple English Wikipedia

Although I’ve threatened to do it a couple of times before, this academic year is going to be the time when I carry through my plan. I want students to be creators and contribute to the Internet. In Years 10 and 11 whilst they’re doing their GCSEs, I get them to blog. But what about in Key Stage 3?

I’m going to get them to add to the Simple English Wikipedia. This lesser-known sibling of Wikipedia is for children and foreign language students. Every page on the main Wikipedia site (potentially) has a similar page on the Simple version. The trouble is that the Simple version doesn’t have as much content – I want to rectify that by getting my students to edit that.

The main problem with this is that they can’t do it at school. I’m sure it the same with most educational institutions: our IP address is banned from editing do to ‘vandalism’ of Wikipedia by a minority of immature students. So, I’ll get them to do it at home and look at the revision history of the page for proof! I’ll let you know how it goes… :-p

11. bubbl.us

I’m a big fan of mindmaps. Although I’m not convinced that bubbl.us creates mindmaps in the true sense of the term they are, at least, very useful brainstorms. If you haven’t given online, collaborative mindmapping/brainstorming a try with your students, I’d suggest you try.

Due to a re-organization of the core subjects at our school, students only get to choose two options for GCSE. This has the knock-on effect of meaning they have 4 lessons to cover content that previously was covered easily in 3. I’m going to spend that fourth lesson with them in the library or an ICT suite blogging, brainstorming/mindmapping, and more…

12. Posterous

I came across Posterous during the summer holiday (see this post). You couldn’t really ask for a blogging service to be made much simpler. All you do is email post@nullposterous.com and it intelligently sorts out what you’ve sent (including attachments) and displays them appropriately. At last I can say to staff that if they know how to email they can set up their own class blog!

If you read my previous post on Posterous, you’ll see that I feel the killer feature will be themes. They’re adding features all the time, it being a new service, and if they add this ability before the start of the academic year (1st September for me) then I’ll seriously consider using them with students too. It might seem shallow, but I’ve found that teenagers like to create an identity online, and the ability to make their site different from their friend’s is important to them.

Finally, I’ll be charting my progress and adding resources to help colleagues as part of my E-Learning Staff Tutor role over at elearnr. Do visit there often and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 😀

(Image credit: Personal Ecosystem by activeside @ Flickr)

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Twitter Fantasy Football

We’re back from Wales. I forgot to take our ‘proper’ camera and the one in my N95 has stopped working. So no pics – unless you want to look at some of the area on Flickr. We had a great end to the week, although Hannah and I were struck down with a bug almost immediately upon arrival and then it proceeded to rain for 3 days… 😮

Before I went away I mentioned on Twitter that it would be great if we could have a Twitter Fantasy Football league. Low and behold, @damian613 @iusher set it up and @tombarrett texted me whilst I was away to say it was going ahead.

If you’d like to get involved, get in touch and I’ll send you the details! 🙂

Here’s my team and the standings after the first games:

Doug's Fantasy Football Team - Borussia Munchonthat

TwitterVersus Fantasy League - standings after 1st games

Congratulations to Lisa, but there’s a lot of games left to play… :-p

I am Spart-arthus!

OK, so I’m not reallyArthus Erea‘ the poster boy of the Student 2.0 ‘movement’. I considered pretenting to be though. :-p Apparently he’s going to launch a new blog as ‘a teacher’:

Here’s 3 reasons I don’t think 14 15 (whoops!) year-olds have a full part to play in the edublogosphere:

  1. They haven’t had much life experience. In the same way that you wouldn’t appoint a newly-qualified teacher to run a school, teenagers haven’t got the experience to make fully informed comments on education. They only see one side of the picture.
  2. The transparency that we almost demand in the edublogosphere – even the simple ‘what’s your name and where do you come from’ – cannot be provided by these youngsters due to child protection issues. The edublogosphere therefore just becomes another anonymous forum to them.
  3. They tend to be ships without a rudder, speeding off in one direction and then another. Yes, they need interactions with more mature people to give them this ‘rudder’, but I would argue that they learn by imitation. The best place for this is offline – especially given point 2!

It’s not up to me who you follow on Twitter or whose blogs you read, but I see teenagers as having the same role in the edublogosphere as student councils do in schools. That is informing professionals.

Finally, I just find it all a bit unhealthy that we treat a 14 year-old as a fully paid-up member of adult discussions. It’s a bit like me interacting with students on Facebook, MySpace or Bebo. As a teacher, I just don’t do it.

I’d love to hear some proper justifications of why I should that aren’t platitudes or crowd-pleasing posturing… 😉

2 Amazing Firefox plugins: Stylish & Feedly

Firefox LogoSerendipity’s a wonderful thing. It happens to me more often in this interconnected, Web 2.0 world. This morning, for example, whilst searching for something else entirely, I again stumbled across the Stylish plugin for Firefox. Given that I’m now running Firefox 3 full-time now, I thought I’d take it for another spin. Later, a tweet directed me towards Feedly. I’m in awe of both.

Stylish

Stylish enables you to view a website with custom CSS. Saying it in technical language like that doesn’t make it sound too impressive, does it? But just look at some of the things I was able to do with about two clicks via userstyles.org! 😀

Google (Stylish)

GMail (Stylish)

YouTube (Stylish)

In addition to this, and perhaps more useful (rather than just being eye candy) are those that change small things in your user experience. Take, for example, the one for Twitter that simply changes the list of people in the right sidebar from a small list of photos to photo + name:

Twitter (Stylish)

I love this sort of thing – users being put in control of their browsing/Internet usage experience. Go and check it out and see if your favourite sites/web apps have been customized yet! 🙂

Feedly

Feedly

The second Firefox extension I’m even more excited about. It’s called Feedly (see screenshot above) and I came across it via @derrallg on Twitter:

@derrallg

Feedly is a Firefox extension that, like the Stylish extension, needs to be experienced to be understood. It aggregates not only the RSS feeds in your Google Reader account, but those who are in your Twitter and FriendFeed networks. It calculates which are your ‘favourite’ RSS feeds (presumably from % read stats from Google Reader) and adds extra weight to them. Everything is presented in a very nice magazine-like format on the click of this button:

Feedly button

Here’s how easy it is to share stuff you think those in your network should know about:

Feedly (sharing)

I’m seriously considering ditching Google Reader for the majority of my feed reading now. Feedly allows you to annotate and save items for later – and to email the post directly to others or via your Twitter account. Marvellous! :-p

Further reading: Firefox 3 Power User’s Guide (Lifehacker)

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Introducing TweetMeet

TweetMeet

Twitter‘s great. It allows you to not only network in semi-realtime, but also to have access to a network of experts and engage in borderless conversations. Usually, these are people with which you share something major in common. In my case, almost all of my Twitter friends are educators.

That’s all well-and-good, but there’s really nothing like meeting up face-to-face to discuss things. That’s why conferences still thrive in this Web 2.0 world. To facilitate Twitter meet-ups – or ‘TweetMeets’ – I’ve set up a new website:

http://tweetmeet.eu

Why .eu? Well, the domain name was cheap… 😉 (feel free to use it worldwide!)

Head on over! I’m not allowing just anyone to edit the whole thing as I don’t want it taken over by non-educators. If you’d like a login to be able to organize TweetMeets, send me your email address via direct message on Twitter. (d dajbelshaw Hi…)

If you want to discuss TweetMeet, can I suggest that you use the global hashtag #tweetmeet please? (# is ALT-3 on UK Mac keyboards) You can then track the conversations at Twemes.com 🙂

Edit: Inugural TweetMeet planned for Saturday in August – either 2nd or 9th. Tweet @dajbelshaw with your preferences for meeting up in the Peak District, England! 😀

The stream becomes a trickle…

Trickle

You’ll have to excuse me. Over the next couple of weeks (until the end of June, to be precise) you’ll find fewer blog posts at dougbelshaw.com. Why? Well, it’s not laziness:

Added to my usual teaching duties, getting things in place for my new E-Learning Tutor position, attending a couple of meetings, going to the gym and playing with my overly-energetic and inquistive 16-month old son, Ben.

So please accept my apologies – I’m sure you understand. Normal service will be resumed as soon as I’ve got broadband sorted out in the new house (I’m thinking of getting mobile broadband anyway…)

If you need your Belshaw fix, I’ll still be Twittering away – but better still, get started with, and follow me on, FriendFeed. It’s great! 😀

Image credit: Chorrillo – Trickle by Antonio Martinez @ Flickr

How I got started… and the difference it’s made.

Karyn Romeis’ dissertation is going to be on “the use of social media on the professional practice of learning professionals”. She’s asked the edublogosphere for ‘testimonies’ – how we got started and the difference it’s made to our professional practice.

For what it’s worth, I’m going to chip in with my $0.02 as Karyn has often helped me before and has been a valued commenter, both here and on the now-defunct teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk.

The questions Karyn has asked are:

  1. How did you get started with social media?
  2. What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?
  3. What difference has it made in your professional practice?

I shall take the points, as they say, in turn:

1. How did you get started with social media?

Although I knew what a blog was before 2004 (they came up in Google search results, for one) I didn’t really start subscribing to RSS feeds, etc. before then. I read the early ‘big names’ in what was then a small edublogosphere – the likes of Will Richardson, Dave Warlick, Stephen Downes and Wesley Fryer.

After subscribing to a number of blogs, including educational ones, I started blogging myself in late 2005. My confidence had grown from commenting on a range of blogs and having created websites the old-fashioned way as a teenager. I set up my teaching-related blog on a sub-domain of the mrbelshaw.co.uk website I was using with students in my classroom. When I found myself off work for a sustained period due to stress I began to blog at teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk every day. Like so many in the early days, I saw the huge potential of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom, and genuinely believed they could revolutionise the way we deliver learning to young people.

Wikis came later. I still haven’t found a way to use them in the classroom in a truly collaborative way, but I’m willing to keep trying. I’ve dabbled with podcasting, but blogs are my main method of communication on the Internet. Blogs, wikis and podcasts were – and to many still are – the defining tools of Web 2.0. Indeed, it’s pretty much the title of Will Richardson’ book.

2. What was your introduction, and how did the journey unfold?

I’ve mentioned the first part of this question above, but the journey unfolded in the following way. First of all, I started getting comments on my blog. These actually came from ‘seminal bloggers’ – in some cases figures such as the luminaries mentioned above. This spurred me on. During my absence from school due to stress, blogging gave me a focus, positive feedback and, I believe, aided my recovery.

The numbers of subscribers to the RSS feed of my blog slowly grew from late 2005 until I stopped blogging there at the end of 2007. During this time, I witnessed a huge expansion in the size of the edublogosphere. Ordinary class teachers (like myself) started putting their heads above the parapet online. First, this was mainly in the USA, but gradually I became aware of those in International Schools, then in Australia, and finally in the UK. I’m of the opinion that we still haven’t got enough English bloggers – Scotland’s at least 10 times smaller, population-wise, yet they put us to shame in the edublogosphere!

I’ve cleared my RSS feed reader and started again from zero a couple of times now. I think it’s probably a useful thing to do at least once per year: it gives you a reason to go out looking for new content and angles that can motivate and inspire you.

Finally, Twitter has been somewhat of a revelation. I’ve had my account about a year and a half now. During that time I’ve made so many more connections than I could have done before. You can get answers to very specific questions almost in real-time, begin impromptu more formal discussions or simply get the latest ‘buzz’. I love it. 😀

3. What difference has it made in your professional practice?

I’ve always been a fairly inquisitive person (I chose to study Philosophy as an undergraduate) and never been scared to mix things up a bit. In fact, the reason I became a teacher was to play my part in reforming the system for the better. Being part of a global community of teachers, however, has given me confidence, the knowledge and, in some cases, the skills, to get my point across in my educational institution.

There is such a thing as the ‘wisdom of crowds’, but I think it’s probably more like the ‘wisdom of the network’. Twitter’s a wonderful example. Thinkers such as George Siemens have a theory to explain this – it’s called Connectivism. Learners are ‘nodes on a network’ and the network harbours a great amount of knowledge, on tap at almost any time.

In my interactions with students, it’s allowed me to ‘flatten the walls of the classroom’ – to use a Warlickian phrase. Although students could keep up with homework, etc. with mrbelshaw.co.uk 1.0, the advent of learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk saw the dawn of mrbelshaw.co.uk 2.0, including links to Web 2.0 apps (wikis, podcasts, YouTube video clips, and so on).

It’s also meant I could start really showing my colleagues that they could use the Internet quickly and easily to interact with students. Having to learn HTML or to use a program with a potentially difficult-to-use learning curve to get content online, was a barrier for most teachers. Now, it’s as easy (in most cases) as signing up for an account somewhere, typing/uploading stuff and then sharing the web address with students. It also gives you the chance, again in most cases, to get feedback.

I’ve been fortunate to begin my teaching career at a time when such revolutionary tools are available. It’s just a shame that they haven’t – yet – caused a learning revolution. I’m four years into my teaching career and very much looking forward to what comes next. Web 3.0 and the Semantic Web? 🙂

Image credits (all @Flickr):

dougbelshaw.com redesign

If you normally get content from dougbelshaw.com via the RSS feed or emails, you might want to stop by the actual site. I’ve given it a bit of a facelift:

Why did I do this? Well the reason I did it today is because I’ve been off work due to illness. I must have a bug or something as I feel rough. 🙁 The reason I decided to make it look the way it does is for the following reasons:

  • teaching.mrbelshaw.co.uk had 3 columns and I found it helpful to be able to have two sidebars – more useful content near the top of the page!
  • It now features the avatar I use in most places online (a South Park character I created here)
  • My Twitter updates are now even more prominent. That’s significant as I spend a good deal of time interacting with people in my network. Now I just need a place to integrate the conversations, rather than just my side of them…

Please do feel free to give me some feedback on the redesign. I am aware, for instance, that it takes a while to load the page. Is that a big issue? :-s

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