Finding the good stuff

Social media can be overwhelming…

And this can make finding the really good stuff really rather difficult. The Schumpeter column in The Economist has an interesting take on this.

Most commentary on social media ignores an obvious truth—that the value of things is largely determined by their rarity. The more people tweet, the less attention people will pay to any individual tweet. The more people “friend” even passing acquaintances, the less meaning such connections have. As communication grows ever easier, the important thing is detecting whispers of useful information in a howling hurricane of noise. For speakers, the new world will be expensive. Companies will have to invest in ever more channels to capture the same number of ears. For listeners, it will be baffling. Everyone will need better filters—editors, analysts, middle managers and so on—to help them extract meaning from the blizzard of buzz.

It’s not a wholly original point but it is well made. It’s a challenge for individuals as well as for universities and other organisations. The problem is, I think, the more you fret about it, the worse it seems. Moreover, by the time you have analysed the position, the entire world has moved on. So, don’t worry, just go with it is my lightweight solution to this particular challenge. Hey, it’s Friday.

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Twitter banality = academic credibility?

Professors With Personal Tweets Get High Credibility Marks

A piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on an experiment at a US college to investigate students’ views of their teachers’ use of Twitter. The article also highlights a number of academics using Twitter in creative ways to support their teaching. It’s a small and slightly dispiriting study:

Kirsten A. Johnson always wondered whether her personal posts on Twitter, Facebook, and other social-networking Web sites affected her credibility in the eyes of her students.

So the assistant professor in communications at Elizabethtown College designed an experiment for 120 students at the college and has just reported the results. It turns out that professors with personal Twitter streams appear to be more credible than those who stick to business. The study, co-authored with Jamie Bartolino, one of her students, appears in the most recent issue of Learning, Media and Technology.

The researchers created three accounts on Twitter for three fictional “professors” named Caitlin Milton, Caitlyn Milton, and Katelyn Milton. One account was filled personal tweets (“Feeling good after an early morning swim at the rec center”), the second with scholarly ones (“working on a study about how social-networking sites can be used in educational settings), and the third with a combination.

To Ms. Johnson’s surprise, when the students were surveyed, they rated the personal professor the highest on measures of competence, trustworthiness, and caring—which adds up to credibility.

So it would seem that academics should just forget about using Twitter for anything useful in the classroom. Unless they are unconcerned about their “competence, trustworthiness, and caring”. Meantime, we’ll wait for the experiment looking at attitudes to administrators who post personal tweets.

Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Report on the use of Twitter in Higher Education 2010

Interesting report on Twitter in HE which includes a survey on academic staff use.

Is Twitter a powerful learning tool or a colossal waste of time? It depends whom you ask. In its second annual survey on the popular micro-blogging technology, Faculty Focus found a great divide in how professors perceive Twitter, including whether it should be used in the classroom or is best reserved for networking with peers.

Of those who currently use Twitter, the most common activities include “to share information with peers” and “as a real-time news source.” Instructional uses, such as “to communicate with students” and “as a learning tool in the classroom” are less popular, although both activities saw increases over the previous year.

Non-users expressed concerns that Twitter creates poor writing skills and could be yet another classroom distraction. Many also noted that very few of their students use Twitter. Finally, a new trend that emerged this year centered on the belief that many feel they already have too many places to post messages or check for student questions/comments. As one professor put it, “I have no interest in adding yet another communication tool to my overloaded life.”

In addition, Times Higher Education has recently published a feature on social media use in UK HE:

The experts seem to be divided not only on social media’s future, but also on their present in terms of their use by academics, and the research that has been done has reached contradictory conclusions. A survey of UK institutions conducted by online consultants Jadu shows a high level of use among academics, with more than 70 per cent of respondents using social media in some way.

And includes this entertaining comment from someone slightly sceptical about the value of social media:

“You can’t get a degree on Facebook; you can’t get a degree from Twitter. Social media are forms of communication; they are no substitute for the university as the place where your curriculum is structured, where you learn. You don’t get a degree for reading books; you read books to get a degree. The same is true of social media.”

So, opinions divided then. No surprises there.

Ways universities share information using social media

Universities using social media

social-media

A very interesting set of examples this: 10 Ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media

What this really highlights is how many more opportunities there are better to exploit social media for all sorts of useful information-sharing purposes. At Nottingham we use just a few of these methods consistently and therefore there remains plenty of scope for development. Some good progress recently but we have a long way to go to catch up with the leaders in this arena.