eAssessment Scotland 2010: Twitter workshop reflections

Last Friday I ran a Twitter workshop as part of ‘eAssessment Scotland 2010: Marking the decade’. In the programme I described the session as:

What’s happening? Twitter for Assessment, Feedback and Communication

Twitter is a social networking site which continues to divide personal opinion. Some believe that the micro-blogging service is just an opportunity celebrities to boost their ego with millions of followers or just full of people ‘tweeting’ what they had for lunch. Whilst some users do use Twitter for this purpose a number of academics are now discovering that Twitter has the potential to support teaching and learning, providing a means to enable students to discuss and share within their personal learning network. Before you dismiss Twitter there are some basics worth considering: the service is free to register, status updates can be made from the most basic mobile phone, and users can monitor conversations through multiple means including, for some users, sending free SMS updates.

This workshop uses some of the features of Twitter highlighted above to let participants experience and use this service as a free electronic voting system (EVS), for classroom administration (assessment notification/reminders) and to monitor real-time student evaluation. As this technology is relatively new the workshop will begin with an overview of basic Twitter interaction making it suitable for novice and expert users.

I was perhaps too ambitious to include ‘novice’ users and it would have been better if I either focused on beginners or intermediate/advance users. The workshop I delivered was probably more beneficial for the later, but hopefully novice users were tantalised by the utility of twitter.

During the workshop I really missed having Timo Elliott’s PowerPoint AutoTweet tool (which is broken because of authentication changes at Twitter). This would have been really useful to send out links during the presentation (this example shows how I used it for another presentation).

As a number of participants had only just created Twitter accounts the week before it looks like Twitter quarantines their tweets preventing them from appearing in search results (I guess they wait until you hit some threshold in terms of following/followers/tweets to make sure the account isn’t being used from spam).

In the sides you’ll noticed I’ve revived the Twitter voting tool (TwEVS). Previously this solution relied on using Yahoo Pipes to manipulate results from Twitter, which meant graphs didn’t always have the latest results because of caching. To get around this I’ve created a script which can be run from a webserver. Here is the new TwEVS interface (you can also download the code).