#LearnIT: Blog it! Tweet It! Film It! Wiki It!

That was the name of a staff-student exchange forum which I attended earlier this week. Georgina Turner wrote a blog post on the event at the Digi Learn Blog.

My impression is that there are plenty of exciting opportunities to use social media in teaching but that we have not yet seen the take off. The barriers seem to be more cultural, for both staff and student, than technical. While I am looking forward to the 10 days of Twitter at the University of Liverpool (particularly the last three days as I am already a regular Twitter user), setting up a Twitter account, a YouTube channel or a blog does not require any particular advanced technical skills. It requires a desire to engage and experiment with these tools. There are plenty of open resources to help.

The few things I picked up from the workshop because they resonate with my experience or things I want to do:

  • Students blog/videos etc: open platform or closed? As mentioned by Georgina, we heard from Dr Ian Walkington, and one of his students, Alistair Craig. Ian had asked students to create some videos about climate change (with an engineering angle; I don’t have the exact topic at hand – nor the videos…). They both emphasized that the exercise was an excuse to learn about an academic topic as well as learning how to use efficiently modern communication tools. Ian had made the decision to keep the videos private, i.e. hosted on our University VITAL platform, rather than say YouTube. Alistair seemed to regret that choice and I tend to agree with him that publishing those videos and sharing them more widely would be beneficial for everybody. A great example is the work of @Prof_Dave and his first year Chemistry student video channel. This experiment is further discussed in iTube, YouTube, WeTube: Social Media Videos in Chemistry Education and Outreach, J. Chem. Educ., 2014, 91 (10), pp 1594–1599. We are planning to do something similar for our Biochemistry students from next year as part of a third year module.
  • Georgina mentioned the use of Twitter walls to make lectures to large groups interactive. Sounds like a good idea which I might also experiment next year within another module (quantitative skills to first year biology students where I teach to about ~300 students). I have experimented with Polls Everywhere with some success but Twitter walls offer different possibilities. Georgina mentioned technical difficulties but it looks like our support team has this in hands.

Not discussed in the workshop, but something I have started experimenting with this year and I am very keen to push further in the years to come, is the use of open science notebooks for scientific research projects such as our Honours projects. Gemma Carolan (3rd year student), with the support of Dave Mason, image analyst in our Centre for Cell Imaging (and also new blogger) is currently live publishing her results here. Through this process, students would learn about the benefits of open science, get feedback on their work potentially from scientists around the world, disseminate their research, and also improve their digital literacy skills.

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