I have to admit to having started out as very sceptical, particularly around the use of Twitter as a tool for note taking during lectures. I thought after the first session that my doubts had been confirmed – trying to keep up with other peoples’ comments, make my own and edit them down to 160 characters made the whole experience somewhat dissatisfying. I thought that the whole thing was ridiculous and detracted from the quality of the conversation, making a mockery of the idea of a quality intellectual debate about something as crucial as children’s education. How wrong was I proven to be!
In the first session, I found it difficult to keep up with the conversation, difficult to keep my responses down to 160 characters and spent so much time editing and refining responses that I seemed to be somewhat left behind as others posted comments that I dearly would have loved to have responded to but, by the time I was ready to respond, their tweets had disappeared from the timeline and it was time to move on. By the end of the session I felt disappointed and more than a little annoyed by the whole experience feeling that I had been let down by those responsible.
It was during the second session that the power of using a social media tool to enhance a debate really became apparent as contributors from outside the room, even outside the country, came to be involved. To be able to have a real time conversation with someone not even in the same country, let alone in the same room, was a tremendous experience and really showed the ability of social media to add value to a course such as this one. I had learned a little from the experience of the first session, most usefully how to keep track of the comments I was interested in while I composed a response, but also not to worry about missing out on threads in the conversation that might prove interesting while I was concentrating on something else. This helped considerably to add to my experience in the second session.
I also enjoyed writing the blogs in the evening after each session, while events were still relatively fresh in my mind. Using “Storify” helped me to locate all the tweets and to see what, if anything, I had missed. It was also a chance to revisit the session and, although I still don’t like the 160 character limit of Twitter, the combination of the tweets and blogs did add up to a comprehensive set of notes and acted to make the make the many smarter than the few, just as suggested by James Surowiecki in “The Wisdom of Crowds”.
How can this be refined for next year? A better way of communicating during the sessions than Twitter or, at the very least, at least one or two training sessions for the “Twilliterate”, like me, before trying to use it in earnest. Overall, though, this was a very enriching and rewarding experience, one that lived up and exceeded its billing and was very definitely intellectually invigorating.