It was about this time last year that SEDA held the Spring 2011 Conference in Edinburgh. I was unable to attend, but delighted to find a handful of people at the event were tweeting, one of whom was David Walker (@drdjwalker). His tweets and others gave me a flavour of some of the highlights and key messages they were getting from the keynotes and workshops. I found this very useful, however as I mentioned there were just a few tweeting. The Twitter ‘backchannel’ as it has become known has been growing at other events and as I reflected upon the value I have got from using Twitter, it struck me that as an educational developer I should be sharing this with those colleagues who were perhaps unfamiliar or not confident in using Twitter or indeed other social media. The use of social media is an excellent way to extend your personal learning network and opens new ways to communicate and collaborate online. The forthcoming annual SEDA conference in November had recently put a call out for papers and the theme was technology enhanced learning. I contacted David Walker to see if he would like to co-facilitate a workshop that would introduce people to Twitter and the value of social media as tools to develop personal learning networks. He very enthusiastically said yes. It was an ideal opportunity to share what we had learnt and what the benefits could be for others.
Fast forward to November 2011…
The proposal was accepted and our session titled Using Social Media to Develop a Personal Learning Network was very well attended with standing room only. Delegates thanked us afterwards for giving them the encouragement and motivation to jump in and join the conversations taking place on Twitter. People were tweeting messages and including links to related websites, papers and blogs; adding photos taken in sessions to capture hand drawn mind maps, the flurry of activity as well photos of the speakers. Within each tweet they added the pre-agreed conference hashtag #sedacon16. By inserting #sedaconf16 to each tweet, it makes it possible for others to run a search in Twitter for the hashtag and then view all these tweets in one stream.
People following this stream or backchannel picked out tweets and retweeted them, thus cascading messages to those following their tweets. It is this ripple effect that is so powerful. Not only did people who were aware of the conference but not attending join in the dialogue, others who followed these people happened upon the tweets and also engaged in the conversations. Some had never come across SEDA as a community.
This brings me to this year’s Spring 2012 Conference, which I followed through Twitter. Whilst there were not as many tweeting, the dialogue was very rich and useful. Tweets using the hashtag #sedaconf12 commenced before the conference had started. This was a great way to signal who was going to be there, enabling people to make arrangements to meet up on arrival. They alerted followers of @Seda_UK what this year’s conference hashtag was going to be. The tweets and retweets engaged both attendees and those from afar. Post conference the tweets were reflective and it was clear that many of the attendees had left the event with much to think about. Even as a virtual attendee of the conference I was able to pick up useful links people were sharing.
Visualising the conversations
Using Storify I was able to capture a snapshot of the conference tweets . This is a lovely way to visually collate useful links and photos and to add some context of the event in the form of a ‘story’. I also used Archivist to archive the tweets. This simple to use tool also analyzes the tweets and produces brightly coloured graphs capturing the top tweeters, comparison of tweets and retweets, most frequently used words and urls shared.
Sue Beckingham FSEDA
SEDA’s Twitter handle: @seda_uk_