Category Archives: Twitter

Alternative Communication Channels for Educators: The TweetChat

It is now 40 years ago since the first email was sent. How thrilled many of us were when we were first able to send and receive emails. Friends, family and colleagues at the time wondered what the fuss was about, preferring to communicate by letter or memo. A further 20 years on and the first SMS text was sent in 1992. We now send in excess of 8 trillion text messages a year. Today our communication channels provide ever increasing choices. The growth of social media and digital technology have enabled people from all over the world to communicate and collaborate; many from the mobile devices they carry in their pockets. This year Twitter turned 6 years old and 340 million tweets are now shared per day.

A Conversation

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Our own SEDA community regularly share information using Twitter. SEDA’s Twitter name is @seda_uk_ and now has over one and a half thousand followers. Educators from all over world are connecting through Twitter and use this communication channel to share resources and provide a forum for questions and answers. Despite the restriction of 140 characters it is possible to send succinct but very useful messages that anyone can read which contain links to websites, papers, book reviews, news articles as well video, audio or images.

Over the last couple of years a growing number have engaged in online conversations using a #hashtag to collate tweets at a specific event – For example the recent SEDA Conference used #SEDA12.  By typing the hashtag into the Twtter search bar, it will filter all tweets containing this. (See the post Using Twitter to extend the conference: before, during and after for more information about tweeting at conferences).

You can join the 1553 followers of SEDA on Twitter by following @seda_uk_ 


Twitter users are also using hashtags as a means of filtering  a planned discussion. These are often referred to as  a TweetChat. Many take place at regular intervals; others as one offs. The infographic further down this post from Faculty Ecommons has collated examples of the many hashtags used by Educators. A new #hashtag to add to the list is #EmpDevChat. This new TweetChat will be taking place for the first time on December 12th and will provide an opportunity for Educators to try out this new communication channel, either as a participant or an observer.


Employability Twitter ‘chat’ – Wednesday December 12th, 4-5pm

As ‘employability developers’, one of the most important questions for us (and for the people we are working with) concerns the very practical matter of what makes curricular initiatives to increase student employability successful.

We are interested in practical approaches to this, and plan to hold a Twitter chat on “Strategies for Embedding Employability in the HE Curriculum”. Within this general theme, we will present several specific questions and let the conversation develop.  A record of the session will be collated and made available through Storify after the event.

This is an experiment, and we’ve no idea how many people will take part, or if it will be successful, but if so, it may well be the first of a series of such events!

Ruth Lawton (@RuthLawton), Birmingham City University

Jeff Waldock (@jeffwaldock) and Sue Beckingham FSEDA (@suebecks), Sheffield Hallam University

Further information:

What is a TweetChat?
A TweetChat is a virtual meeting or gathering on Twitter to discuss a common topic. The chat usually lasts one hour and will include some questions to stimulate discussion. Questions will be preceded with Q1, Q2, Q3 etc.
For example: Q1 How do we make students recognise employability skills as important and relevant to their course of study? #EmpDevchat

Where will I find the TweetChat?
Create an account on Twitter and then use the search facility to find #EmpDevchat. Depending on your Twitter tool you may be able to save this.

How do I take part?
If you wish to respond to a question include the hashtag #EmpDevchat within your tweet and precede your tweet with A1, A2, A3 etc.

For example: A1 By including work related activities that help the students develop relevant skills #EmpDevchat.

Do I have to tweet to take part?
No you don’t though your contributions will be valued! By following the hashtag #EmpDevchat you can simply read the questions raised and answers by those who respond.

If I can’t make the timeslot can I follow the TweetChat later?
Yes you can view the discussion by searching for #EmpDevchat

Will a summary of the session made available afterwards?
Yes – we will use Storify to summarise the conversations that each question gives rise to, and post the results back to #EmpDevChat.


Twitter Hashtags Infographic

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Posted by Sue Beckingham FSEDA


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Writing for PLN

Building on the excellent post by Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) on the value of using Twitter to extend the ‘conference conversation’, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the potential of Twitter and associated social media tools to support academic writing – particularly for early-career academics. In a recent presentation at a writing retreat organised by Edinburgh Napier University, I made the case that engaging with new and emerging forms of social media and investing in our personal learning network (PLN) can afford significant benefits when writing for publication. I began by sharing the views of Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) from the University of Plymouth ( on the characteristics of the ‘Connected Educator’, and used the analogy of circle time to illustrate our ability to use social media to observe and learn from others with similar professional interests, move within and between different personal and professional circles and develop a sense of community. Emphasis was placed on the ‘personal’ and distinctive nature of each individual’s use of social media – the tools/channels favoured, different contextual uses and need to be conscious of your digital profile and footprint.

In the context of academic writing, blogging was discussed as a useful means to improve writing discipline and to develop your ‘academic voice’. I highlighted the growing number of specialist networks available on Twitter to support those engaged in academic writing (#acwri), doctoral studies (#phdchat) or wishing to participate in more general conversations around UK education (#ukedchat). These channels provide access to rich seams of ideas, resources and like-minded individuals to connect with. More than that, they can become a powerful source of support – both moral and practical. In my talk I also touched on the dramatic changes social media are driving in relation to the traditional model of academic publishing and the developing culture of openness. Appropriately used, social media can dramatically increase the potential readership of published work (particularly work submitted to open source journals) but challenges remain to the early career academic with regards to the professional credibility associated with publishing in ‘closed’ journals. Watch this space.

So to summarise, there are many tools that could form part of your personal learning network but it’s about choosing the right tools for you. It’s personal. Whether you wish to be passive or actively contribute to the networks you connect with is your decision. It’s individual and collaborative. It’s also about sharing and without doubt the more you nurture your network the greater it will grow and the more you will receive.

David Walker (@drdjwalker)

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Using Twitter to extend the conference conversation: before, during and after


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.

Virtual attendee

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.

archive of tweets

Sue Beckingham FSEDA


Useful links




SEDA’s Twitter handle: @seda_uk_

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