Monday, 22 September 2014

CEL263: an emerging community

On a Friday afternoon, just over a week ago, I started with a new group of participants on our Learning Technologies module, CEL263, part of the PG Diploma in Academic Practice offered at CELT. During  the module, we explore various technologies for teaching and learning.

For the last number of years I've introduced twitter as a tool for communication as part of the course. Every year we have a few people who user twitter, some who have twitter accounts (but little more) and some who have never explored twitter at all. To motivate, participants can earn a Twitter Novice badge, awarded for completing a twitter profile and tweeting a few things using the #cel263 hashtag.

I also maintain a twitter list, which includes all the people who have been enrolled on the module in the last 5 years - currently 61 people. They are not all active, but those who keep tweeting make a great contribution to the CEL263 weekly newsletter, which is full of news and articles all year round.

So, that Friday afternoon, just before class, I posted a tweet to my followers asking them to help demonstrate the power of twitter, confident that I would get a good response:
A number of people responded, mostly from Ireland and the UK, and one from Canada (thanks if you were one of those people).

During the afternoon, my new fledgling group began creating their first few tweets, some with confidence, and others with great trepidation. They began to follow each other and build a small twitter community. We projected a twitter search onto the board in the room, and tracked progress.

But the real magic happened later that evening, long after the class had finished. Sitting back relaxing at home, I kept a watch out for anybody in the class dipping into twitter and sending some tweets of encouragement. To my surprise, previous members of the group (some who had never tweeted before CEL263) began to tweets words of welcome and encouragement:

 And when one student expressed doubts:
How wonderful to see such a community emerging. It has taken some time, but communities can't be engineered. They take time and need nurturing. But the fruits, when they appear, are very rewarding.

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