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:
Showing a group of academics the power of twitter. Pls say hi, where you are, and why you use twitter. Use #cel263.A number of people responded, mostly from Ireland and the UK, and one from Canada (thanks if you were one of those people).
— Sharon Flynn (@sharonlflynn) September 12, 2014
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:
@sharonlflynn @gerry_molloy Well hello to the new class. One year on this skeptic quite enjoys a little tweeting as a result of #cel263
— Dr. Jane Walsh (@DrJaneWalsh) September 12, 2014
@helen_dodson welcome to twitter Helen! @sharonlflynn & #cel263 got me started too & I've never looked back. Great for latest science news
— Róisín Dwyer (@RoisinMDwyer) September 12, 2014
@RoisinMDwyer @helen_dodson @sharonlflynn yeah welcome Helen
— Dara Cannon (@DaraCannon) September 13, 2014
And when one student expressed doubts:
@SarahBerthaud it's a great resource for research. Give it time :)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.
— Rose Ní Dhubhda (@RoseNiDhubhda) September 12, 2014