Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

The Twitter Treasure Hunt

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How would you go about trying to get your students anyone to understand twitter if you only have an hour to do it? (There is a good “why” for the rush*, but i won’t go into it now). Please help me improve my ideas below

What has not worked at all
In the past, I’ve explained twitter to my adult student-teachers (and also my colleagues at the Center, and faculty at my university) by showing them a visual, a video, and describing stuff, then showing it to them, showing myself doing it, letting them do a couple of small tasks, and posting further resources. Ugh, doesn’t work. I still remember wincing at the way my students conceived of searching for hashtags as if they were googling something. And the way they kept forgetting their twitter usernames (no, really!). I remember how faculty wanted to use twitter to send something to all their class (hello? Thats what those darn LMS’s do well). Also my colleague who got upset when I followed her from our departmental account. Ummm

So I decided the only way to show em how to do it, is to get em to do it. Make it fun. Treasure hunt?

In recent discussions with several of my social media friends, we’ve been talking about how people who are not “connected” don’t really understand what we’re all excited about: they don’t get twitter (most ppl get facebook now, all our parents are on it); they don’t get cMOOCs. One of the reasons, I think, is that you can’t really describe it very well, or describing it does not do it justice.

I was a pretty well-connected person before I ever did a cMOOC, and I totally did not “get it” until I tried it fully in #rhizo14 (I kinda got it in #edcmooc, but was not on facebook or blogging at the time, so incomplete experience). I definitely didn’t get #tvsz til I tried it.

Twitter is just one of those things you don’t get until you use it well. IMHO

So I think next semester, to prepare my students for a twitter game, I will give a twitter orientation via a twitter scavenger hunt (I am not too clear on diff betw this and a treasure hunt btw). The idea is not totally new to me, it’s not mine: a journalism prof here has done it, so I am taking inspiration from her.

So the idea is to get students to do certain tasks, and that those tasks help them improve their twitter literacy.

Some basic tasks that need to be in there are:
1. Create an account (obviously). added later: Andrea Rhen on twitter suggested we discuss use of real name vs pseudonym. This could be an interesting one, particularly that many ppl in Egypt have similar names and might HAVE to get creative. It is also interesting how many ppl use twitter professionally but with fun pseudonyms.

2. Start following some people. Now twitter asks you to do that anyway; I may ask them to follow certain people, have part of the “hunt” be to find certain people

Treasure Hunt ideas
3. I am thinking of asking them to try and get at least 15 followers, or if they’re already on twitter, to get 15 more followers, at the end of a certain time period. Easiest is to follow each other in the class. And yes, I am keeping this on my blog, maybe they’ll find it 🙂

4. Take a photo of something (what? not sure; could be a creative thing where they find a spot they like or they photograph something from a weird distance…. oh and maybe others need to guess what it is by replying to the tweet… see next step) on campus, and tweet it with the class hashtag (this requires them having smartphones or tablets, so maybe I can pair them to make sure at least one of them has that option)

5. Respond to another person in class, guessing what their photo is of, or where it was taken or something?

6. If they work in pairs, they can split the “tasks” but need to tag each other on tweets

7. send me a private message on twitter if they have questions about the assignment (this requires that they follow me and I them, but they don’t know that yet)

8. tweet a useful twitter tidbit they find as they’re learning to use it, tweet it with the hashtag #edtech or something…

9. find something useful on twitter (what? Not sure yet) and retweet it

10. find a piece of news that was tweeted at a certain minute of the day (hmmm) and retweet it

11. (I also want them to explore tweetdeck or hootsuite or such but not sure how to approach this)

12. Bonus points to the first three students who respond to tweets I post during the treasure hunt time (could play with these questions so that they also improve twitter literacy maybe)

I still kinda feel like they won’t “get” everything I want them to know about twitter, but it is a start. Just thinking of how much scaffolding they’ll need before the hunt itself. Will prob just ask them to google twitter how-to guides or something and their first tweet would maybe be a link to the how-to guide. I should probably get them to change their ‘egg’ profile pic and write sthg in their profile but I don’t want them rushing it. Maybe the photo they take on campus could be their profile pic. Maybe they do selfies. I don’t know

I also need to figure out how to handle things if some of the students are already on twitter. It would be cool, maybe I could have them do something different, like be mentors for others as well via DM or something.
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As further reading, I may give them this: I was recently reading Howard Rheingold on Twitter in his book Net Smart, then found this great link that summarizes that part of the book, so that’ll be easy to share with my students. It also links to these resources, but since my students are freshmen of diff majors, I do not want to have a journalism focus.

Possible handouts (thanks to Pete Rorabaugh for sharing):
Jesse Stommel’s
Pete Rorabaugh’s

[Added later: also thanks to Vanessa & Rhonda for sharing this really brief but really good Alec Couros video about twitter for educators]

* I want them to play a twitter game in November but I don’t meet them til later in the semester as my module starts the last third of the semester. I can meet them once earlier than our official start date, so i wanna use the class time for this twitter orientation.

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