Friday, 28 January 2011

How to use Tweetdeck

First, you need an account with Twitter . In the beginning this is probably sufficient, as you will not have too many contacts.
There are two types: People you follow, and people who follow you. A good way to find out who to follow is to look at the #TT (teacher Tuesday) and #FF (follow Friday) nominations. On these days teachers on twitter suggest great people to add to your list. You can click on their names to find out about them before you decide. You might even like to add people that they follow when you look at their profile. Many people will follow you back.

But imagine that you want to follow what is happening in BAW.
I suggest that you download TWEETDECK This will allow you to put your contacts into columns, such as #BAW2011.

On opening Tweetdeck you will see a list of columns. These are my choices today. I can change the number and category of columns by clicking on the silver button with the plus sign

OK. On the left hand side are two rows of buttons. There are another two rows of buttons on the right, and there are buttons below each tweet.

LHS: Top               Yellow button: you don’t need this if you write your message in the large grey box which says ‘What’s happening?’
Silver Plus sign: this will add a column. You can choose between the core columns, your own lists, or add a new column. To do this you write the hashtag# and the name of the column you would like to open e.g #BAW2011. Now you have added a new column.
Red Splodge: if you would like to find out about someone who is sending you tweets you can access their profile information here.
LHS: Bottom
Url shortener: by default this is switched on. If you add a long address to a tweet it will be automatically shortened. Click here if you want to switch the feature off.
Tweet shrinker: You can write a tweet using a maximum of 140 characters, including spaces. This tool will help shorten (e.g. Four will become 4) saving space.
Translate: you can use the dropdown menu and translate into a variety of languages.I don’t know how efficient this is, but try it out.
Recent Hashtags:this will find you the hashtags to add to your message (or you can control this in another way).

RHS: Top               Refresh: speaks for itself
Single Column View: You can keep #BAW2011 open and not be distracted by any other tweets at the same time. This is good if you are having a conversation. Wednesday at 12 and 21GMT every week there is a great discussion forum called #ELTchat. It is so fast and furious that anything else would be a distraction.
Spanner: this is a drop down menu for the settings. It is worth having a look and playing with these to customise your tweetdeck.
Log Out
RHS: Bottom         Teardrop:if you want, you can add your location.
Camera: upload your photos or videos here. Make sure that they are not too big.  Write your tweet, click on the icon, browse your machine, upload, and press send.
Video: use your webcam to record a video and upload it.

If you want to reply to a tweet:
Click on the thumbnail pic. There are 4 possibilities. You can reply (but others can read your tweet) You can DirectMessage (private), you can retweet, so that others can read it, or you can save it as a favourite to read later.
The Plus sign under the tweet will allow you to add the tweeter to your list of followers, if you want to. If you are not happy to have this person as a contact, you can block them by clicking on the picture, opening the flower on the lower right, and clicking User, Block.
Have fun, and ask if you need help. Everyone is really friendly.

Hands around the World.

Last night was very interesting. The moderators, this week, of BAW2011  had decided to introduce  communication tools to the newbies, so Wednesday was a Skype day, and Thursday was for Twitter.
By the time I logged in, the session had moved to tweetdeck and its uses.In order to help the people who were unfamiliar with the tool, it was decided to do a walk through, using Skype conferencing.
Well, I am becoming more tech-savvy all the time, but it was actually thrilling to be involved.
I suddenly realised that I was speaking to Mbarek in Morocco,Teresa in Portugal,Maria in Argentina,Svetlana in Czech Republic, Marisa in Greece, and Juan (not sure where he's from) ALL AT THE SAME TIME! How cool is that?
In the back of my mind, I am aware of being able to connect like this, but when you consider it, it's an amazing thing to do. Not only is the world becoming smaller, but the access to these fantastic educators is a prize beyond compare.
There was a lot to take in for the teachers who were unfamiliar with the tools, so we ended up investigating how to make groups in Skype, leaving Tweetdeck for another time. I even offered to do a summary of how to use it, which will be posted to the group forum.
What a long way I have travelled.It was only a couple of weeks ago that I did my first summary at all. This was for #ELTchat, and involved trawling through about a million tweets and re-tweets(only a slight exaggeration) to extract the main points. Second time around doesn't hold the same terror.
It's the same with this blog :the more I post and reflect,the easier it feels.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

EVO week three

Tuesday of week 3 and I am feeling more relaxed today. The Making Materials session is fantastic. This week we are learning lots about handling photos and layout in documents, where to get free pictures and texts, and ideas for using word clouds.
This time we only have to post two pieces of work to the participants forum, but I have lots of things to try out at the end of the session.
I was able to point the team in the direction of ELTpics, so I hope that they will join in and add to the collection.

For the BAW2011 sessions, we started the week by listening to Michael Coughlan talking about synchronous and asynchronous tools. I hadn't realised how lucky I was, being able to just plug in and take part, until I saw how many of the others had problems with audio or the visuals. Juggling the chat and the power-point  presentation on my screen at the same time took a bit of getting used to. This was not helped when some of the other participants decided to DM me during the chat. Apologies to the people on Twitter, who might have enjoyed having the main points relayed.
One thing it did make me think about was the possibility of something similar happening when I am teaching. I think it will always be necessary to have a plan B option when using tools such as these. Yahoo Messenger was interesting. I have tried using Skype to do TESOL interviews and once with a student, but I didn't like the lack of visuals available. I was impressed with the simplicity of downloading a pre-prepared power-point to use for the visual element, while listening to the speaker explaining his points. I really liked the way he stopped regularly to ask for participation from the audience.This ability to speak, read and listen and write gives it the edge, for me, over tapped-in, which is purely chat. It is also great to be able to put names and voices together.
I feel sure that being comfortable with Blended Learning will become a necessity for teachers in the future. Already there are universities which upload their content to moodle- type facilities, allowing students to study without leaving their homes.
Today I had a lovely chat on Yahoo with Teresa. We just happened to be on-line at the same time and were able to communicate very naturally.
Some of the asynchronous possibilities are less practical if you don't spend hours of the day online. I can see that online classes would work better with these, as the course members can log on at the time that suits them best, but personally I like reasonably quick feedback.
Anyway, these are just my thoughts so far, and I reserve the right to change them as the course develops and I gain more experience with the tools.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Address to the Haggis

I am a member of a ceilidh band. We play traditional music from the British Isles, Europe and America. As you can imagine, that means we are very busy at certain times of the year when celebrations loom. January is the time for all exiled Scots, or people associated in some way with them, to celebrate the birth of Scotland's national poet, Robert Burns.He was a colourful character who left a long legacy of poetry and songs ; probably his most well-known one would be Auld Lang Syne, which people around the world sing at New Year.
Tonight is the first of many bookings for the band. Burns' Night is 25th  January and all the associations try to book their Burns Night celebrations as close as possible to the day. By the time we have finished we will have played for 6 different groups.
As a Scot, I love these occasions. I love the music, watching the dancers have fun as they whirl round the room doing The Gay Gordons or a Dashing White Sergeant, and even the food.

First comes my favourite part : the Haggis(oatmeal onion, spices and sheep's innards) is piped into the room by the Pipe Major of the local band. As our paths cross regularly in our musical circles, we know all the pipers and drummers, but on these occasions we only see one of them. I suppose the others are doing the same thing somewhere else.
Then we say  the Selkirk Grace:
Some hae meat, and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat, and we can eat
Sae let the lord be thankit.

Before we eat it, there is the Address to the haggis. Written by Burns you can read it, and the English translation,  or watch it below.

Next is the Immortal Memory speech, where someone will extol the virtues of Burns life and poetry. If done well this is very interesting, but usually serious.
A chance to introduce humour comes with a Toast to the Lasses (the Ladies present), and the reply to the Laddies( the gentlemen).

After dinner, by which time a liberal amount of whisky has been imbibed, the tables are cleared away for the dancing. This is our turn. We start  with a brisk number, guaranteed to get people up onto the dance floor, and we're off.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Operation Overload

What made me think I could masquerade as a tech confident teacher this time round? Oh yes - I have been giving my colleagues a tech link of the week since the summer. I am now the recognised expert in the staffroom, but that's only because the others were dinosaurs before I started.

I decided to do the BAW2011 session and one of the others too. There are not enough hours in the day to cope with all the fantastic links being sent my way. I am glad that I have a few weeks off so that I can concentrate, but I will need to come up for air at some point.

What a difference a year makes

Well, here we are in January and it's time for the annual Becoming a Webhead sessions. I would love to shake the hand of the person who sent me the original invitation last January. In 2009 I was a complete novice. I didn't really know my way round a computer, and felt that at my age, I was fine doing the same old..
What a difference a year makes.
The first eye-opener was the BAW2010 sessions. I signed up with a little trepidation and barely managed to keep my feet on the ground. I was amazed at the camaraderie from around the world, and the patience and knowledge of the various moderators. A lot of the new ideas didn't start to sink in until the course was over and I had some time to reflect.
My first attempt was to build a wiki for my CertTesol trainees. I am pleased with the results of my work and grateful for all the help and advice which came my way.
But I still resisted twitter; I didn't need to tell people what I was having for lunch. My mistake!
I didn't know that twitter was going to be the best thing that has happened to me in a long time. It is like a worldwide staffroom where everyone shares resources. The ELT giants use it too and it is a great leveller, there is no standing on ceremony.Having learnt a bit more about the possibilities for use, at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, I couldn't wait to get home and try it out. It took a couple of weeks of lurking before I was ready to add my tuppence-worth. I made a new set of friends, and stayed in contact with many of the people I had met through BAW2010.
One of the highlights of the year was meeting up with the Webheads who made it to Harrogate. Another was the tweet-up in Paris in November at TESOL France.
Here we are in January again and all I can say is Bring It On.