Using word clouds for social collaborative learning

Google wordcloud - Tes from Jisc article : Listen, understand, act: social media for engagement

Google word cloud – Created from a Jisc article: Listen, understand, act: social media for engagement


What is a word cloud?

A word cloud is a graphical representation of word frequency. I am big fan of word clouds and have introduced these to my own students to visually analyse a piece of text and also as a visual representation of keywords as a graphic to use in posters, both printed and as digital infographics. Continue reading

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From stars to hearts: Twitter’s latest update

hearts and stars

Twitter uses have been able to save or bookmark tweets as favourites for a long time. As with many digital applications there are always ways to appropriate functions designed to do one thing for another purpose. The star symbol was the icon to click on to save an interesting post often with an added link and these could be viewed at a later point by viewing your ‘favourites’.  However users also began to use this function as a sign of appreciation in place of a tweet or as an acknowledgement you’d read the tweet. Much like the like button in Facebook. Continue reading

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400 million members – Why LinkedIn is so important for our students and future graduates


Public domain image: Pixabay

LinkedIn operates the world’s largest professional network on the Internet with more than 400 million members in over 200 countries and territories. Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second.  There are over 39 million students and recent college graduates on LinkedIn. They are LinkedIn’s fastest-growing demographic. (LinkedIn October 2015). Continue reading

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Ways to get ‘snapshot feedback’ from Students or Peers using the new Twitter poll

Twitter polling

Last week Twitter announced that they were rolling out a new poll option that you can use within a Tweet. Users will be able to create their own two-choice poll right directly from the Tweet compose box and it will remain live for 24 hours. Users will be able to vote on any poll, and how you voted will not be shared publicly. Continue reading

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Some pinteresting visual ways to curate information in #HigherEd


What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social bookmarking site that allows users to visually share and discover new interests by posting (known as ‘pinning’) images or videos to their own or others’ boards (i.e. a collection of ‘pins,’ usually with a common theme or topic). A pin is a visual bookmark. Users can browse what other users have pinned, like and comment, or re-pin to one of their own boards. They can also choose to follow individual or collections of boards.

By clicking on the pinned image you will be taken back to the site it came from. This is an important aspect as it connects the image with the creator. You may also upload your own images. Pins and boards can be shared via social networks. Continue reading

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What makes a good Tweet engaging?

Public domain image: Pixabay

Public domain image: Pixabay


Tweeting and brevity go hand in hand. With just 140 characters it is important that our tweeted messages are succinct, make sense, and are engaging. There are a number of pointers that can help to increase engagement. Continue reading

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Why is it useful for educators to participate in a Tweet Chat?


Social CPD

Social Media at its best is interactive and sparks dialogue, discussion, debate, questions and the opportunity for social learning with others. Of course it can also be useful to both broadcast useful information and be the conduit to find such information. One way of interacting is taking part in a live tweet chat. It is a rewarding way to spend an hour and an opportunity to learn with others.

What is a tweet chat?

A tweet chat is a virtual live event which is usually focused around a pre-determined topic and a series of questions. This can be a one-off or a a regular event that happens at the same time/day of the week. Typically a chat lasts for an hour. Each tweet chat is given a hashtag which is a pre-chosen word preceded with #. For example #LTHEchat (see below). The facilitator of the chat will include the hashtag in all questions raised during the chat and participants should include the hashtag in their answers. This means that tweets containing the hashtag can be filtered from other tweets. To do this participants simply need to search for the hashtag within Twitter.

How do you join in?

  • First of all identify a tweet chat that you are interested in. This may have been promoted or one that you happen upon as people you follow are tweeting about it.
  • Open Twitter and search for the tweet chat hashtag to filter the chat tweets. It may also be helpful to open a second Twitter tab and search for the Twitter account posting the questions.
  • Look for the questions posted and post your answer, remembering to include the chat hashtag within your tweet. You may also be asked to include A1, A2, A3 etc, to indicate which question you are answering.
  • You can also respond to others people’s answers by adding to the point made, challenging it or questioning it if you need more clarification – just as you would in a face to face conversation. The only difference is the brevity! You only have 140 characters and need to use some of these for the hashtag.

An example of a tweet chat

#LTHEchat is short for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education chat. This tweetchat was created by the community for the comunity. Details can be found at and by following @LTHEchat. Each week there is a different topic relating to learning and teaching. Following the chat, the tweets are curated using Storify and saved as an archive story of the chat.
These can be found at

So why join a chat?

Tweet chats provide a great opportunity to learn with other educators sharing an interest in learning and teaching, or any topic that relates to your discipline, hobbies or learning focus. You can then build your connections by following interesting people, who when they see you participating are likely to follow you back. This helps to build your personal learning communities and networks.

During the chat not only do participants answer the questions, they share links to valuable resources such as papers, books, websites, podcasts and videos relating to the topic being discussed. As you see these, you can favourite the tweet to go back to later.

If you are new to tweetchats, then by all means ‘listen in’ and get a feel for the conversations taking place. It will at first appear to be very busy, however you will get used to the flow very quickly and before you know it want to engage in the rich conversations.

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Some thoughts on growing and engaging your Twitter follower base

Public domain image : Pixabay

Public domain image : Pixabay

Who are you Tweeting to?

This is an important question to consider. It may be that you have just started Tweeting and deciding who you think might be interesting to follow. As you become more confident it is likely that you will begin to find pockets of topics that particularly engage you or have information you need to reach a given audience. You may be Tweeting

  • on behalf of the Library, Careers, IT Support or even you own University
    – sharing details of events, status updates, links to useful articles, open days
  • to your students
    – sharing links to course related videos or podcasts
    – in the form of an open Q&A
  • to other educators
    – sharing information about learning and teaching
    – promoting and hosting a Tweetchat e.g. #LTHEchat

Whoever your audience is, it is in your own interests to use Twitter to share relevant and timely information. Think about how you are engaged by the Tweets of others. It is unlikely that it is just through broadcast updates. One of the indicators that tell you that your Tweets are being appreciated is the number of followers you have. The value of a follower is that by self-opting to see your Tweets they are more likely to interact with you. This may be in the form of a discussion or simply a retweet. However you should also be mindful of positive silent engagement, where people may be ‘listening’ and taking in what you Tweet and finding this useful, but never make themselves known. Chance conversations when you bump into followers face to face may alert you to such instances.

Not all followers are genuinely interested in you 

It is normal to see a fluctuation in numbers where Twitter followers suddenly unfollow you. I’ve found this can happen if a) I don’t follow someone back and b) I do follow back but then find I am immediately unfollowed.  There are times when I am followed  or mentioned in a Tweet for no apparent reason and there is no logical connection. This usually correlates with an account with large numbers of followers. I suspect some are auto-follows triggered by a keyword in one of my Tweets. This type of follower is unlikely to be interested in my Tweets and more likely to simply be looking to increase their own number of followers.

Unethical practice

There many rogues out in the Twittersphere trying to tempt users to buy followers. You may quite rightly question why on earth would anyone want to do this, but it is a practice that occurs, the motif being to appear ‘popular’. It is not only unethical, the Twitter rules are clear and state that an account may be suspended for Terms of Service violations if  rules are broken. These include:

  • If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile
  • Selling or purchasing account interactions (such as selling or purchasing followers, retweets, favorites, etc.)
  • Using or promoting third-party services or apps that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast” or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account)

Engaging your audience

In business the aim to grow a following is high up on the list in order to reach out to a potential customer base. It is important however to promote your account safely and ethically. In my own context of using Twitter it is good to have new followers, but quality rules over quantity.  I don’t follow everyone that follows me, and choose to make an informed decision based on the bio of that new follower. I hope that the number of followers I have will grow organically because the information I share is both useful and engaging, and when retweeted it is the content and observed conversations that attracts new followers. It may be that engagement happens though a shared hashtag.

Tweinds have created a useful infographic on how grow your followers the right way. In simple terms this means ways that will promote your account to people you would want to join your community.

How to grow your Twitter following

Tweinds is a directory of social media users listed by country and interests.

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10 Tips to develop or enhance your blog

Public domain image from Pixabay

Public domain image from Pixabay

This post aims to highlight some simple but valuable tips you can use to develop or indeed enhance your blog.

1. Start from the blog itself

Choose a nice template and make use of the header to visually display what your blog is about. Be careful with colour – you may like dark grunge or psychedelic bright but will these colours be off putting to potential readers of your blog? Add a tagline to convey the theme of your blog posts. Create an About page and tell people about yourself and the purpose of your blog.

2. Be social

Consider your voice and tone and try to aim somewhere between informal and formal. Develop a social body language that comes over as friendly. When a post is inspired by others include their name and a link to their work which could be an article or book they have written, their blog or website; or a video they have created or are recorded in. Add links to the social spaces you use and invite readers to connect with you.

3. Encourage readers’ comments

To develop interaction with readers a call to action can be useful. Encourage readers to share their thoughts and experience. Add a simple question at the end of the post to encourage discussion. However do be sure to listen out for comments and respond where appropriate. You can choose to screen readers’ comments before publishing (therefore diminishing the risk of the odd spam that may come your way – simply delete unsavory comments).

4. Have a clear purpose

Having a specific niche area will help you to build loyal readers who share an interest in the area you are writing about. Think about your audience and write posts that will engage them. Posts don’t have to be long – consider quality over quantity. Create additional pages to share further information.

5. Offer tutorials and how to posts

What may seem simple to one person is a stumbling block for others. Write step by step guides, integrating screenshots where appropriate. Where it is more complex consider creating a screencast video and adding this to the post. Respond to questions raised by your community.

6. Promote your blog

People won’t read your posts unless they know about them. Add the option to get email updates on your blog. Use a variety of social media to share your posts and reach potential readers. On WordPress it is easy to link your blog to Twitter so that auto tweets are created each time you release a post.

7. Add sharing buttons

When someone reads and enjoys your post, make it east for them to share via social media by adding sharing buttons. People are less likely to take the trouble to copy and past the title of the post, add the link and a summary and then share via their social networks. Make it easy for them!

8. Write findable content

You don’t need to be an SEO (search engine optimisation) expert to increase the chances of your posts being found via Google. Include the keywords people would use to search for that topic in your post and in the title.

9. Ensure your blog is mobile friendly

Check that you have enabled the mobile theme on your blog (In WordPress go to Appearance and Mobile Options). Readers will then see an adjusted screen view to suit the device they are using. Don’t make readers have to stretch the text to be able to read sections of your post!

10. Proofread before posting

Read through what you have written or better still get someone else to read through the post before your release it, It is so easy to miss the odd typo.

What would you add to this list?

This post was inspired by an article written about blogging for business by Social Media Week.

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How can you use Twitter to shape your learning?

Twitter bird

Public domain image via Pixabay


The useful infographic below was created by TeachThought and the University of Southern California (with permission to re-use). Thanks Anne Hole for tweeting this.

The infographic looks at two important ways to use Twitter: a) in the classroom and b) for professional development. Below are both tips from the infographic and suggestions I have added.

Using Twitter in the classroom

Find resources

  • Have students conduct interviews with experts and industry thought leaders during Twitter chats
  • Invite alumni speakers and ask students to tweet key points, then curate using Storify
  • Find creative lesson plans. education websites and classroom resources from educators using Twitter across the globe

Develop students’ thinking

  • Teaching maths? Have students analyse the statistics of a viral tweet using Twitter analystics
  • Have students tweet their thesis statements during the writing process so they can share and improve them in small groups
  • Take tweet notes during a lecture and add their own links to other resources

Engage with your professional learning network (PLN)

  • Connect with like-minded thought leaders in your area. Organise meet-ups and attend conferences
  • Take part in open online webinars or courses and tweet useful information with your network
  • Strive for 25% of your followers to be people who have unique perspectives. Don’t just focus on your own niche area or specialism.


Using Twitter for professional development

Follow education thought leaders

This may need some research as whilst some examples given such as @TeachThought and @Edutopia are useful across many disciplines irrespective of the age of our students or discipline, it is useful to build a network that meets your needs. In UK higher education my recommendations would include @Jisc, @HEAcademy, @SEDA_UK_, @QAAtweets. Then look at who these accounts follow and identify educators who are sharing and discussing information you find interesting.

Use Twitter’s search bar

Type in keywords of things you’re interested in to see what (and who) people are talking about. Find something interesting e.g. search for ‘online learning’, ‘flipped classroom’, ‘digital classroom’.

Know your hashtags

These are a valuable tool to use to follow and participate in conversations on certain topics and themed Twitter chats. Look into #edchat, #phdchat, #lthechat. Take a look at Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Chat‘s website and follow @LTHEchat to get a flavour.

Engage with your colleagues

Retweeting and favouriting useful resources, asking or answering questions, sharing resources you have found that may be of interest to peers. Remember you will get more out of Twitter if you engage in conversations. You will be surprised how much you can learn with others through informal learning in this space.

Made possible by TeachThought and USC Rossier’s online Master of Arts in Teaching degree

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