I was participating in a discussion on Venessa Miemis’s blog, emergent by design re. Web 3.0 as a move to a collective social media consciousness. (See here) While collective productive consciousness is one of the bright sides of social media, the collective “gang” consciousness is one of its dark sides. As adults, some people have experienced cyberbullying, but by-in-large, this has been relegated by many in education as an issue of tweens & teens. (Not so…but as you will find, research on cyberbullying of adults–whether by other adults or by students is VERY thin. I will share what I know on that in another post when I have time.)
People are discovering the Dana Boyd debacle @ Web 2.0 (See http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/11/24/spectacle_at_we.html ) This has sparked discussions re. the shifting power dynamic between presenters & attendees who are Twitter-wise. I would hazard to extend this paradigm shift to instructors/teachers and students who are Twitter-wise. My prediction is that RateMyProfessor will look like a love-fest compared to the “rate my lesson” that will spring up from students using Twitter on a variety of mobile devices. While easier to spot in a small classroom, the larger lecture-hall will be a breeding ground. So post-secondary, watch-out. A few reports are surfacing in post-secondary where instructors have consciously made the Twitter stream a part of their sessions–and taken a few lumps over it. What can they know about the unsanctioned streams?
Like all groups, a tone can be set, and if people get vicious, you can bet others will jump on the wagon. We need to be prepared for this. A Twitter backchannel can be consciously created by the presenter/instructor or the atttendees/students can do it at will. No presenter or teacher can control the Twitterverse. My advice to any presenter or teacher today is–always assume there is a backchannel. What do you want it to say about you?
I am finding comments/gripes springing up about the Twitter backchannel , especially where presenters are not fully prepared for the session they are walking into–that be briefing by the organizers re. format ala Dana Boyd’s situation where a twitter stream was posting live and large behind her or dealing with Twitterlash from tech issues that weren’t dealt with in sufficient time to insure a smooth operation. (BTW, This is not solely the responsibility of tech support personnel.)
The Twitterverse and access to it, ups the ante re. what’s expected of us as prepared professionals. We can be better and Twitter chatter can be an indicator that we should be. It would be nice if conference organizers prepped all their presenters re. the Twitter (and other social media) protocols for that particular conference, and it would be great to incorporate some Twitter (and social media) etiquette in your schools, classes lectures–some of this can be beyond your control.
What we can control for are:
- Before a conference check in with organizers: Are there Twitter back channels, hashtags, etc. encouraged? Will there be a projected Twitter stream when you’re presenting, etc.? Where will it be–behind you where you can’t monitor it? On a monitor pointed your way? A side wall? Any other social media aspects you should be aware of? Do they have/provide a social media etiquette note in the conference brochure online or in print? Is there a mention of etiquette in any kick-off events like the MC during the first few keynotes?
- Decide if you want to consciously address the Twitterverse in the kick-off to your presentation/lesson: Do you want to establish your own specific backchannel, hashtags, etc.? Do you want to project a Twitter stream, watch it on a podium monitor, actively incorporate it at specific points, etc/? Do you want to have a quick etiquette reminder–just like some people remind attendees/students to shut off cell phones? Build this into your session or lesson resources like Powerpoints, handouts, Prezi’s whatever.
- & PLEASE check in with IT support WELL ahead of time: Do you have what you need and is it running? Getting into a session 2-5 minutes ahead, in my opinion is NOT due diligence. If you are at a conference and there are sessions the night before, keynote, etc., meet up with the Techies, check out your venue if at all possible. Insure that ALL tech–including access to internet and specific domains is working. The techs will respect you more, likely be dealing with less “panic” situations and have a bit more time to deal reasonably with your issues. I was at a conference in a public school recently. Although I came from out of town, I went in the night of first keynote (that I had to drive to from my hotel–and keynote was lasting only about 1 hour in evening), only to find I had no projector , my “hands-on lab” set-up had not been scheduled and access to some social networking sites–the focus of my several sessions–was problematic due to blockages on the firewall. Because I was there the night before, tech support had plenty of time to get me running smoothly by the next day. One of the managing techies said, “Because you made an effort to get in tonight and check this out, I’m going to make sure this is all working for you.” Do your due tech diligence and leave the crisis tech support for true crises. Now, I know, a night ahead is not always possible, but what about the morning of? Checking the full session before? While others breakfast? During lunch? There are lots of opportunities. That extra investment of time, means you appear prepared and professional–and cuts down on any intimations of incompetence in the Twitterverse. It also lowers any anxiety you might have had over the technology, and lets you focus on your presentation and lesson. Surely the recipe for a solid presentation experience for all.
While most of what I write may be applicable to other social media as well, right now the power seems to be residing in the Tweet. If you are not careful, the Tweet can be mightier than the presentation or lesson. Be prepared. You want the power of the Tweet fully behind you and your presentation/lesson. Do all that you can to make that happen.