Twittering birds and headless dogs

An old friend of mine, Carol Daunt (Brisbane, Australia) has single handedly turned me on to Plurk. Plurk, despite its silly name, is a microblogging tool that is at once both jolly good fun and strangely addictive. It got me thinking - as I clumsily divided my time between Twitter and Plurk - about the potential learning and teaching affordances of the two tools. How do they differ and how can we leverage (if we should even attempt to) these tools into pedagogy. I also implied the question about splitting time between the two, because as everyone knows, men aren't allowed to be multi-taskers! - it simply isn't credible to at least half of the population. As these social networking microblogging tools grow in popularity and users build up huge followings which make them even harder to cut loose from - how can we harness their power for better communication, collaboration and smarter learning?

So I posted this question on my Twitter stream - "Anyone using either Twitter or Plurk with students for real learning/teaching? Or are they inappropriate tools for those kind of purposes?"

Drew Buddie (The Digital Maverick from Rickmansworth, England) was first to respond within a few seconds. He reported that he had used Twitter to show his students the power of social networking in an instantaneous way - with live answer coming back from his Twitter followers. As I have done the same thing with my students recently, and also during a workshop in Austria last month, I agree that this is a powerful demonstration. Kim Gaskins (Cambridge, Massahusetts: USA) felt that the choice was clear - some of the online discussion groups she had experienced were 'a mess' and Twitter did seem a lot cleaner. This was due to the ability for users to folow specific people, choose what to respond to, guided by clearly defined icons so that they could identify who is who on a preserved feed. Ann Steckel (California State University Chico, USA) said that some of the nursing faculty there use Twitter with their students to enablen them to connect when they are working asynchronously, and that the tool is incorporated into BlackBoard.

It was brought to my attention by Michelle A Hoyle (London, England) that A J Cann (Leicester, England) is using a combination of Twitter and Friendfeed with his students with some success. Michelle herself believes that Plurk is a better collaborative tool because it is threaded and these threads can be bookmarked/archived. I admit it does seem to be more difficult to follow particular threads on Twitter, particularly when you are following 151,475 Twitterers like some people do. She advises using Tweetdeck which allows you to define groups of people and easily follow threads of Tweets. Without this kind of bolt-on tool, the signal to noise ration can be impossible to cut through. Jose Picardo (Nottingham, Ehgland) has used Edmodo.com to rationalise use of Jaiku, Twitter and Plurk.

James McConville (Vancouver, Canada) tried out Plurk after reading my tweets and declared that it seemed addictive. This is an issue I think can be attributed to the immediacy (the synchronous chat boxes) and also the 'Karma' feature which makes Plurk almost game like.

So this was an interesting conversation with about a dozen people from all over the globe, in just a few minutes. It has yielded some interesting ideas, some of which I intend to follow up on when I get a break from all the marking I am doing at the moment. If anyone else out there has any comments, views or tips on using either of these two tools, or anything related to them, please comment below. See you on Plurk. Or Twitter. Or if you are able to multi-task .... both. (I may faint).

Comments

Mrs. Basilio said…
Plurk has not only enlarged my learning community but also increased my technology toolbox. Every day, I learn about technology that can engage, enrich, and empower my students. In addition, I am communicating on a daily basis with educators and professionals from around the world. I consider them my friends. PLURK ON !
AJC said…
Hi Steve.

For an individual, it all depends where your social network is. For my edtechie babble, the network is on Twitter - I'd be pretty lonely on Plurk. However, if you want to start building a purposed network, as we have been doing for two student cohorts recently, then I guess you could use either, I'm not sure the affordances of one outweigh the other. Sure, Plurk has extra features, but personally I prefer Twitter because for me, microblogging (or presence as I prefer to think of it) is all about lightweight.

How's it going? Still analyzing, but: http://tinyurl.com/5vzuw9 and http://tinyurl.com/5sc5hq
Doug Woods said…
I find Plurk a little bit more difficult than twitter and so prefer the latter.
Twitter is more established and many more of my friends/contacts use it rather than the newer Plurk.
I can't help but be annoyed that Plurk's timeline seems to be the wrong way round.
Sarah Horrigan said…
Martin Weller was also responsible for introducing a whole load of students on the Masters course 'Learning in the Connected Economy' to Twitter last February. I don't know what proportion of stickability there was, but I know that a fair few are still using it now, even though the course ended a couple of months ago.

Me - I like Twitter for broader edtech chat / sharing resources / feeling the flow of the world outside my deskness.... Plurk is good for more informal stuff afforded by the threading and 'friend / fan' subscription distinction. It's also good for a bit more detailed edtech chat - also because of the threading and because the informal element allows for the building of trust and hence deeper conversation.

Or something along those lines. It's all blurry reallY! :o)
LearnTel said…
My take on it would be that Twitter is for comments & Plurk is for discussions. The drop down comments box in Plurk seems to lend itself to more cohesive discussions.

I have different connections in each - so maybe that's a reflection on the different people rather than the technology?

Welcome to the slippery slide of being bilingual Steve! (And don't blame it all on me :-)
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for all the comments which are very helpful for those of us who are still getting to grips with new microblogging tools. The concepts are sometimes as hard to master as the tools themselves. And Carol - no blame attached, but a big thank you for pointing me in the right direction in the first place.... :0) Any additional comments from anyone will be welcomed!
Elizabeth said…
Hi Steve,

I've just joined Plurk for a month now and I must say it has enhanced my learning community. Borrowing from one of my plurk friends, plurk is shaping to be my "Personal Learning Network". It is an interactive place where I can talk to people who are interested in the same interests. It is also easier to follow conversations due to the threaded display and keep updated with the latest posts with the timeline feature (cf. with twitter). The "karma" bit is also very motivating and keeps you wanting to increase you participation in plurk. A possible way that I think I can use it for students is the use of the "cliques" feature to send messages to certain groups - but I have not tried that out yet.

Btw, Bill Graziadei is compiling a list of educators on plurk at
http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?key=p-lJl9dLLkI8dMjHNHWdsIw
You can view the list here:
http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=p-lJl9dLLkI8dMjHNHWdsIw&hl=en

Warm regards,
Elizabeth Koh

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