Month: May 2015


I was asked about how I tend to use Twitter. Realizing that the spectrum of use is as wide as the great blue ocean, I will consider myself a fairly new tweeter. That being said, I can think of at least six ways that I have used Twitter over the last 16 months since I have started collaborating with the VCUALTLab team:

  1. Lurk and learn
  2. Tweet out blog posts
  3. Narrate (“live tweet”) from an event
  4. Engage in a specific synchronous chat
  5. Remember something someone says
  6. Ask for opinions
Kayleigh Mae sees the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

Kayleigh Mae sees the Atlantic Ocean for the first time.

The fun thing is, when you use it for a different thing, and that thing clicks, that childlike feeling of excitement happens.

If I were to think about the continuing evolution of my exploration of Twitter, I’d say that I started out with the first thing on my list – the “lurk and learn.” I started using Twitter at work, so I followed all of my colleagues. Some of them have been on Twitter for a while, so I looked to see who else they were following and who followed them, to expand my network to people outside VCU. I found a public figure or two, like the Dalai Lama. I found journals like JAMA and The Lancet. I discovered the FDA and the CDC on Twitter too. My interest in integrative health and complementary/alternative medicine led me to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and its Center for Complementary & Integrative Health (NCCIH). I searched a few hashtags for personal interests too, like #Disney. I follow Walt Disney World, and my favorite Disney-related podcast, WDW Today. Through my favorite of the podcasters, Len Testa, I started to find more Disney Tweeps  (Twitter+people=Tweeps). I started out lurking. It’s like being at a party and listening to conversations, getting a feel for what people do and how. At some point, I started joining in. I also started tweeting out links to my website when I would post something new.

Of course, there is always live tweeting from an event, whether that event is a conference or a personal journey or trip. Most recently, I have tweeted with #VCUALTfest, which everyone should plan on coming to next May. That is all I will say about that, because that is a separate post waiting to happen. I have found Twitter useful during events like this not only for participating in back-channel conversations and seeing what is happening in other sessions, but also if I hear or see something I want to remember while at these events. It’s like I’m  journaling.  I also often tweet to Jonah Holland (@lewisginter) as I walk through Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. She retweets my pictures, often identifying plants, flowers, and critters for me and those who follow her. I had a really fun experience as I was tweeting from Disney World last fall. I had just received a new Magic Band from my husband, and went to Guest Relations to get it activated, and the Cast Member who helped me (Kyle) commented on my e-mail address, and when I told him that Professor Figment was who I was everywhere, he said “OH! I follow you on Twitter!” Of course I followed him back right that second and had a few conversations with him over the rest of my visit.

 During one of my lurk and learn sessions (ok, I was maybe chatting a little bit too), I saw that NCCIH was about to have a live chat. They tweeted out to join them using the hashtag #SupplementChat. I did some lurking, some retweeting, and participated a bit in a discussion about safety and herb-medication interactions. I picked up several new followers during the chat hour and started following a few new people too.

 At some point, I realized that one Twitter stream was not enough for me to keep up with all of this at once. I have found Tweetdeck a useful tool for helping me organize the many conversations at once. I always have a column for the #VCUALTLab tweets, which come not only from my colleagues, but also anyone else in the Twitterverse who uses that hashtag in a tweet. I also have a column for #FOAMed (Free Open Access Meducation). There are a couple of groups that I follow as well. During a live chat like the one mentioned above, I make a new column for use during that chat. I look forward to continuing to expand and refine my network of Tweeps as I continue to engage with the Twitterverse and beyond. I hope you do too! Follow me @ProfFigment. I’ll see you there!


TGIF…but how did I let it get here so quickly?

Tenets of Taekwondo

Tenets of Taekwondo

Today is the Friday of Teacher Appreciation Week. Usually during this week, I choose at least a teacher a day and thank them in some way, be it a gift, a note, a meal, or some other way I can show appreciation. So why on earth has it taken me until Friday to do anything at all this week? As I continue to hang out at work with those I affectionately call “edufolk,” (read M.Ed., Ed.D., Ph.D. in Education) I find myself thinking a great deal about myself as a teacher and learner, others as teachers and learners, and teaching and learning in general. One of the realizations I have come to is that I believe that just about every interaction is an opportunity for learning. This also means that just about everyone has an opportunity to be a teacher. I not only want to learn from my students, I expect it. I learn from my children all the time. I learn from their teachers. I learn from my colleagues, my friends, my family, and my own former and current teachers. It would seem, then, that I have entirely too many people to thank. I am indeed appreciative of all the wondrous learning connections I have! That being said, it is also important not to belittle the title of “Teacher.” The capital “T” there is intentional. These are people who have purposely chosen to be conscious in this act of stimulating our minds with new knowledge and perspective. These are people who have dedicated their careers to that process. These are people from whom we likely learn far more than the subject matter at hand. Two current Teachers come immediately to mind. Dr. Dace Svikis, who was not only my post-doc mentor, but also modeled compassion and positivity beyond what I had experienced, I thank you. Grandmaster Phuong, who not only teaches my family martial arts, but also models discipline, kindness, and the Tenets of Taekwondo, I thank you and all of the Koryo family. It is also graduation day for the VCU School of Pharmacy Class of 2015. I have learned a great deal in the time I spent with you both in the classroom and on social media, formally and informally, and for that I am appreciative. It was with the Class of 2015 that I reimagined a course sequence, tried some things out (some worked, some did not, of course), and embarked on a new path in my own career. Thank you for all you have taught me.

This may be the last day of Teacher Appreciation Week 2015, but gratitude for those who Teach us (and also teach us) is not limited to one week. Thank someone for teaching you something. Teach someone something. And absolutely think about a “capital-T Teacher” in your life and let them know what they mean to you.