Student Engagement

Zoom zoom zoom?

As part of the Spring 2016 VCU Online Learning Experience (OLE), I participated in a synchronous video chat using Zoom. While it was the first time I used Zoom, it was not my first time using video chat for communication. I have used Google hangouts, appear.in, Facetime, and Skype at the very least. That being said, this post is about video chatting in general, not about Zoom itself.

I don’t really love the synchronous video chat, personally, but come to think of it, I don’t really like talking on the phone, either. Video adds the added “bonus” of seeing oneself on camera, which can be lovely for some, but not so much for others (myself included in that last group). Still, it can be a useful tool for varied situations.

The idea in the OLE here is to introduce possibilities. There are many. Some will resonate more than others with participants. Some will get excited and decide they want to USE EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD BECAUSE THIS IS ALL SO COOL!

via GIPHY

Yes, I might have been that person at one point. The neat thing is the different perspectives that show up. For example, the conversation that I had in my group talked about various uses of video chat, in small groups and in large groups. Some saw it as a useful tool for one-on-one or small group meetings with students but felt that with more than about 4 people, it becomes unruly. Another possible use was that of recording a chat between a few people and posting it. Another took that a step further and said that it was a good way to get a message out to a large group all at once, where maybe only one to three people were actually videoconferencing while the other hundred folks were engaged in back-channel conversation either within the video chat platform or via something like Twitter. The next thing I know, two of them have figured out how to embed Twitter into their Blackboard course sites to create the back-channel conversation within the LMS they’re required to use. A few minutes after we wrapped up our video chat, one of them tweeted a link with the how-to instructions. As my team leader would say, “Connected learning, FTW.”

Twitterpated?

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!