Thursday, 6 February 2014

Where in #FE is Everyone?

It was Digital Learning Day in the US yesterday and the organisers were encouraging educators to take a pledge to;

"Give every child the opportunity to learn in a robust digital environment everyday, with the goal of success in college and a career. We urge you to make a difference with digital learning in America's schools and take the pledge to support the effective use of technology to improve education for all students"

It is a couple of years since I wrote my Twitter in Further Education report and I am doing some research on #EdChats and conferences at the moment, so decided to download all the Tweets from all the FE hashtags that I could find.

Part of the reason for this is because I have seen, with more and more frequency, people in FE asking for lists of FE people on Twitter, but were finding it tricky to find colleagues... even though its such a pervasive medium now. 

I thought this was a little strange as I had sourced over 2,000 FE related accounts, so decided to explore... and found that the world of Further Education sure does seem to be a little fragmented on Twitter. 

FE Twitter Lists
I pulled together as many FE Twitter accounts as I could find when I was writing my Twitter in FE report and put the following lists together;
I have found that compiling these lists was a good use of time as I can check at a glance what is happening each day in the world of FE.

Not on Twitter yet? Please find these lists on the following spreadsheet – Tech_Stories: FE Twitter Lists.

(NB This is by no means a definitive list and if you’d like your account to be included in any of these lists, please fill out the details on this link – FE Twitter list: New Contact there is also @moodlemckeans - FE & Skills EduTweeters list )

I have continued to explore the world of Twitter in Education over the last 12 months including the use of hashtags and #EdChats.

In January 2013 I noticed that @MrsSarahSimons was trying to establish #ukfechat. As I was "between projects" I offered to use my contacts and sales experience to see if I could help "drum up an FE crowd" find the early adopters to get the session established.

It's a year since I became involved with #ukfechat and was interested to see the extent to which this has been established. I wonder if you can spot the same thing that I did... Here are some stats;

NB The reason I have separated the contributors i.e over 10 Vs under 3 Tweets is because anyone with less than 3 Tweets may have been "replying" to a tweet and are less likely to be a regular member of the hashtag community. For the same reason I have discounted anyone with less than 3 Tweets (All data and stats are included below).

Top Contributors
The most regular contributors for each hashtag include (Number of Tweets in blue text);

UK Vs US Participation
People who follow my account may have noticed (and may even wonder about), my participation in US EdChats when my focus is on UK Further Education. There are 2 reasons for this;

1) I am always on the look out for new ideas that might be useful to FE, and
2) The use of Twitter within the FE Community still appears to be in the early stages

My exploration of the world of Twitter in Education over the last 12 months has given me lots of new ideas. In the world of #EdChats and Hashtags there appears to be a defacto hashtag in just about every area of Education, so people can find out what’s happening with a quick search of the hashtag. 

This includes different areas of education whether by age rage, subject, use of teaching methods/technology or location. In the UK this includes #ukedchat #SLTChat #EdChatie and #Niedchat.

Having a number of hashtags might not be unusual for a community of 400 institutions, 200,000 members of staff and 5 million students may have difference areas they wish to discuss - especially as there are 2,000+ FE based accounts. But with FE having a number of hashtags appears to be some what divisive.

I recall an article doing the rounds in the US last year called "Tweet Thine Enemy" is the FE equivalent "Avoid that Hashtag?"

I like an #FEParty with an Atmosphere
I was never quite sure of what the #FEparty hashtag meant, whether it was FE Weeks dedicated hashtag or if it was an hashtag that was like @Stu_Voice & #Stuvoice in the US. Looking at this data has helped answer this question for me.

The crazy thing is that #ukfechat have looked to include students in their discussions and would have been extremely interested in hearing these students' views and opinions on their education.

On a similar note, something that has been particularly surprising is, given how small a community FE is (and how few people are on Twitter) is that people are not using more than 1 or 2 of these hashtags;

Sector Breakdown
Not only there only appear to be a very small number of people getting involved with any of these Hashtag discussions (133 Accounts using a hashtag 10+ times; 247 using a hashtag 3 times or less), but this is compounded when you look at the type of accounts using them, as there appears to only be 68 people based at an FE College;

So what are my takeaways from this dataset?
  • Further Education on Twitter is a fragmented place, one where people have their preferred hashtag and there is little by way of cross communication;
         If you want to reach college staff who are early adopters, use #ukfechat
         If you want to reach students or FE News providers, use #FeParty
         If you want to reach an FE Supplier, use #furthered
         If you want to reach the wider FE Community... Not sure Twitter is the best medium
  • Most of the work that I am doing is looking at ways that suppliers can engage with educators in a welcome and collaborative manner, and even when I look at the Twitter data from BETT there only appear to be 4-5 FE people (and it was interesting to note that a former Minister for FE posted 4-5 Tweets at the BETT conference; opposed to 1 on any FE Hashtags... despite their being 60+ times he was @Mentioned on #FE hashtags)

    I said in my Tech in FE report how, with just a little co-ordination FE could be a great launchpad for startups, I wonder if the sector will get there.

    That said as someone with a "commercial" background, along with the data I am looking at elsewhere I wonder if my involvement with #ukfechat is a help or a hindrance... after all some 25-30% of Tweets on the #BETT2014 hashtag were from suppliers saying "Look at us... look at us..."
  • The differences in the use of Twitter in the US compared with the UK remains marked, on a day when the US is making pledges to make a difference with digital learning, with so few members of staff at colleges exploring the merits of online communities.

    It makes you wonder what guidance our students are getting, if following the Twitter stream for any particular TV show is to go by, there is cause for concern.

    On the day when a poll by knowthenet finds that over half our young people are using social media, data like this makes you wonder if anywhere near 50% of our educators are teaching digital citizenship, because let's not forget that before you can be a digital teacher, you need to be a digital learner.

    An active member of the FE Community made a suggestion around the same time I published my Twitter in FE report. His suggestion was this; MoodleMcKean - World of Twitter

    Paul I think this is an extremely important area and happy to help make this happen, and can think of a few others that I think would get behind this, particularly as;
  • Any role that I had with #ukfechat is complete. I said I would use the professional persistence from my sales skills to help drum up a crowd, it appears from this data that this has been achieved.

    I'll be contemplating on what role to continue to play in this #ukfechat community... and, indeed the wider FE Community too. As my own report highlights;

    "Persistence is critical to entrepreneurial success, but stubbornness can kill 
    a business"

    Anyone who knows me will testify that I sure have been persistent, and I've tried different ways to engage FE but, after 13 years, I'm getting tired.

    The full dataset that provided these stats can be found on the following link - #FE Hashtag Data 

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