Twitter and Connected Learning

In my Twitter4Canvas workshop and in the CanvasLIVE Twitter Widget demo, I’ve mostly kept the focus on the what-and-how: what are Twitter widgets and how do you use them in Canvas? There are so many possible ways to use Twitter, and these instructions will hold true for any possible use of Twitter. My use of Twitter is very much about connected learning, so that’s what I want to write about in this blog post.

Here are the ways I think about Twitter as a space for connected learning:

CONNECTING WITH STUDENTS. I use a class Twitter account to connect with my students, sharing things that I find at Twitter which I think can be useful and/or fun for them. Because I teach fully online classes, I need to find online ways to connect with my students, and Twitter is one of those ways. Every time they come to Canvas or visit one of our class web spaces (the UnTextbook, our class wiki, etc.), they are likely to see a Twitter stream in the sidebar. Sometimes what they see in the Twitter stream will be related to the content of the class, but often it is something extra: university announcements, campus events, etc. As I work with the students and get to know them, I try to find Twitter items that will appeal to them, as well as sharing Twitter items that help them learn about my own interests. When I find a Twitter item that I am sure will be of interest to a particular student, I send them an email with a link to the Twitter item: that’s one of the best connections of all!

CONNECTING WITH THE WORLD. Both of the classes I teach have a big reach: World Folklore and Mythology (so, yep, that’s potentially the whole world!) and Epics of Ancient India (but I certainly don’t limit it to ancient India; the modern relevance of the epics is a key theme in the class). By using Twitter, I can connect my students to people in other countries, showing the living presence of the class content in people’s lives today. For the Myth-Folklore class, one of the best ways to connect is with the #FolkloreThursday hashtag (it is seriously amazing, week after week), and in the Indian Epics class, I am so excited to connect with authors that we read in the class, especially Devdutt Pattanaik, a personal hero of mine. I can also connect the students with Indian musicians, like Maati Baani, who are doing beautiful fusion folk music; check out their latest video here, honoring the farmers of India: Saccha Mitra (True Friend).

INTERNET CONNECTEDNESS. The strength of the Internet comes from linkiness, the way one thing on the Internet is connected to another and another and another. Even better are embedded links where the browser goes and fetches the linked content and displays it for you, as it does with images and videos. That’s why I prefer real Twitter widgets to the Canvas Twitter app which displays no images or video. The media displays for both images and video in Twitter are really good, even in the tiny widget version. As a general rule, I only reshare that type of “connected” content at Twitter: tweets with images or video, or tweets with links… including the hashtag links that are one of Twitter’s greatest strengths.

HASHTAG CONNECTIONS. Whoever invented the hashtag is an Internet genius in my opinion. The hashtag allows people to connect and find each other in the vastness of Twitter based on shared interests, like the #FolkloreThursday example that I shared above, and as in the phenomenon of Twitter chats, which teachers use so well (like in Oklahoma’s own long-running #OklaEd chat every Sunday evening).

CONNECTING A CLASS NETWORK. Some people also use Twitter as a way for students to connect with other students, which is a great idea in my opinion! In my classes, the students are connecting with each other through their blog network, but if I were not teaching writing (blogs are great for writing), I would definitely consider using Twitter as a platform for building a class network. If anybody reading this blog post uses Twitter for class networking, share your story in the comments!

TWITTER AS PLN. Although my primary use of Twitter is to find and share content with my classes, I also use Twitter as a personal learning network, especially for connecting with other people at my school (I live in NC but I teach “in” Oklahoma, and Twitter is a big part of how I stay informed about what’s happening on the Norman campus). So, to close out this post, I will share this fun infographic from Sylvia Duckworth about connected educators on Twitter:

And of course there are connected cats for that:

I’ll be crossposting this at the Canvas Community.

Twitter4Canvas CanvasLIVE Slides

Here’s the Twitter4Canvas slideshow that I shared, with notes and links below. I’ve also embedded the YouTube from the March 23 event, with apologies for the audio: the mic cord got tangled around my chair wheel (doh!) and it was making terrible clicking sounds. I will be more careful next time (April 6: Blog as homepage!).

Slide 1: CanvasLIVE opening slide.

Slide 2: Twitter4Canvas title slide

Slide 3: Connected Learning with Cats slide
This is the first in a series of Connected Learning with Cats demos for CanvasLIVE. Check out #CLCats at the Community, and you can find more information at the Connected Learning Cats posts here at my blog.

PART A: Using Twitter for CONTENT in your Canvas Course. You may be used to Twitter as a communication tool, and it certainly is that, but what I am focused on here is the use of Twitter as a tool for collecting and (re)sharing content.

Slide 4: Dedicated Class Twitter Account
I teach two courses: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics, hence the name of my class Twitter: @OnlineMythIndiaI would recommend that you create a separate Twitter account just for class content. You can follow Twitter accounts that are related to your class content, and also school events and activities. Then, all you have to do is retweet, and you will have a stream of content for your classes.

Slide 5: Twitter Widgets in Canvas Pages
You can use Twitter widgets anywhere that javascript is accepted, so that might mean in your blog sidebar or in your wiki sidebar, and in Canvas of course! You can see my @OnlineMythIndia Twitter account in this Canvas Page. Canvas doesn’t let you use javascripts in Pages but no worries: I’ll show you how to paste javsacripts into a Canvas File, and then embed that File in a Canvas Page.

Slide 6: Twitter Widgets in Discussion Boards
In addition to displaying a Twitter widget in a Canvas Page, you can display the widget in a Discussion Board, providing a continuous stream of live content for students to react to in the discussion!

PART B: Different TYPES of Twitter Widgets. One of the best things about Twitter is all the different widgets that it lets you create (and don’t worry: to create a widget takes less than a minute!).

Slide 7: Twitter Widgets for Other Accounts
In addition to your own dedicated class Twitter account, you can also create widgets for other Twitter accounts, like your school’s Twitter account, your school newspaper and other news sources, along with libraries and museusm. The slides hows the Twitter widget for our student newspaper.

Slide 8: Twitter Widgets for Hashtag/Search
You can also create widgets for Twitter hashtag/search. So, for example, you could have your students use a distinctive class hashtag, or you can create a widget for an existing Twitter hashtag, including the hashtag of a Twitter chat. The slide shows a hashtag that is incredibly useful for my class: #FolkloreThursday.

Slide 9: Twitter Widgets for Lists
Lists are my favorite Twitter feature: I do pretty much all my reading at Twitter by using lists, and you can create widgets for lists. So, if your students do use Twitter, you could create a list of their accounts. You can create Twitter lists of authors or lists of museums. The slide shows the widget I made with a list of OU’s own museums. Even just a list of two is useful, and here you see tweets from OU’s Natural History Museum and also the Fine Arts Museum. lists of museums: OU’s Museums.

PART C: The Canvas Twitter App. There are some serious (SERIOUS) drawbacks to the Canvas Twitter App.

Slide 10: About the Canvas Twitter App…
Yes, there is a Twitter App for Canvas, but… the Twitter App has some serious limitations: it shows no images; it plays no videos; and it allows no lists. You can see the Canvas Twitter widget on this slide, and on the next slide I’ve got a side-by-side comparison of the Canvas Twitter App and a real Twitter widget.

Slide 11: Twitter App versus Twitter Widget
On this slide, you can see the Canvas Twitter App on the left, and a real Twitter widget on the right, and you can see a live comparison here. Which one do you think students will want to explore? You know they want images and videos.

PART D: Using Twitter Content in Class Assignments. There are so many ways you could use Twitter to prompt student research and writing; here is one example from my classes: Wikipedia Trails.

Slide 12: Twitter Assignment: Wikipedia Trails
There are so many ways you could use Twitter as part of class activities and discussions, and I’ve included just one type of assignment that I use in my classes: Wikipedia Trails. For this assignment, students look at the latest Twitter items, browsing until they find something that grabs their attention, Then they look it up at Wikipedia, and then they go from one Wikipedia to another until they’ve looked at four Wikipedia article. Then they write up a blog post with links to the four articles and a blurb about each one, plus at least one images. Here’s how it looks in Canvas: the assignment instructions are on the left, and the Twitter stream is on the right. 

Slide 13: My Students’ Wikipedia Trails
Because my students are posting their Wikipedia Trails in their blogs, I can use Inoreader, a blog aggregator, to collect their Wikipedia Trail blog posts and then deliver them into Canvas. So, that means you can see the latest Wikipedia Trails from my students here; as students publish new Wikipedia Trail blog posts, they pop up automatically here. It’s the magic of RSS: you can find out more about Inoreader here. 

PART E: The Nitty-GrittyHow to create Twitter widgets and embed them in a Canvas Page (or Discussion Board).

Slide 14: Twitter4Canvas Workshop
I’ve built a Twitter4Canvas Workshop that provides detailed, step-by-step instructions for the whole process: how to set up a Twitter account, how to follow other accounts and retweet the content you want to share with your students, and also how to create Twitter widgets and embed them in Canvas. No previous knowledge of Twitter required.

Slide 15: Create & Embed a Widget: 1
The process for creating and embedding a Twitter widget in Canvas takes about 10 minutes total: it’s not hard at all. The first step is to configure Twitter widget. You just go to your Settings in Twitter, select Widgets, and walk through the Twitter Widget configuration process. Details.

Slide 16: Create & Embed a Widget: 2
Next, you take the Twitter widget javascript code and paste it into a plain text file that you save with an HTML suffix. Details.

Slide 17: Create & Embed a Widget: 3
Now you upload that HTML file into your Canvas Files area. Details.

Slide 18: Create & Embed a Widget: 4
And here’s the magic: you configure an iframe snippet with your Canvas course number and file number, along with the height and widget that will suit your purposes. Details.

Slide 19: Create & Embed a Widget: 5
Just paste that iframe into your Canvas Page (or Discussion Board), and then configure as needed. You can use tables or CSS in order to put text next to the Twitter widget, providing context and instructions for your students. Details.

PART F: Sharing Canvas Widgets. This is a brief note for those of you doing faculty development and support: you can create Twitter widgets for your faculty to use that are literally a matter of copy-and-paste, no configuring required.

Slide 20: Ready-to-Use Widgets
This slide is more for instructional designers and system administrators (and also for geeky faculty like me): in addition to using Canvas File space to host your widget javascript, you can also host javascripts in your own file space, and then share that with others. I’ve been doing that with the Reclaim Hosting Domains project at my school, which gives me my own webspace at So, I’ve published lots of Twitter widget javascripts in that space, and it means other faculty at my school can just copy-and-paste the iframe snippet to use in their own Canvas course pages. That makes it possible to promote campus activities and services across courses, like, for example, the University of Oklahoma Library Twitter. To get a sense of the possibilities, browse my Ready-to-Use Canvas Twitter Widgets. Each Ready-to-Use Twitter widget has its own page there with more information; I’m really hoping to promote this when my campus goes all-Canvas next year.

And that’s all….!

Slide 21: Let’s connect!
As you can guess, I love using Twitter for teaching, so let me know if I can help you explore Twitter options; I’m eager to brainstorm any time. You can ping me at Twitter; I use this Twitter account for myself (separate from my class Twitter): @OnlineCrsLadyAnd you can use the #Twitter4Canvas hashtag too!

Slide 22: CanvasLIVE closing slide.

CanvasLIVE: Planning Twitter4Canvas

Okay, so like with Growth Mindset Cats post yesterday,  this is going to be a brain dump of how I might do a 15-minute presentation on Twitter4Canvas, which seems the other likely candidate for a way to get started with CanvasLIVE. Like yesterday, I’ll start with some “why” examples in terms of teaching and learning, and them zoom in on the technical stuff.

Update. Okay… I am excited about BOTH of these options, but after writing up this post, it’s clear that Twitter4Canvas one is closer to being ready to go; almost everything is already in place, so my guess is that it will be better to do this one first, and then do the Growth Mindset Cats a couple of weeks later after I’ve had a chance to finish documenting those materials more fully. I will see what Stefanie thinks about that! Also, this one provides a kind of lead-in to the idea of dynamic content in Canvas, but it starts with something more familiar: Twitter. I think if people experiment with this first, then some of the strategies in the Growth Mindset cats (other kinds of embedding) will make more sense.

Update again. I’ve been able to radically streamline my Twitter4Canvas Workshop thanks to the Canvas Files trick I learned at Canvas Community, and I have modified this presentation accordingly!

~ ~ ~

Some kind of quick 1-minute introduction followed by:

TWITTER FOR TEACHING (total of 4 minutes): My focus is not on students using Twitter (although that is a great opportunity also), but instead Twitter was a way to deliver fresh, new, real stimulating content to students, especially images and video.

My Class Twitter stream (1 minute). I’ll talk about the sources I draw on to create the @OnlineMythIndia Twitter stream for my classes, and I’ve written a post about Twitter curation: Twitter for Class Content: My Top 5 Strategies. My students see it embedded in my class announcements.

And it can run in other webspaces too, like  at our class wiki.

Other Account streams (1 minute). I’ll show some of the other account streams I’ve widgetized, like our student newspaper

and our Library Twitter account.

Hashtag streams (1 minute): There is an international weekly chat by folklorists at the #FolkloreThursday hashtag:

And there are also occasional hashtags, like the beautiful #ColorOurCollections

Sample Twitter-based assignment (1 minute): Wikipedia Trails (1 minute). One of my favorite ways to use our class Twitter is as the starting point for a Wikipedia Trails assignment. (I should mock this up as a Canvas page; right now it is just a page at my class wiki, and the student blog stream is also just at the wiki, but I can also mock that up as a Canvas page):

Some kind of quick 1-minute transition into next section:

TECHNOLOGY (total of 8 minutes).

Canvas Twitter App versus Real Twitter Widgets (1 minute). It’s all about the media. The Canvas Twitter App displays no media; for me, that makes it a complete nonstarter.

Different Kinds of Twitter Widgets (1 minute). Another difference from the Canvas Twitter App is that Twitter offers a lot of different kinds of widgets, not all of which are supported by the Canvas Twitter App, such as List. Here’s a simple List example: our two university museums, combined in a single list:

Twitter4Canvas Workshop (1 minute). I’ve created a self-guided Twitter4Canvas Workshop which has everything you need to get up and running with Twitter (even if you have never used it before), and to then create a Twitter widget for your account and include it in your Canvas course. The key steps are Creating a Widget, inserting it into a File, and then inserting that File into a Page.

Generate Twitter Widget (1 minute). After you are up and running with Twitter, you can use the Twitter Widget generator to get the Twitter Widget code you need; it just takes a few seconds.

Insert Twitter in Canvas File (1 minute). For the next step, you’ll insert the Twitter Widget you created into a Canvas File:

Insert File into Canvas Page (1 minute). Then, you insert the Cavnas File into your Page; for security reasons, you cannot just paste the Widget directly into your Page, but routing it through the File system takes care of Cavnas’s security concerns:

Canvas Tables (1 minute). Tables can be useful for layout. You might consider putting the Twitter Widget in the right column of a table, and then using the left column to explain what the Twitter stream contains, how to use it for a class assignment, etc.

Ready-to-Use Twitter Widgets (1 minute). One of the other powerful things about Twitter Widgets is that you can share them with others. So, I’ve been making “ready-to-use” Twitter Widgets to share with people at my school. They don’t even have to use Twitter: just copy-and-paste the code snippet, and they can put Twitter into their Canvas Pages directly. So, for example, our student newspaper, as I mentioned earlier:

Quick 1-minute conclusion to review and point to Slidedeck online plus single page with all the links mentioned here.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Friday… and what a great week!

What a long week, but it was soooo productive! I’m going to write up a kind of highlights of this week here just to remind myself of why I am so tired (TGIF: Thank the Goddess It’s Frigg’s-Day), but also why it was such a good week!

1. Google Sites. First and foremost, my students started publishing their project websites. There will be a lot more this weekend, but I had 8 sites go up (Myth-Folklore, Indian Epics), and I was so relieved: the new Google Sites seems to be working great! I’ve been using the old Google Sites since 2010, but I’ll be the first to admit that the old Google Sites was kind of clunky and weird. In particular, the navigation options, while good, were very hard to configure. In the new Google Sites, everything is streamlined; it’s not really my style of web publishing (no access to the HTML at all now), but for my students, I was guessing it would be better than the old Sites… and so far, so good! I put up just one simple page of instructions, and based on that, the students published these sites without asking me a single question about anything! Probably 30 more sites will go up this weekend, so I’m hoping they will all go just as smoothly, and look just as nice, as the ones so far. Check out The Tales of Pegasus: Seeking Love! Nice!

2. Twitter4Canvas. I made a breakthrough with the Twitter4Canvas, figuring out how to share not just a Twitter widget but an entire configured page. I was thinking that it really would be great if all the faculty in the Ed School were promoting @OklaEd chat with all their students, and offering a fully ready-to-go Canvas Page might be the way to do that, so here’s what I came up with: Twitter Widget Ready-to-Use: @OklaEd. I need to document the steps this weekend, because the real goal is not for me to build these pages, but for other people to build and share pages this way. I’m really starting to see this Twitter project as a serious form of distributed content; now I just need to find some people at my school willing to experiment on it with me. I will shamelessly start contacting people by email over the coming weeks to see who’s interested! The selling point is that we are going all-Canvas next Fall, so now is really the time to develop plans like this, test them, and then be ready to promote them heavily with the full Fall roll-out. Fingers crossed.

3. Feedback and Growth Mindset. I watched a CanvasLIVE video that really got me excited about developing more of my growth mindset and feedback materials, especially using distributed approaches like javascript widgets. Here is the video and my thoughts: CanvasLIVE with Janie Ruddy: Feedback!

4. Brainstorms. I also brainstormed all the topics I would eventually like to share through the CanvasLIVE program: Brainstorming. This is going to keep me busy for months, ha ha. But that’s good. When I shared this with my supervisor in the College of Arts & Sciences (I don’t have an academic department; instead, I am employed by the Dean’s Office to teach Gen. Ed. courses online), she was really supportive and enthusiastic, so that made me feel good too. She’s known me since I first started teaching online, and so she can appreciate what an opportunity Canvas has given me: I’ve always wanted to share more of my work with others, but I know most faculty are not going to want to have their own websites and blogs; they want to work in the LMS. Now, with Canvas, I can share my work in ways that integrate with the LMS, making it truly useful to other faculty at my school. I’ve been using widgets and such for over 10 years and now, finally, I have ways to “show and tell” … and I’m just as excited as a little kid in kindergarten on “show and tell” day!

5. Twitter. I really enjoy Twitter as a way to collect and share content with my classes, but this week Twitter AS THERAPY was amazing. From #DressLikeAWoman to #ActualLivingScientist to #ShePersisted, I was so glad and even proud to be a user of Twitter this week, and I look forward to more Twitter consciousness-raising hashtags in the future. Two things I really value: humor AND social justice. We are going to need lots of both in the months to come.

Finally, I also got around to watching For the Love of Spock (free at Netflix!). I cannot hope to find words for how much this film moved me; Spock was my best friend when I was growing up in the 1970s — we moved around a lot, and as a result I had attended 9 different schools by the time I graduated from high school in 1986; I was the “weird new kid” over and over, a friendless and freaky geek. Friendless, that is, except for Spock and my other imaginary Star Trek friends. So, even if you are not a Trekkie, this is a really lovely film…and if you are a Trekkie, it’s a must-watch. But get out your handkerchiefs, especially for the Burning Man scene at the end (you’ve been warned!).

Learning about / with Twitter: Hashtags

I am really enjoying this Twitter4Canvas project: it’s a way to bring the power of the live Internet INSIDE the otherwise static LMS, and it’s also a way for me to think more closely about why I like Twitter so much as a space for learning. In this post, I want to write about the power of hashtags, looking at both their advantages and disadvantages.

The widget I created today for #DressLikeAWoman documents a provocative hashtag event. I don’t know who first used the hashtag, but it happened quickly, and I found so many funny, thought-provoking, and important tweets in the stream. I think it’s a fantastic example of a Twitter response to a political event, self-organizing and self-sustaining. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I will be watching, and having the widget is a good reminder to me about checking in to see how it’s going.

Even better, it seems so far to be free of trolling. One of the perils of open expression at Twitter is the way that trolls can take over a hashtag. That hadn’t happened when I scrolled through the stream just now, which makes it even better. If people object to something, I think they should create their own hashtag, not try to take over an existing hashtag. So far, so good!

Of course, even if trolls do invade a hashtag, that is a teachable moment of its own. So, in terms of how you might use Twitter for a class, it really depends on what you are looking to offer your students:

Hashtag. The hashtag gives you an unfiltered live conversation, with its ups and downs, and even with its trolls. For classes where the conversation medium is itself an object of study, like in a social science class or a journalism class, then looking at the unfiltered hashtag is probably a good option.

Curated Stream. If you don’t want the whole hashtag stream, you can use the hashtag to create a curated stream; to retweet is to curate. This is the main way I use Twitter for my classes. I have a dedicated account for my classes, OnlineMythIndia, and I retweet what I want to share with my students. I follow accounts and I follow hashtags in order to find good stuff to share.

Viral v. local hashtags. Of course, you can also have local, small-scale hashtags, unique hashtags that you yourself are promoting for a specific purpose, like the way hashtags are used for a Twitter chat or for a class. You don’t technically have control of them, but when they are local hashtags, you’re not as likely to see trolling or spamming.

For example, I’m having a lot of fun with the Digital Alchemy: Networked Narratives class right now, and members of the class are using the hashtag #NetNarr to connect. Plus, there is also a curated account by the class organizers @NetNarr. At least for me, Twitter is the glue that holds that class together, and I have already made some new online friends as a result of our Twitter connections.

. And here’s something ironic: I first started thinking about Twitter widgets in Canvas during a winter break two years ago (December 2015 / January 2016) when I participated in HumanMOOC. We didn’t have Canvas yet at my school, so one of my reasons for wanting to participate in HumanMOOC was to learn about how they were using Canvas as a learning space. I experienced a lot of frustration with Canvas then (you can read my blog posts here), but I really enjoyed the very lively Twitter stream associated with the course. At the time, I had suggested that the course organizers put a Twitter stream inside Canvas; that was before I even knew about the poor quality of the Canvas Twitter app. As it turned out, the organizers of the course decided not to put Twitter inside the Canvas space because their goal was to protect the Canvas users from the unpredictable Internet; their design model required that Canvas be completely controlled by the instructors, as opposed to the spontaneous sharing at Twitter.

If I had known then what I know now
, I would have urged them to create a curated stream in order to smooth out the hashtag chaos, and then to create a real Twitter widget in order to share all the tweets with images and video coming from that curated stream. I think that a Twitter stream curated by the instructors would have fit their requirement for total teacher control, while bringing some of the lively interactions from Twitter into the Canvas space (although that’s just a guess; I definitely did not get the point of separating the class into two cohorts divided by an LMS wall).

Meanwhile, I have learned a lot about Canvas and Twitter in the past year, very useful stuff that has led me to the Twitter4Canvas project. And of course the growth mindset cat asks… What can I learn next?  

Whatever it is, I will bring back and share here. 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter4 Canvas blog has launched!

I haven’t been posting here because I have been busy posting at the Twitter4Canvas blog I created to support the Twitter widgets project that I dreamed up here a couple of weeks ago. I am so happy with how that has turned out: Twitter4Canvas blog. 

Because I’m going to be pretty active at the Twitter4Canvas blog too, I’ve added an RSS feed for that blog to the sidebar here. My promise to myself is to post something every day, Monday through Friday, either at this blog or over at the Twitter4Canvas blog. So far, I’ve kept to that promise, and I’ve been learning so much as a result.

And now, here’s a quick summary of what I have over at the Twitter4Canvas blog:

Getting Started. This is a blog post that appears on the front page of the blog (pre-dated so that it is always on top). This explains to people what the Twitter4Canvas project is all about and gives a quick overview of why you might want to use real Twitter widgets in Canvas. This blog post (embedded) is also the homepage of the Twitter Widgets Canvas course that I built, as you can see in this screenshot:

Workshop. The Workshop, either single-session or day by day, is set up in pages that you can access across the top of the blog. Those pages, in turn, contain links to the blog posts with the actual workshop materials:

Ready-to-Use Widgets. There is also a page that lists the Ready-to-Use widgets, each of which also has a blog post, along with a Canvas course page that shows the widget in action and offers the iframe code to copy-and-paste. So far I have four of these ready-to-use widgets: OUDailyOU Writing Center#Folklore Thursday, and #Color Our Collections.

I’m really hoping that some people might want to make use of those widgets since all you need to do is copy-and-paste. Then, after getting a sense of how useful the Twitter content can be, people might be inspired to make their own Twitter widgets for Canvas.

Meanwhile, I’m going to have fun as I keep adding new widgets and other Twitter-related content to that blog. I really enjoy using Twitter for my classes every day, and I hope to share that enjoyment with other Canvas instructors.

I wrote to the manager of our Canvas rollout and training to see if she would publicize the workshop and my ready-to-use widgets. So far, she has not replied. I’m guessing that my approach might be too “different” from the standard approach our training has taken, so maybe she will not agree to include my materials in the Canvas training emails. But different is good, I think, just as this lovely Android video ad shows: Be together. Not the same. 

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter for Class Content: My Top 5 Strategies

The main way that I use Twitter is to create a class content stream for my classes, which you can see here: @OnlineMythIndia. That Twitter stream then shows up via the widget in my Canvas homepage, which is why this post is part of my new Twitter4Canvas project.

If you scroll on down through the tweets, you’ll see that it is a mixture of university-related announcements, motivational content, and also course-specific content about stories from India and around the world. I’ll say more below about just how I find the content that I use. Almost all the content is retweeted; I do very little original tweeting for this account.

One of the best things is being able to follow authors that we read in my India class like Samhita ArniDevdutt PattanaikChitra Divakaruni, and Usha Narayanan. It’s so exciting to be able to talk with these authors at Twitter, and some of my students have interacted with them at Twitter also! Writing this post prompted me to check in with Samhita Arni, for example, and we just now had a fun back-and-forth; I got to meet her Donald-Trump-look-alike cat, Zen, who is a card-carrying, book-wielding communist — that is the fun and spontaneous sharing that Twitter makes possible:

What is especially nice for me is that I am able to use the same stream for both classes that I teach: Myth-Folklore and Indian Epics. There is enough overlap between the two classes that it makes sense to have just one stream, hence my Twitter handle, @OnlineMythIndia, which parallels the handle I use for my personal/professional Twitter account, @OnlineCrsLady.

I started using Twitter in this way back in 2014, and it was my first really successful use of Twitter. I’d had a Twitter account since 2007, and I used Twitter sporadically, but never in a sustained way. Using Twitter for my classes, though, was great: it was so useful and so interesting that it led me to check in at Twitter several times a day every day, and as a result of that my own personal and professional use of Twitter has taken shape as well, but it really began with using Twitter for my classes. As a result, Twitter has become a big part of my own learning every single day. Google+ is where I have conversations with colleagues, but for sheer awareness of “stuff” (books, blogs, art, music, movies, education, politics, etc.), Twitter is now an important part of my online learning life.

What I’ve done below is to list the “top 5” strategies that have made this such an important part of my classes. Mutatis mutandis, some of these strategies might be useful for you too, and of course there are so many different ways in which teachers are using Twitter. If you have useful strategies and tips, please share them in the comments at this post, or tweet them with the hashtag #Twitter4Canvas — and of course you don’t need to be using CanvasLMS to brainstorm together about using Twitter! 🙂

My Top 5 Twitter Strategies

Use a “must-read” list (or lists) to focus your Twitter attention. I’ve followed more accounts than I can really keep up with, but I have a “must-read” list for my Myth class and a “must-read” list for my India class, and I get almost all of my content by reading those lists. Lists are great: you can quickly add/remove accounts from any list, and there are no ads in the stream! I keep these lists private because I add/remove accounts from the list very freely, and I don’t want individuals to read too much into that; it’s very spontaneous based on my shifting interests from day to day and week to week.

Check in twice a day. I check Twitter whenever I have a few minutes to space and want a distraction, but some days I am really busy without a lot of time. On those days, I make sure to spend 10 minutes twice a day checking Twitter (5 minutes with each of my must-read lists). That’s not a big time commitment, and it is enough to keep the content fresh and moving. I don’t dream of trying to read everything posted by the accounts I follow; I treat Twitter like radio, and I tune in when I have time, listening to hear what’s playing.

Focus on tweets with media. To be honest, I rarely retweet an item unless it has an image or video included. My students are never required to read the Twitter stream; instead, I rely on it to grab their attention and excite their curiosity. For that, I need media content: enticing images or embedded video.

Model Twitter use for students. Many of my students have not used Twitter, and those who do use it are usually not using it for educational purposes, so I make sure to model my Twitter use for students, letting them know how much fun I have with Twitter and also how useful it is. When I am sharing something with the class that I learned about at Twitter, I make sure to say so. I recommend accounts to follow, either in general or based on specific interests. I provide Twitter Tech Tips for students who want to learn how to use Twitter. I also weave Twitter into class assignments where it’s relevant, like in the Wikipedia Trails option.

Use hashtags in addition to a class account. Just how you might use specific hashtags in addition to your class account(s) will vary, of course. For me, it is very helpful to have a unique hashtag for each of my two classes in addition to the joint account I use for both; the hashtags are #OU3043 and #OU4993 reflecting the course numbers. When I find a tweet that is especially relevant to either of those classes, I retweet using the Classic Retweet extension (such a great extension! it works like Twitter did back in the old days, with editable retweets) so that I can add that hashtag to my retweet. This allows me to include a class-specific Twitter widget in the websites for those classes, separate from my overall Twitter stream. You can see my Myth-Folklore hashtag widget in the sidebar of the Myth-Folklore UnTextbook blog (where my students do all their reading for class), and you can see the Indian Epics hashtag widget at the Indian Epics Reading Guides blog. I check every other day or so to make sure I’ve retweeted at least one item with each hashtag so that the hashtag widgets stay fresh. Using hashtags has its risks, of course, but I’ve never had any problems with spam, and sometimes students join in by using the class hashtags too, and I can in turn retweet their tweets through the class account.

Do you use Twitter to share with your classes? Have you found some good strategies? Please share in the comments! It took me a while to get the hang of using Twitter, but now I cannot imagine teaching without it, and I would really like to help spread the Twitter goodness while I also keep on learning new Twitter tricks myself. 🙂

Curiosity: the quest for new ideas and information.

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter4Canvas: Good things come in fives :-)

Okay, I am in total brainstorm mode now for Twitter4Canvas. I am thinking of a 5-level set-up with the idea being that people could start at any time, with the different activities being spread out and combined like this; I’ll be writing up the step-by-step stuff and screenshots and such in the blog I made to support this at Twitter4Canvas. And as examples, I’ve put up a Twitter widget in Canvas, plus a comparison of a real Twitter widget versus the Canvas Twitter app.

Update: I’m now setting up the specific help pages at my other blog where I will build the step by step instructions. Then, I will create pages at that blog to present the levels. So far, so good! 🙂

Level 1: Set up OU Create, Canvas, and a class Twitter.

OU CREATE. Create a domain for yourself at OU Create. Instructions.

OU CANVAS. Create a course space in Canvas and make it public. Instructions.

CLASS TWITTER. Create a Twitter account for your class content stream. Instructions.

Level 2: Explore Twitter, configure Canvas, turn on https at Create.

CLASS TWITTER. Develop your account and keep practicing. Instructions.

OU CANVAS. Tweak your course space. Instructions.

OU CREATE. Turn on the https service for the subdomain you created. Instructions.

Level 3: Make Twitter widget, house widget at OU Create, publish in Canvas.

CLASS TWITTER. Now you are ready to make your first Twitter widget. Instructions.

OU CREATE. Create a widget file. Instructions.

OU CANVAS. Add widget to Canvas. Instructions.

Level 4: Configure Canvas and explore more Twitter.

OU CANVAS. Learn about table layout at Canvas. Instructions.

CLASS TWITTER. Hashtags and lists. Instructions.

OU CREATE. Nothing new at this level… unless maybe… maybe… you are tempted to create a blog!

Level 5: Create a new Twitter widget, house in Create and publish in Canvas.

CLASS TWITTER. Hashtag and list widgets. Instructions.

OU CREATE. As in Level 3, you will be creating a file in which you will paste the widget code you get from Twitter.

OU CANVAS. Create a new page (with or without table layout, based on what you prefer) in order to display the new Twitter widget page you created at OU Create.

~ ~ ~

Okay… I think I am just going to let this simmer and see what I think when I come back to it tomorrow. 🙂

And maybe it’s kind of crazy to try to start this project while the semester is swirling around me… biting off more than I can chew? But hey, I know I can do it!

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.

Twitter4Canvas v. Canvas Twitter App

Yesterday (Friday) Michelle Pacansky-Brock at CSU-CI tried out my iframe solution for embedding Twitter in her Canvas course and it worked! That was really encouraging for me to see.

Before going further with this project, I also tested to see if the Canvas Twitter App was still not displaying media… and yes, that appears to be the case. So, if you are wondering why it is worth going to the trouble to embed a real Twitter widget as opposed to the Canvas app, visit the comparison page. Here’s a screenshot which shows the difference: Twitter is better with images! Canvas Twitter app is on the left; Twitter widget is on the right.

So, next week I hope to make substantial progress on this, spelling out the step by step process I follow to create a Twitter widget and then the iframe for embedding in Canvas. The week after that, I’ll write up some basic information on the value of using Twitter for class content and communication.

And then this will be ready to go! Whoo-hoo! 🙂

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.


Twitter4Canvas: I’m excited about this!

Okay, I’m officially excited about this. Whether or not it turns out useful at my school, I am really going to have fun putting together what I’ve learned from past projects — my Twitter Bootcamp of last winter break, and the Canvas Widget Warehouse from this winter break — in order to do something nice with Twitter4Canvas.

I explained yesterday what I did to get started, and here are the new developments today:

Sample Page. I’ve got one sample page up and running, showing how you can create a Twitter widget in OU Create and then publish it inside a Canvas page. Here’s a screenshot, and since the course is open, you can visit the page: Hashtag Search Widget. It will be fun teaching people how to use the https power of OU Create in order to get around the (totally annoying) security measures in Canvas that prevent instructors from using javascripts.

Blog for Content. Creating content inside Canvas is a nightmare, so I’ll only be putting up sample pages there; I need a real space in which to do the content. So, I quickly created a Twitter4Canvas blog, and I also started reposting there some useful Twitter graphics I’ve collected over the past couple of years. I have lots more to add from the heap of stuff I collected for the Bootcamp. Although I don’t really use Twitter as my own PLN (I prefer Google+), I do find Twitter to be an amazing resource for my classes, so I am really excited about sharing how I use Twitter with others, and of course I am also going to learn a lot by thinking about other ways to use Twitter in Canvas. Ideally, my school will publicize this with faculty and I will be able to brainstorm with them about their classes too!

And from my new blog, here’s a great graphic by Bryan Mathers: for me, Twitter is all about the network of creativity!

Okay, I will have more to say about this project over the weekend, but I am glad I got it off to a solid start. I think I will have the mini-course ready in a couple of weeks. Fingers crossed!

Crossposted at OU Canvas Community.