Thursday, 14 February 2008

Twitter plug-in stage 1 complete

Twitter is one of those services that people either seem to love or 'don't know what it's for'. Rather like the camera phone when it first came out. The combination of the instant message feel with the attributes of a blog could be potentially very useful. In terms of usability there is both the immediacy of SMS and IM combined with a history or diary quality of a blog. The Twitter service has small messages which are small enough to send as SMS, use as with a Java Applet on a mobile device, widgets, Facebook, Second Life, or any number of other ways. Maybe Twitter could bridge communities as well as technologies?

Other aspects of Twitter that could be interesting are; that the service is lightweight enough to hopefully not deter people from contribution, maybe in a similar way to SMS; and that Twitter may offer the beginnings of another way to blend learning between SL and a VLE.

Where are we at the moment with the plug-in?

We've created two portlets; one that shows the updates for a particular Twitterer and another that allows you to post your tweets to the Twitter service. Testing has been going on all week in our version of Moodle, both with a test course and also with a clone of the course that we want to use. If you're interested in participation then please contact me.

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Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Second Life student orientation

I've been scouting around for orientation places for students in Second Life outside of the usual location. A likely candidate looks to be the New Media Consortium service that allows you to register via their website, and then to be able to access their orientation centre. From the website, it looks a nice job though I would like to be able to see it for myself. Might possibly need to meet our students in-world, particularly those abroad. Using the orientation centre to undertake a few related teaching activities, should help form a group faster and also speed up the learning process. I'll have to check with NMC is that's allowed first.

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Twitter plugin is undergoing testing

The portlets are currently being tested in Moodle. As Twitter is such a simple service to use, we're not having an issues with a technological learning curve. It will interesting, however, to be able to try out specific uses of Twitter with students and the rest of the Emerge community.

Talking of testing, I'm still having trouble with Twitterscreen, which doesn't seem to want to respond to commands and is steadfastly refusing to display video at the moment. Again!

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Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Twitter Moodle plug-in version 1

The first version of the Twitter plug-in for Moodle is ready for installation this week. We will be trialling it with a pilot group of volunteers initially before we run our first course using the service in April.

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Monday, 14 January 2008

Learning Activities - Twitter and SL

What an interesting process looking at an existing course and considering all the technical/people factors when deciding how to use Twitter and SL with overseas students in countries with less access to technology.

There were a number of factors we needed to look at including:
  • Learners access to technology including possible paid for services such as SMS
  • Learner ability or inclination to technology (international)
  • Learner inclination to social or non-course activities (international)
  • New services provided by Twitter for learners
  • Possible cross community communication using Twitter
  • Time available for teaching learners
  • Likelihood of learner acceptance
In terms of the first two points, ArriveUK learners abroad are less likely to have access to broadband connections, the computer specification needed for SL and free SMS. This group is likely to have a smaller cohort that are ready, willing or able to use SL. Usually a whole group of ArriveUK students is around 90, and there are two groups, so this would seem a better option.

Twitter's main focus will therefore be to link to the podcasts which are posted each week. ArriveUK students will be able to subscribe to the Twitter feed from within Moodle, which will potentially answer questions posed relating to the podcasts. We're aiming that students will want to reply to the questions using Twitter rather than the forum as the Twitter feed and interface will be ubiquitous in Moodle, and show all new tweets and comments. The simple interface should also help to make the service less daunting. Twitter has a limited set of characters for each Tweet and we're hoping this will encourage debate and interaction. All posts and questions will continue to be posted within the discussion board as usual.

It's an interesting observation that ArriveUK students aren't interested in discussion threads, and there is usually a long lists of posts. Replies to previous posts are generally found as later entries rather than within a thread. This will suit Twitter's chronological nature. However, by using Twitter learners can interact with their learning community using a variety of technologies including mobile phones (SMS), Google Talk,, browser plug-ins, RSS feeds, widgets, Moodle itself and Second Life for those students taking this option.

Time has to be allocated to train and orientate both the MA and ArriveUK students. This involves both technical and social skills. These learners are very focussed on their learning, and involved in the visa application process for entry to the UK. Any new technology will have to ensure that these two factors are primary considerations for the technologies to work. It may well be that Twitter will offer an important service to learners with busy schedules by enabling learners to personalise their content delivery.

Twitter Plug-in

Last week we finalised the initial development for the Twitter plug-in for Moodle. Development would seem straightforward enough, but there is a slight hurdle due to the lack of documentation. Luckily, LSL have previous experience of creating open source VLE plug-ins and documentation. The positive outcome of this discovery is that M3 will create produce documentation as another deliverable.

M3 – MUVEs, Moodle and Microblogging: Communities on the move

Outline Project Description

M3 will explore the potential of Moodle, Microblogging (Twitter) and Second Life with 3 student groups to enable a comparative analysis of the integrated use of these tools and environments in 3 individual learning contexts. The first 2 groups will be aimed at language learning communities; one involving primarily face-to-face interaction, and the other learning at a distance online and potentially, on the move. The final group will be recruited from interested parties from Second Life and/or JISC communities. A particular focus will on the opportunity to develop intercultural skills. A Twitter plug-in (microblogging tool) will be one key deliverable of the project.

Aims and Objectives

The aims of the M3 project are to:

Explore the use of social networking tools to create a ubiquitous and personalised learning environment.
Build on current work within the Second Life (MUVE) community as a next generation emergent technology to create an immersive learning experience.
Adapt an existing Moodle course to create a hybrid Moodle/Second Life solution, that could potentially enable the transition to a course taught exclusively in Second Life.
Adapt existing class activities and learning objects (LOs) for use with microblogging and the SL environment.
Use microblogging, (Twitter), to enable a convergent technology to promote discourse within the learner community, and to enable participation through a variety of tools.
Explore the potentials of the Twitter tool with a final community of learners based outside of language learning.


• Enhance the online experience of a group of international students on a pre-arrival course by adding a 3D dimension to their language learning and acculturation to British academic life.
• Introduce a group of learners taking a professional development MA to the educational potential of new technologies. (MA in English Language Teaching or Applied Linguistics with an option in Learner Autonomy)
• Develop an appropriate convergent technology to offer learners a choice of communication tools that link their community of practice. (e.g. Twitter - a microblogging service, blogs, Moodle and the Second Life platforms.
• Support a community using web 2.0 and social software and to offer the opportunity to maintain contact outside of the Second Life or Moodle environments, for example whilst travelling.
Examine the potential application of next generation emergent technologies (in social media, ubiquitous computing and personalised environments) for education.
Identify more precisely what the benefits might be for learners engaged in a shared learning purpose.

Diagram 1: The M3 project can offer a means to keep a virtual learning community connected through personalised delivery and contribution of content as shown in the diagram below.

New Media Consortium (2007) The Horizon Report