My varied professional life just would not be the same without my social media toolkit. And it is a toolkit. Each program has a specific function.
- Delicious is where I save several lists of books, articles and links that I can annotate and share with students, fellow researchers and learning design professionals. As I travel a lot, this means I (nearly) always have access to my library and the libraries of other people working in my field. The need for physical bookshelves is not eliminated – nor would I want it to be – but the clutter is reduced, search is easier, access is simpler.
- LinkedIn is for professional networking. Here I keep in touch with societies, contribute to emerging discussions, find work and often answer questions from people looking for non-traditional educational pathways. I also embed a blog so that those wanting to know more about international education can follow that up.
- Facebook is somewhat more social or developmental. I joined because it was the required meeting place for some early-stage government policy groups. I have also enjoyed meeting students there and just being part of a learning community without the strictures of the roles in a “learning platform”. Somehow, social life follows me there and if I were 21 (!) I might be a bit worried about the downtime photos and language implications but I guess I’m stuck between the ages of being embarrassed by indiscretions and really-old not caring about them
- At first, I did not understand Twitter at all: what use are 140 characters when academia requires entire tomes? How wrong I was! One day I needed a social media case study for some creative professionals who were networking their businesses. This was not in my library. In desperation, I put out a tweet (message) from the UK. Five minutes later, an artist I did not know responded from Orlando with a link absolutely to the point. Thank you, Robin! I now use Twitter on a daily basis to keep up to date with educational trends, find information, be reminded of term dates, gain support and, I hope, sometimes give support as well. I’m @GillianP if you want someone to respond to a trial message.
- Blogging is now essential for me for two reasons. First, I can try out ideas before turning them into papers or courses. People frequently respond to me by email rather than on the blog itself and that is fine because of the nature of the work so please do! Second, I can put answers to frequent student learning and qualification questions in a place away from my paid-work websites.
- Two other key places for developing ideas collaboratively for me are: Slideshare (PowerPoint presentations), PBWork (wikis are very powerful when focused and kept to a limited group of participants).
- My own videos have only been used for conferences but I use YouTube lectures to supplement standard course material and as research reference material. It’s amazingly easy to upload so, if you need, give it a try.
- Sharing photos and developing/sharing graphics is an essential part of my working life and for these tasks I use a wide variety of programs depending on precisely what I am doing and with whom I am working. If anyone needs ideas, you are welcome to get in touch but, for photos Picnik is beginner heaven and can be much more sophisticated than that. For graphics, look at inkscape on sourceforge.net. That’s opensource but seems OK despite huge warnings from my virus checker.
- When working at a distance – as I usually do – Skype and Elluminate vRoom provide very reliable, useful, free resources for sharing and recording messages, conversations and files in real time with or without video.
If you need more than this, get in touch as I may, possibly, have an answer. Equally, I’m really happy to hear from people with their examples and real-life work-arounds.