Here is what we did using Twitter as the engine room .
Loreto Normanhurst – Year 9 Far North Queensland Experience FNQE and the use of Twitter
The second task which the school implemented using cloud computing involved 150 students on a field trip and community service for an extended period of time. The aim was to enable immediate communication back to the school with photos on what was happening in the field and community service. In past years staff would ring back and “postcards” were put on the schools website to allow the community to see what was happening. This year we decided to try another approach which embraced another cloud computing option which combined the use of Twitter and blogging.
The 150 students were broken into four group’s red, blue green and yellow. The groups in colours proved to be most useful to the overall strategy. The students and teachers were to be spread over Far North Queensland venues of learning and community service.
Step one was to buy 4 mobile phones and we thought just texting messages with photos back to school would work. Each phone was colour coded according to the group so back at school we knew which group and according to the itinerary we could work out the locations of the photos. It was workable but not very efficient and would place a number of layers of labour intensive work at school for already busy people.
So we turned to Twitter. However, we had to work out a strategy to keep things private. One main account was set up and set to private and other account was set up called a guest account. This meant the guest account could follow the main account. The aim was to give the details of the guest account to the school community so they could follow the main account. It was around the time that Twitter had hit the mainstream media in Australia we decided to use the functionality of Twitter to collect the information and display the information to the school community in a password protected blog through the school portal rather than making available to the school community the Twitter accounts.
In May 2009 we did a trial to see how it would work while some staff went on a ‘recon’ of the field study community service area. We found out that in the field the phones were not too reliable and what was more of an issue was the then when the messages came back the photos were fine but we realized that being able to link the photos to linking the messages to the photos in an easily identifiable manner.
So the next stage of using Twitter evolved. We created four Twitter accounts, called them their colour name and had their allocated colour as the avatar for their account. All the accounts were set to private and the “following” relationship was set up between the coloured accounts and the main account. This meant that we could just log on to the main account and all the tweets from the four coloured accounts would feed through to the main account. Now we could see more easily what each group was doing because it was colour coded.
Each phone was set up so when a photo was taken a comment could be made with the photos and sent to Twitpic, which is a third party application for Twitter, to send photos and messages via the phone. Each morning and afternoon the photos and the messages would be uploaded to a gallery on a SharePoint blog which was password protected. Side by side with this teachers and students on the trip would send back longer accounts through staff Blackberries and iPhones. This enabled the school community the opportunity to experience the fieldtrip and community service in a virtual manner though the use of several cloud based web tool applications.
The use of a cloud platform for teaching and learning , though at times can be challenging to implement, is a worthwhile pursuit. In the case of the Year 9 FNQE Twitter was the perfect platform to develop real time communication back to this school community and we are looking forward to developing live video feeds and the like in future years.
Last week we went on a recon for this year’s trip and took Netbooks with 3g cards. Now we are looking into live blogs and Twitvids back to the school community.