This afternoon I ran a Twitter workshop to help some colleagues (some already Twitter users, others completely new to it) to use it as a way of networking and to increasing the reach of their research and generally enhance their profile.
Having spent this year working on a project to pilot the flipped classroom model, helping various colleagues to implement it with their students, I decided it was my turn to try, and flipped the training session.
Before the session, I asked the participants to look at a couple of resources that were available online. The materials were Twitter in Plain English – a (2m30s) YouTube video – and a short article called It’s Time for Scientists to Tweet. Both were chosen with brevity in mind. I also asked participants to set up a Twitter account in advance and email me the username. (I told them this was so I could prepare a handout to use in an activity, but it was also because brand new accounts don’t always show up in searches, which would have wrecked the hashtag demo I planned.)
This turned out to be one of the smoothest training sessions I’ve ever run, because everybody was starting from roughly the same place. The participants all arrived with a basic understanding of the concept of Twitter and some of the reasons why it would be useful to them, so I was able to kick off with a brief recap of the concepts and add some further examples of why they ought to be using Twitter to give a bit of depth, before going into some hands on activities.
Asking participants to spend 10 minutes looking at a video and reading a short article in advance meant that I didn’t have to subject them to a lengthy dose of “PowerPoint poisoning” to cover the basics, which a number of participants were well beyond and would have been bored by. Some participants came with questions, prompted by the material, which they were able to raise in the session.
It’s often a feature of this kind of session that it is curtailed due to time running out. Taking the basics out of the session means that there is more time for participants to complete the activities when support is available from the facilitators and other participants, rather than being encouraged to complete them after the session, and for questions and discussion which can often be one of the more useful parts of such a session.
Of course it may just have been a combination of having a good group of participants (who had chosen to attend rather than having been told to) and having a great co-facilitator (thanks Gavin!) that made it work so well, but I really think that being able to skip presenting the basics and get to the interesting stuff within the first few minutes of the session made a big difference.