Are our staff really getting excited about Twitter?

I am filled with enthusiasm this morning following the unexpected return of Twitter to everybody’s thoughts. It’s been discussed before and generated some very clear opposition – another distraction, something else to demand teacher time, another thing we have to do / learn / manage. This time however, the conversation isn’t negative. Surprisingly (and refreshingly) it is positive!

In only a matter of a few days with the support and drive from senior management, a small but growing and very keen group of support staff have already signed up. Staff will be encouraged to pledge their participation via Twitter. Next week we launch the concept to all staff during a start of week briefing, and a wider group of participants will be invited to join the movement.

Maybe this request for participation in Twitter is a little too specific; perhaps participation in social networking via the medium of their choice would garner more support – but from an organisational point of view, far more difficult to track participation, and lack the emergence (if successful) of a college community. Many staff may be reluctant to participate actively (and some are signing up and choosing to have all their tweets protected). These staff may become onlookers until the time is right for them. Perhaps once enough groundswell has been achieved and tweeting becomes something more routine they will build the confidence to tweet and understand the benefit that can be found in extending their learning network by joining a vast online community.

Support from senior managers has already been identified as key in the establishment of effective development strategies, and particularly so where technology is involved. How far do our senior management staff support the implementation of new technologies? Could greater participation from them deliver greater returns with a ‘leading by example’ approach? Strategy is usually conceived with the consultation of broad groups of stakeholders, with the polish and approval of concepts being added at management level. In the operational sense, much of this new technology will be delivered by middle management and their direct reports – and can feel like a struggle. What about the culture? Culture can make or break an initiative. The culture of the involved parties not only needs to respond positively to change, but in the case of new technologies also be prepared to challenge the convention. How could a messaging / blog platform that only allows for 140 character posts possibly be successful? Clearly enough people were prepared to try the concept and prove its value and communicate the benefits. Cultural changes often come about through the leadership and vision of a few individuals. I am very lucky and rely upon the support of visionary and hands on senior managers to encourage innovation and nurture change. Elsewhere, could more of those visionary individuals and innovative participators be senior managers? If so, should that vision be applied not just in through strategic delivery, but also adoption of the very tools and skills demanded from the wider organisation?

2 Responses

  1. Nick O'Doherty November 12, 2010 / 11:22

    Hi Chris

    Going through your blog and finding lots of resonances with things we have been working on. So you may get more comments:-)

    I am starting your blog posts from front and working forward, so it is possible that questions I raise are answered later – but I want to go chronologically for variouse reasons.

    Anyway how has Twitter take up progressed? There are lots of the usual hangups that people have about blogging that affect Twitter, plus the extra 140 ch issue. We reckon for many places to get take up we need to think of specific applications, and encourage people to have accounts to listen – then repond – then initiate. Applications that encourage people to listen could include:
    alerts – e.g. during snow – what trains are working, is college closed, what services are available
    changes – this lecture is now taking place in room ##
    updates – commentary on football/cricket etc matches

    Twitter clients like Tweetdeck enable you to post to Twitter and Facebook and other places at the same time – possibly addressing the issue raised early in your post about is pushing people to Twitter too specific?

    • chri5grant November 12, 2010 / 14:00

      Really appreciate the time you have spent commenting, Nick! Keep in mind I’m new to blogging – what I’m trying to express may not always come across fully or clearly.

      With regard to Twitter, it’s fair to say that most whom we have presented it to regard it as ‘another new tool’ or ‘the latest thing’ rather than engage with it to really support their curricular activities. A few do use Twitter to varying degrees, but these individuals are certainly in the minority. I would really love to see more acceptance of Twitter as being a tool for making connections, facilitating additional communication beyond the confines of the classroom (as many VLE features should also be doing) and establishing a point of connection for those who may potentially have a future connection with the College (though perhaps not realise it yet). We did get thinking about Twitter supplementing our ‘accepted’ information streams through the College web site and our VLE during adverse weather early this year, but momentum wasn’t maintained for long enough (our pace faded as quickly as the snow melted!).

      I’m very familiar with the means to get information out to Twitter, but our Learning and Development activities, referred to elsewhere in these pages, need to be more inclusive of social media and how it can support the curriculum.

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