Monday, November 23, 2009

The transformative technology of eBook Readers

Recently I traveled to Australia, which entails, at least from my part of the world, 33 hours of travel (counting layovers and one 14 hour flight). Although I think of myself as a seasoned traveler, I worried about how I would "endure." My husband has traveled much more extensively than I have (he has only one continent left - Antarctica - before he has been to them all), his recommendation has always been to take less, not more. If he had his way, I'm sure we would have only brought enough stuff for 2 days and washed every other day, but I digress....

I had been interested in eBook readers for awhile, but this trip seemed like the perfect catalyst to see if I would really use one. Luckily, the library at my university has a lending library of eBook readers with various titles, including the Kindle & Sony reader, that I was able to use for 1 week to see if I would invest $300 in this device.

Now there have been multiple reviews of eBook readers, of the Kindle and Sony devices, of the DRM issues, etc, etc, etc. But I needed to decide what was good for me, my reading habits, my travel needs, and my bank account. In the end I settled on a Kindle, and with a few reservations it has been a truly transformational technology. And its not for the reasons I thought it would be.

The Kindle is transformative to me because of its ease of use. Its ability to decide to read a book, and buy it within the same minute. To read a 800 page book (which I am now) while lying in bed without a neck cramp. To stop reading one book and pick up another with ease.

And that is what makes technology transformative - when I don't really even think about using it. I just do because it makes sense. When we talk about being relevant to our teachers - this is what we mean. Technology no longer is an afterthought - but the first thought. There is no way to think of doing something without it.

Oh and as for my trip to Australia, I walked on the plane with just my purse - which had my Kindle and my iPhone (for movies and music). It was a freeing experience...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Setting up a Twitter account for your school

After almost 2 1/2 years of using Twitter personally, my college is finally to the point of implementing a Twitter account. In the begining I was completely hesitant, but after the popularity of our Facebook Fan page - I believe we are ready to start with Twitter (ncsu_ced). NC State, especially the techie side, has been twittering for a while. They've even created a great page to aggregate all of the "official feeds" from the university. Yesterday, I attended a university training about Twitter, as well as some guidelines for having an official Twitter feed. Jason Austin, Tim Jones & John Martin.

Now we currently don't have any "official" guidelines, but they did have a few recommendations. High on their list was looking at the University of Florida's social media guidelines (PDF), which really showcase best practices.

Twitter — Best Practices
Writing and Engaging Followers
Post regularly – Three to four tweets per day. Provide consistent, ongoing and relevant content. Committed, ongoing effort over several months.
Be retweet friendly — Limit tweet characters so that your message can be rebroadcast or retweeted. This will allow your message to be virally sent out and still refer to your original site.
Retweet — Retweet relevant material from UF and external sources. It builds a
relationship between other media sources and followers and establishes you as a valuable source of information.
Acknowledge followers — When possible, a direct message thanking a follower for following your account builds rapport.

Account Name — Name of profile should reflect name of UF name/unit, not the person updating feed. Use the website and profile description to add further content about your unit and its mission.
Bio Information — Provide account owner/manager name in your Twitter bio - this provides transparency and accountability. If you use an application like CoTweet to allow for multiple managers, develop a standard of signing tweets so individual manager's contributions can be quantified.
Following — University Twitter feeds are encouraged to follow the feeds of other University units.
UF Policies — All produced content must adhere to current UF policy, including (but not limited to) the Acceptable Use Policy. Always remember that as an official UF Twitter account, you are representing the University.
Registration — Register with Web Administration in order to be added to a list of official Twitter accounts. This will provide a means of gaining followers and will also be an official verification of UF affiliation.

Avatar — Create a branded avatar that represents both the University and your unit.
Background — Develop a Twitter background that reflects your University branding and that of your unit.

John Martin from OIT had some guidelines about purpose. He suggested that you consider not only your audience, but also categorize what you want to tweet about - if it doesn't fit into those categories - don't tweet it. His are:
  • Advertising
  • Announcements
  • News
We're getting our feet wet with what we want to accomplish with Twitter. I personally am trying to figure out where my personal account ends and the college one begins. I'm hoping that some tools like Seesmic will help me keep up with the multiple accounts.

How have you handled school accounts?