Monday, September 20, 2010

The Twitter Experiment FAIL

I am a huge fan of Twitter. I have found it instrumental to my growth as a education professional and have made more connections and ultimately friends through using it than I ever thought possible.  However, I have never really gotten my faculty to get on board with the idea of using it in their classrooms.  This summer the perfect situation dropped in my lap.  A professor wanted to actively use Twitter is his class.  It was a large class (over 140 - one of the few large seminars we have in the college) and he had used classroom response systems in the past (i.e. clickers), but wanted to have more open ended questions in class and to give his students options to have a back channel.  This was exactly what I had always talked about Twitter being great for, and I had an instructor that was willing and anxious to use it.  He also had two Teaching Assistant that would be able to man the Twitter stream while he was teaching. I couldn't ask for a better set-up.

The first thing I did was help him and his TAs set-up Twitter accounts so they could get used to using Twitter, and I recommended they use a product like TweetDeck to help keep up with all the various Twitter streams and searches.  Then, I went into their second day of class for the semester, explain what we would be using Twitter for, give some examples, and help everyone create Twitter accounts.  We also introduced a #hashtag for the class so that they could tag their posts for class.  The #hashtag would be used so that students could not only differentiate the posts they write as being class related, but also so students could search for the class #hashtag to see what their fellow students were tweeting.
There were a few students in the class that already had Twitter and were excited and started Tweeting with the class #hastag right way.  I pulled up Tweetdeck on my computer to show the #hastag search and tweets slowly popped in, but only 3 or 4 people were showing up.  I started to get questions from the class asking why their tweets weren't showing up.  I assumed the issue was confirmation e-mails or maybe it just took the system awhile to get them in.  I left the class feeling OK, we had accomplished what I set-out to do and I felt everything would be working by the next class.  I could not have been more wrong. After the next class session I received several e-mails from the professor and the TAs that tweets were not appearing in the search.  So I did what any good tech support person would do - I googled it, and much to my dismay found:

According to Twitter:
  1. You are missing because of current resource constraints: Right now, some users may not be seeing their Tweets because of resource constraints. This is more likely affecting you if you're a new user (with an account less than a couple of weeks old). Our search engineers are working on this known issue, and your Tweets should start showing up in search soon!

In other words these students are not appearing in the #hashtag search and may NEVER appear in the #hashtag search.  I tired to set up a Twibe and a Hootcourse, but the momentum had died, my professor was no longer interested, and my grand Twitter experiment just circled the drain. I'm not sure what I'll do next semester, but until this gets fixed, I doubt I will be recommending Twitter.