A walk-based Tweetchat. A #Twalk combines a group walk with the structure of a one-hour tweetchat in which participants connect to create an informal space around a hashtag topic.
#Twalks have been used successfully to support globally connected learning activities around a common topic. It is a blended learning approach in which people in various locations follow a similar route at the same time using generic landmarks typically found on campus or its locale, e.g. PC Lab, a cafe, etc. Landmarks are specified and become ‘pause points’ for new conversations in a walk exploring an overall theme.
The experience of the synchronised walk is augmented by the structured use of social media in the form of a tweetchat. Typically, a tweetchat lasts one hour, incorporating a common hashtag. It is usually designed around five questions or discussion topics delivered by a tweetchat leader. A new question or topic is posted every 10 minutes or so. It will include the question number and the topic or group hashtag (i.e. “Q1 [the question] #ourtopic”) to which participants respond using “A1 [my answer] #ourtopic. The conversation flows between questions with photographs being shared, tweets being replied to, retweeted, and liked.
All participants act as co-producers as they explore the topic. There is an expectation for ‘twalkers’ to engage deeply, thinking as they walk and talk, drawing on their experience and knowledge. The potential to connect with twalkers in other locations and situations increases the potential for co-production. Different situations and perspectives enrich the conversation and its outcomes.
Creating and validating narratives
The brevity of the synchronous activity is extended through the archiving, sorting and development of contributions following the walk. This can be achieved by individuals or groups using common software or specific aggregation tools. Notoriously, Storify provides an ideal tool for the post-event crafting of tweetchats and #twalks. It allows authors to search for tweets and other social media artefacts where the hashtag has been used. The author selects from the contributions to tell their story by incorporating other people’s tweets and photographs as the basis for their account of the activity.
Creating a Storify supports any participant, or onlooker, to reflect on what happened and what was learnt. Participants using Storify will publish their version of the activity. Those cited in the account or following the hashtag will be alerted via Twitter and email.
If you are planning on setting up a #Twalk, the following thoughts that might help:
- Visiting 5 places in an hour will be a challenge – so consider how twalkers will be briefed. should be very clear about what they’ll be doing, where exactly they are visiting. Consider what you can do to brief Twalkers online beforehand.
- Ideally each twalker will have a printed copy of the route they are visiting. It is useful to make this available online beforehand, including the timings, the topics, and the hashtags. In this way, they can walk independently as small groups and pairs (it can be difficult if the walk leader is continually shouting across conversations to move people on). If it is a sunny day it can be difficult to read screens, so printed ‘maps’ are a good idea!
- Consider taking a bell or a whistle to alert people that you need to move on.
- Make sure people know that you will not wait. If you are part of a multi-site #twalk it is vital that you are in sync so you can connect your thinking and share your pictures.
- Arrange the #twalk around 10-minute intervals as this makes it clearer for everyone. You may have to sacrifice some good destinations if visiting them is unrealistic. First and foremost your pause points must fit in with a one hour 5 point walk.
- If expecting or wanting global participation, use the World Clock to check for timings. Note, scheduling your back or forward an hour can make all the difference for engaging people.
- Using topics at each pause point, rather that questions, allows each subgroup to make the conversation their own.
- Keep reminding people to post during the walk and remind them to use the agreed hashtag.
- It may be useful to assign (if possible) the role of Twitter Scribe to at least one person in a walking group to ensure each group contributes at each pause point.
- Also, assign (if possible) at least one Twitter reporter to keep an eye on the hashtag and sharing points and questions raised elsewhere. Assigning roles can be done informally.
- The walk leader is chief facilitator – the ideal academic: steer, clarify, prompt and keep them moving forward!
- Be careful! Pause to tweet. Walking and tweeting at the same time is dangerous.
- Make sure everyone has a great time!