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A Twitter experiment
by Bryony Taylor


Earlier this year my manager asked me to organise a high-profile event for up to 30 delegates in just 6 weeks! The theme of the event was to be the impact of technology on teaching and learning.

I began by using a fairly conventional method of event organisation. I’d chosen my date: 19th March, venue: the British Library and title:  'Learning 3.0 symposium'. On 15th February 2010 I sent an email invitation to a list of 36 people whom I know have an interest in technology enhanced learning. As expected, this did not solicit my 30 delegates (Only 8 of the original invitees actually attended the symposium).

I nearly decided to tell my manager that it simply was not possible to make this event happen in the timescales I had been given. Then I had an idea. All this talk about ‘harnessing technology’ made me think: I should really practice what I preach! So I decided to try out a Twitter experiment. I wrote a short article about an experiment to gather views on how technology is changing the way we teach and learn via twitter. I posted this on the Lifelong Learning UK (LLUK) website and on my own blog. I then sent out a single tweet from my own twitter account and our LLUK account:

Launching an exciting social media experiment. Please take part and use the hashtag #learning3  http://www.lluk.org/learning3.htm 

Interestingly, I did this without ‘official’ permission from my line manager, going by the mantra that ‘it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission’ and knowing that trying to describe what I wanted to do would not have made sense to a non-Twitter user! I took a calculated risk, figuring that the worst that could happen was that it just wouldn’t work.

So what happened? Well the tweets started coming through. In order to keep track of things I used TwapperKeeper to archive tweets (you can still view all the #learning3 tweets on this site). My tactic for getting delegates for my event was to get in touch with anyone who tweeted using #learning3. I began to directly email those who had tweeted, inviting them to the event. Using this method, within 2 weeks I had all 30 delegates booked in! Then I needed to find 4 speakers. This was easy too, once I had the list of delegates I emailed 4 of them to ask if they would be willing to give a talk. They all replied the next day to say ‘yes’! This was because these were people who were already interested and engaged with the topic.

In the end there were a number of great outcomes of this experiment. To date there have been 389 tweets using the hashtag #learning3. 61 people tweeted using the hashtag, the majority of these people had no previous connection with Lifelong Learning UK. Some really useful blogs and articles were shared through Twitter as well.


Twitter wordcloud

Figure 1: A word cloud of all the tweets shared using #learning3

You might feel that you’d like to try something similar in your workplace. Next time you’re arranging an event, try thinking of other ways to connect with people other than the traditional method of newsletters, email and phone calls. Using Twitter was fun and the results were fantastic. The speed at which I could make new contacts and create a whole network of interested and engaged people nearly overwhelmed me. For more information about the Learning 3.0 symposium and the network, please visit http://grou.ps/learning3.

Bryony Taylor
Specialist Workforce Development Advisor
Lifelong Learning UK
bryonytaylor@lluk.org

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