My personal thoughts on various channels for communication with fellow ocTEL participants – what I plan to use and why.
I am already a Twitter user (@msars) and have a good network of TEL contacts there. I like the way that discussions can develop quickly, but the 140 character limit is certainly limiting for in-depth exploration of a topic. It is good for discovery, via the hashtags and recommendations. I will use Twitter for ocTEL to some extent, because I’m comfortable with it and it is already part of my toolset, but I need to do some curation of my followers and lists to keep things manageable.
The ocTEL forums and ocTEL groups
I think that these channels are ideal for course-specific discussions, as well as more general topics. I explored the forums first and saw that they were extremely busy. This may have been first-week enthusiasm, but I have found previously that it can be difficult to ‘get to know people’ in very active forums, and I felt that I wanted to have a more tight-knit group for discussions.
So, I took a look at the list of groups that had already been formed and, finding none that matched my interests, I set one up called ‘Scientists’. I hoped that this would provide a focused discussion area for people teaching in scientific disciplines or with a scientific bent. And things have started off well – thanks, Peter and Paul! More participants in the group are very welcome, so do come and join us, if science is your thing.
I will keep an open mind about the forums and about joining other groups as things settle. I am still trying to find my way around all the functionality in the ocTEL site, and finding things a little hard to manage, especially using multiple devices (I read something on my phone and think I’ll reply later from my desk, but then can’t find it again…), but I am sure that I’ll get to grips with it all and the forums, groups, course reader, notifications, etc will all be very useful as the course progresses.
The ocTEL JISCMail list
I subscribe to a number of mailing lists already and like the fact that the posts arrive in my email in-box, where I spend much of my working life. I therefore thought of using this mailing list as my primary medium for longer, more reflective posts. However, I was a bit put off by the warnings that this may not be a well-used communication channel. Also, I thought that, while there may be replies to a posting on a mailing list, there isn’t really any other indication that people have read or enjoyed it. Hits and click-throughs on a blog post add some welcome feedback and motivation – likewise favourites and retweets in Twitter. I have made one post to the mailing list already (with no response) and will persevere for a bit longer, but will abandon this channel if it doesn’t offer much return.
I decided to take the plunge and start a new blog for my ocTEL reflections. I had a Posterous blog previously, but hadn’t made another since the demise of that platform. I like the fact that blogs offer the flexibility of RSS feeds, so people can access them in multiple ways, according to their preferences. I also like the commenting feature, which allows discussions to take place on the post in question, keeping everything in one place. Another benefit to me, is that I haven’t used WordPress before, so this is an opportunity to learn about a new tech tool. Incidently, I am also enjoying the diversity of blogging platforms that are in use by ocTEL participants, giving a chance to experience a wide range of options.
I intend to get a good understanding of the communication methods above before I explore any of the many other tools in use on the course. This is partly because of time constraints, but also because, for now, I’m not entirely sure what features and functionality may be useful to me. So, I would like to get more experience of the course before looking at any other technology options.
Do you have any suggestions for things that I should explore? If so, please let me know in the comments.