Thursday, April 17, 2014


Interwoven Social-multimedia-threaded-communication

An emerging trend might be tagged as Social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC); this interweaves the deeper ideas of multi-page web sites with the context of the tweet moment; it enables theory/research to dialog with practice, a long standing educational gap. SMTC is a simple expansion of current developments.

A tweet, a short comment, has been the mark of a more socially aware voice in educational and community circles. More experienced tweeters find that great starting point often leaves change on the table; their tweets expand the text with an image, a connection to visual thoughts that unpack the tweet further. Further, through hashtags, they connect the reader with other communities that inform the idea(s). Yet though a tweet comment has become an important dimension of 21st communication, it is just one dimension, yet one with great potential to lead to other dimensions, blogs and multipage sites.

The idea of Social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC), provides a 3 dimensional framework for communication. Linking to other types of web pages provides a depth vs frequency dimension. Tweets, limited to 140 characters max (though often must shorter in terms of message), are easy to produce frequently. When a tweet posting includes a link to a multi-paragraph blog posting which in turn is linked to a longer form Web page essay or other long form media or chapter of material (which takes more time and space to produce), the social group has a chance to guide its members into deeper more nuanced discussions that are interwoven up and down the scales of communication depth and frequency.

A second dimension is multimedia. National Geographic Magazine has long gone to the bank on the knowledge that media can be sequenced to pull thinkers faster and deeper into ever greater levels of textual thought. Tweets, blog postings and Web pages all allow increasing levels of types of the common media of cyberspace: photo/graphic, audio, video, 2D animation, multiple forms of 3D, sensors/actuators/robotics.

Finally, a 3rd dimension is social extension. Hashtags and twitter handles in each of these levels of communication types have connected readers with people and communities of discussion, e.g., #edtech, #edchat, #pln (personal learning network), #pbl (project based learning). Social extension is also social process. The interest in better consensus building and decision making tools was highlighted recently by Loomio reaching their funding raising goal and still stretching for more.

These trends in social media and across cyberspace are clear: more links, more media, more hashtags. My experience with state and national conferences this year is that tweet action during the conferences has become very important even though the percent of attendees participating is still a small minority; I found tweeting to be as important if not more important than actual physical presence in terms of networking and learning about those interested in conference topics. Thought leaders are tweeting big time. SMTC makes tweeting so much more valuable. Will we see SMTC continue its growth in our communciation steams?

Of those using Twitter to date, most are only readers which provides great opportunity for even more contributing in the future. Recent research showed highly skewed distribution.  While a tiny percent have posted thousands of tweets, only about 13% overall of the billion twitter accounts have posted a hundred tweets or more (Koh, 2014), though 130 million is not an insignificant number of active users.

Social media, including SMTC, like web conferencing software such as GoToMeeting or WebEx, is all a part of what my DigiAcademy table of contents graphic labels Team Workflow. Team workflow is critical to building out a Personal Learning Network or extending a PLN into a Collaborative Learning Network (PLN to CLN).

I primarily author and think across these 3 levels, each of which provides different ease of authoring and time to create factors.

* (a sentence or phrase)
* (paragraphs)
* (chapters and textbooks)

From a theoretical point of view this idea of threaded communication by social media users enables higher education faculty and others engaged in theory and research to more effectively approach a long standing problem in the field, the theory practice gap; the descriptor for this in ERIC (database of educational literature) is "theory practice relationship" (which used to be "research practice relationship"). A couple of well cited references indicate the long time concern of this idea.

Robinson, V. M. (1998). Methodology and the research-practice gap. Educational researcher, 27(1), 17-26.

Nuthall, G. (2004). Relating classroom teaching to student learning: A critical analysis of why research has failed to bridge the theory-practice gap. Harvard educational review, 74(3), 273-306.

In short, practitioners such as classroom teachers generally don’t have the access or the time to read the refereed works that get its authors promoted. They too often don’t find them relevant to their classroom practice when they do.

 However, theretical ideas in 100 characters or less are far easier to approach and digest. Done properly SMTC authors can use links as threads to longer and deeper works from a context that practitioners can grip, and a practitioners find themselves in a setting in which they can frequently query and connect theorists with reality. This enables all stakeholders to find their mutual common ground. As Lincoln and Guba noted long ago in their heavily cited Fourth Generation Evaluation (1989), developing and sharing a wide range of facts among stakeholders leads to far better decision making.

Social media, and in particular the interwoven nature of social-multimedia-threaded-communication (SMTC) is the best concept to come along with the potential to help close the theory practice gap in education and in all fields, a rising tide that lifts all the boats.

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Related hashtags: #pln #pbl #edchat #edtech #ncmle #makers #DecisionMaking

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