A couple of weeks ago we held our annual Symposium on Teaching and Learning with Technology here at Penn State. It was an amazing event once again — this time with just shy of 400 faculty and staff choosing to spend a beautiful Saturday with us. Our keynotes rocked, with David Wiley supplying a rallying call towards openness that has helped move our OER conversations forward. At lunch, danah boyd delivered a whirlwind of a talk that people are still buzzing about. One thing in particular was how both David and danah hung out with us not only the night before, but all day on Saturday. Up until this year none of our previous keynotes have stayed and chilled with us — they even joined us for the post Symposium party afterwards.
Sessions were excellent and the conversations in the hallways was lively. I could go on and on, but nearly all the sessions are now captured over at the Symposium site — including David’s keynote with a slick side by side widescreen presentation that our Digital Commons team came up with (danah is coming soon).
But this post is about something related … two things are lingering in my mind after the event. The first is how much Twitter was used during the event itself. The tltsym09 hashtag turned into a trending topic early in the morning — sometime during David’s opening keynote. That in and of itself is really cool and very interesting. The Twitter stream of the day is long and it does tell a bit of a story all by itself. But, sometime during the morning I realized that people weren’t really blogging the event like they had in the past — does a Twitter stream provide enough for those not there to grab onto? With the lack of sessions being blogged I am afraid we could be doing the event a disservice. I’d love to hear thoughts on how to take the Twitter stream and do some real sense making on it all.
The other big social media lesson I am taking away from the event has to do with Flickr and community tagging. Early on we decided to use the tltsym09 tag for the event across the social web. We were thrilled to see hundreds of photos flow into the tag aggregation on Flickr. What I wasn’t thrilled about was the hijacking of the tag by a cross dresser on his bed in lingerie. It didn’t offend me per se, but I know for a fact (from a couple of emails) some folks were mortified and I was asked to “fix” it. Flickr doesn’t really allow me to delete tags from other peoples’ photos and while the pictures clearly didn’t fit into our group, there was nothing about the pictures that would cause Flickr to pull them. Turns out it was simple to just contact the guy and ask nicely — he removed the tag.
This is one of the reasons people are terrified of openness and the social web — lack of control. It has caused us to rethink our own use of the social web, so we’ve created a Flickr account that will be the repository for our pictures, but it doesn’t solve the community stuff. I think we need to have a conversation about how we take advantage of the social web in light of the fact that it is as simple as watching the trending tags on Twitter Search and hijacking them to insert your product, pictures, etc into the flow of the emergent conversation. Funny how even after all these years of participating in an increasingly open way, we can continue to learn and adapt our usage to really take advantage of what we are learning.