All posts by Shyam Sharma

About Shyam Sharma

Shyam Sharma is an assistant professor in the Program in Writing and Rhetoric. He teaches a variety of courses including Writing For the Profession, Business Thesis, Writing in the Disciplines, Communicating Science, and Basic and Intermediate Writing. His research interests include Composition pedagogy and theory, academic writing in/across the disciplines, multimodal composition and digital scholarship, rhetorical traditions and histories, and multilingualism and language policy.

Notes about Blogging

This blog is a “sample” only in the sense that the teacher shares “how” he blogs (in terms of style, audience, engagement, etc). No John Doe in this case 🙂

Students’ blogs must be written by following the instructions given on Blackboard. In particular, you must write reading responses with general audiences in mind. You must also respond to the texts you read for class by generating ideas that will help to highlight, in the targeted context of your blogfolio, your personality and professional identity, intellectual caliber, academic abilities, and writing skills.

What you see below this sticky post are Shyam Sharma’s blogs written for and in the context of this class. Posts that are relevant for students will be discussed in class or indicated as suggested reading.

Note: This is a “sticky post” (Dashboard>Posts>Quick Edit>Make this post sticky), meaning it will stick at the top while regular posts appear in reverse order.

Mind the Attention Economy . . .

. . . Some Ideas for Effective Portfolio Pages

Imagine the following five visitors to the pages on your professional portfolio.

  1. The Viewer: This visitor only “looks” at the contents of the page–like a shopper at the bookstore looks at the cover of a book. On the landing page, he looks at the title and subtitle at of the site if any, then notices the overall layout and design of the page, and perhaps any widgets and navigational or design functions or features in the margins; if he doesn’t close the window/tab but goes to any other page, his attention span may increase–especially based on how well your site tries to convert this visitor into Type 2 below–but there’s no guarantee. For this visitor, the amount of content on the page he’s looking at and the number of pages/subpages on your site are like the thickness of a book he picks up or looks at without even taking it off the shelf. So, remember that especially if you rely on the quantity and quality of content alone–that is, if you don’t use the overall design/layout of the page to make a professional first impression, if you don’t chunk/organize the text so it’s inviting to read, utilize visual elements such as headings and vertical/horizontal space to make the content accessible, etc–this visitor may exit from whatever he’s looking at. Like it or not, this visitor is likely to represent 70-80% of total traffic on your portfolio.
  2. The Skipper: Especially if you make the site impressive and its content accessible, this visitor may spend a little more time and skip from one section/feature to another in order to get a sense of what those sections/features are about. She may decide to stop at certain parts and read a sentence or two more carefully, but don’t expect her to read full paragraphs.
  3. The Skimmer: Other than getting a sense of what the site is about from the above types of attention, and besides reading the headings/ subheadings if any, this visitor may also read the first lines of your paragraphs, shorter bullet points or visually highlighted texts. Their objective may not be to understand all of what you say but to get the main idea. Foregrounding is critical if you want to help this kind of visitor, who may represent 5-10% of visitors on your portfolio.
  4. The Scanner: Beyond looking around and getting a visual impression, and beyond skipping and skimming through the content of the page, this visitor may actually try to find specific information on the page. You can assume that this person is interested in you, but he will not read everything line by line, word by word.
  5. The Reader: Especially if you have designed the page and organized the content to engage the visitor, you can now imagine a minority of visitors who will go from #1 to 2 to 3 to 4 and be someone who finds the time and interest to read the all or most of the content of your page. But remember that even this person is more likely to read the content if the content is organized and accessible. Contrast, font type and size (though this is determined as much on the visitor’s side as on the writer/designer’s), and such other elements will also influence the visitor’s engagement with the page.

You can also imagine that the above are the levels of engagement through which the same visitor may go through on your site. But DO NOT assume that in the attention economy of the web, the default reader is one who will read what you write.

A lot of students who are used to writing for the teacher (who will not only read the entire text but also often read rough draft, provide comment, etc) tend to not realize what happens when the reader is a “visitor” on the web.

Often “good writers” in college are those who used to read (and often continue to read) a lot of fiction, and many of these writers seem to approach both academic writing and writing on the web as if they are established writers. They tend to play creative “tricks” on the reader, saving up the punch line for the end of paragraphs and the juiciest idea for the end of the essay–expecting readers to read all the details, to follow their train of thought, to hold on to disjointed pieces of information, to make the connection, etc. They seem to not realize that readers for what they write on the web are not the same as people who have decided to read a novel, found the time, and probably put away other things that would demand their attention.

So, instead, I tell students to imagine the following. Say it is 9pm and the person who is about to read your professional portfolio also has three projects whose deadlines are looming. She hasn’t had enough sleep for several days,  and she lacks the energy to focus on anything. Because she wants to be updated on people and projects, she has a Facebook app/tab on her computer. She also has the habit of occasionally picking her phone to see if she has new mail or text. And it is on that computer that the “visitor” of your professional portfolio may be reading what you write. This visitor may be a potential employer, or it could be someone who is trying to learn more about you.

Now, how much you write, what you include, and how you organize the information on your pages should depend on how you imagine readers like the above will engage with your writing.

Given the attention economy of the web, you should let the visitor know what your site is about (with a title and subtitle), directly speak to them where appropriate, provide visual cues, organize text and use vertical/horizontal space in order to make it highly accessible, foreground the main points, and use toggle or link to new pages as necessary. Do not ask/expect the visitor to visit your sub-pages if you can effectively present your information within the same page. Make sure that the visitor knows how they’ve been navigating the site. Provide references and links where appropriate. 

Writing Engaging Blog Posts

I don’t want to reinvent any wheels on the blogosphere: you can find a ton of good advice on how to blog effectively by simply Googling for a while (this was my first find). So, let me briefly summarize what we’ve been discussing in the specific context of our class, adding a few points to the list.

Use a Telling, Interesting Title
image credit: http://sd.keepcalm-o-matic.co.ukNo, the title is not just the “topic” of your post. The title should name the “topic,” say, “the attention economy” (also, not just the broader subject of your writing, which could be, say, “social media”). If you provide a specific “title” for your particular post, say “How the Attention Economy is Disrupting Conventional Marketing Practices,” readers, including your classmates, can see what your post is specifically about. If the title is informative, readers can get a sense of what you are writing about (and decide if they want to read it). And, if the title is also interesting–attention-grabbing because it is funny, creative, new, or otherwise striking–then they may be more willing to read the blog. Let us add a creative twist to the title above: “Look at Me! — How the Attention Economy is Disrupting Conventional Marketing Practices.” Just don’t go overboard, which you can if the creative twist can’t be justified logically or rhetorically. If your blog’s theme makes the title too large and long, you can either edit the CSS or put the subtitle at the top of your post. 

Remember the “Hook-Hold-Payoff” Idea
Unlike the simple/universal idea of beginning, middle, and end, this one comes from “story design“: it is one of the most powerful ways to think specifically about the audience engagement, and it seems very useful for blogging (especially due to the lack of attention on the web).

Hook (or an attention-grabbing act) should start with the title and it should continue into the introduction paragraph, which should be short and effective.  Remember that you should “hook” the reader while also providing the context of your writing, the main point/argument or question at the heart of your post, a sense of post’s scope, and if necessary explicit statement of significance of your topic (normally, the answer to “why does this matter?” should be implicit in the rest of your intro). This means that you can’t just play some gimmick but instead have to get to the point and be interesting and engaging to the reader. Of course, you should not try to save any secret about your main idea (unless that’s the point of your writing and you’re confident that the reader won’t smile and go away; remember the Facebook tab!). Also, save any “background” information and condense and merge it into the body of the post. Look at this NYT blog post (on the topic of “attention economy”) to see what hook techniques the writer uses.

As you move on to the body of your writing, continue to “hold” the reader’s attention. You can do this by NOT burying your main idea in the middle or even end of your paragraph (except when you mean to save the main idea for a rhetorical reason, especially once you are confident that the reader is engaged in the main idea). This is not to suggest that you should use the simplistic old technique of “topic sentence”; however, whenever possible, you should a start paragraph by giving the reader a sense of direction or provide them a striking point on which you build the paragraph. Within the paragraphs, you can sustain the reader’s interest by using an engaging voice, appropriate pacing of ideas (elaborate when necessary, otherwise move on quickly), (see below for Nicole Gartner’s B-L-O-G idea). 

image from http://www.vote29.com/The idea of “payoff” has to do with the sense of “benefit” that you should try to provide the reader by the end of your blog post. Readers need at least one considerable takeaway–and their decision to start, continue, and finish reading what you’re writing is based on that desire. So, even though it may be impossible to “benefit” any and all kinds of readers by the same post, you should imagine one or more types of readers (or rather interests) when writing. For instance, if you expect college students of business, bloggers who write about marketing, your colleagues at work, and family members to read your post about the “attention economy,” you could assume that these readers will benefit from learning “about” the concept (this means that you might want to define/describe or illustrate the concept as you write), from learning how the strange new type of “economy” affects them (if so, you might want to explain how), and from getting to see what you have to say about the topic (as an individual with your own ideas/perspectives). There may also be more direct benefits (some readers may change their marketing strategies), and there may be emotional benefits (you make readers laugh/smile, cry–just kidding–or be inspired by your ideas/feelings about the topic).

Remember Nicole Gartner‘s B-L-O-G Idea
I don’t want to steal Nicole’s thunder, and I have asked her to kindly write/reblog an entry on this wonderful idea of hers on our class blog, but just to remind you the idea that she shared in class, here are some mental notes I took that day.
image from http://www.eventureinternet.com/B- Be prepped: Have something to say, do your research, think through the idea, talk about the subject, be passionate about it
L- Language matters: Write in a language that is personable, in your own voice, using the tone that fits the subject, talking directly to your audience
O- Opinion matters: Be opinionated and in a good way, argue (make) a point clearly and strongly, have something to say something that engages your audience
G- Go for it: Go for it, don’t hesitate or wait until you grow up, there’s a community of people in the world (which is no longer limited to your university or your town) who are interested in the subject and you can reach them wherever they are, blogging is not a tool but a medium to participate in a community of people who care about something so find that community and go for it

Don’t Forget the Context
image credit: www.fourthsource.com
In the case of the Blogfolio Project in the course Writing For Your Profession, the intellectual and professional context of your blogs is your professional portfolio. This means that you should not simply blog about anything (I call that “blobbing”)– don’t do it. While there is no need to tell the reader “how” each of your blog entry helps to showcase your achievements achievements and expertise, enhance your professional image and profile, etc, it is important that your blogs are relevant to your overall profile. If your overall profile is that of an emerging academic scholar of biochemisty, do not add blog entries about William Shakespeare, attention economy, the concert you went to last night, or your old blue cat–unless you mean to and can successfully situate or show genuine significance of your posts to the overall portfolio. Write about biochemistry, its application, its connections, its challenges and prospects, your experience/knowledge and expert opinions, something funny or thoughtful about the subject and its many topics/issues, etc, etc, etc. Yes, if you also want to add social, personal, community service or any other dimensions to the portfolio by blogging about more than the primary area of interest/expertise, you should do so; but the same demand for adding something “relevant” and significant applies here as well.

Organize, Edit, and Proofread Well
The “professional” context of your portfolio also means that you should organize your writing for accessible reading (including short/focused paragraphs, subheadings and other visual elements, images to make reading easier/better); you should also edit and proofread the text carefully because this is specifically a “professional” portfolio and your writing will be judged for the quality of your thought and that of the “product” of your writing. For this reason, don’t publish directly on the web; draft, get feedback, revise, and edit offline before publishing on your site).

Add Images and Other Visual Elements
seeAs I indicated above, visual elements can make your writing more engaging (if used well); you can also use visual design of the post in order to enhance access and ease of reading. For example, if your post is long, you should provide subheadings or simply bold-faced sentences in a few places (if that won’t make the post look odd or if the highlighted text won’t misrepresent the post). Using images (especially with captions) can allow readers who don’t have time to read the text to get the point (if you do it well). Finally, integrating other media such as embedded videos, animated visuals, etc (see relevant section on the “how to” page) can also help you engage the readers better.

More about the Social Dimension

Portfolios (or stacks of paper!): Imagine the 1980s. The word “portfolio” meant a stack of paper assignments with a cover letter that students used to submit at the end of semester. Key to this project was how the cover letter allowed students to “reflect” on their academic experience and skills. The cover letter still serves the basic purpose of reflection, especially for students early in their college careers. By the way, the writing portfolio was first implemented at Stony Brook University by Peter Elbow and Pat Belanoff in 1983.

E-Portfolios (on the web): Fast forward to the mid 1990s. Using the “e” portfolio, students were now able to share their work with their peers as well as the instructor during the semester, receive feedback (offline or off site), revise writing, and give the always-accessible eportfolio the final touch with a course reflection. There are too many benefits to list (as well as a few potential pitfalls) about the paper-to-web migration of portfolios, but the most significant advantage is that the web allowed students to form a community of like-minded learners around their writing. The eportfolio has continued to serve this purpose well insofar as the goals are academic skill-building, self-reflection, and peer review.

Professional Portfolio (the resume and more online): In a sense, the academic portfolios and professional portfolios have little in common: academic portfolios can be static or dynamic collections of academic work and reflection, whereas professional portfolios tend to be showcases of professional qualifications (including academic achievements as one part of the big picture as represented by a person’s CV). The professional portfolio, as an online version of the CV/resume, allows the author to add substance (and for the student, academic work comes handy as content to draw on, blurring the boundary a little). While both academic and professional portfolios add affordances of the web to the paper portfolio–such as hyperlinking, integrating images and other media, more space (without concern for printing, saving, retrieving, etc), visual rhetoric through design/layout and also organization and interactive features (such as collapse/expand, hover over, popups, etc)–the professional portfolio needs to prioritize professional experiences/skills and achievements, showing how the academic knowledge/skill sets translate into professional uses.

Enter Blogging (the social dimension with substance): Blogging was practically done before the dawn of the 1990s and quite popular by the end of the decade, but their widespread use in the classroom didn’t happen until 2006-07. They introduced the interactive/social function into student writing (and gradually into the portfolio). Of course, students don’t need blogs to be able to comment on each other’s writing; they can do so by using discussions boards, wikis (now cloud documents), even emails, as well as portfolio applications such as Digication. But blogs are better suited to interaction, and they allow more advanced college students to showcase the conversation and develop a professional voice by writing for and engaging with broader audiences. Imagine these as students on the verge of entering the workforce or graduate school.

The addition of blogging to portfolios allows students to not only “showcase” their academic and professional activities, achievements, and writing skills/assets; it also allows the more hesitant members to at least “lurk” and the more enthusiastic ones to begin to “lead” in terms of generating ideas and developing their intellectual voice and personal/professional identity while writing for specific or general audiences within and/or beyond academe. Academic showcases in static pages appeal best to the academic community, as well as allow students to be intellectually invested in the building of the showcases; writing with an awareness of (or writing that directly addresses) external or general audiences is tremendously valued even more by employers and graduate school programs. Blogs not only allow students to share their ideas more broadly but also to do the following:

  • invite the audience to respond to their posts
  • allow them to “share” their posts via social applications such as Twitter, Facebook, email, etc
  • allow them to integrate their social media feeds (see right)
  • curate their social presence and feature what they’d want the public so see (we’ll explore)

Most significantly, when it is placed side by side with a thoughtfully designed professional portfolio using static pages, the blogging dimension of a professional portfolio allows students to reinforce their profile and identity (through content and also visual/layout) with their voice, their ideas, their social presence, and their ongoing conversation with others.

Finally, Integration of Social Media Presence (including Twitter and Facebook, yes–introducing the network economy): Take the professional portfolio one step further and integrate the rest of your social media presence, and see the magic happen. Here are some powerful ways of converging your social media presence into a powerful professional learning/development network:

  • Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc: Complete the education, work experience, projects, and other professionally relevant parts in your account on these social media. Then link them from your professional portfolio. You can also create widgets in order to feature your Twitter feed right in the margin of your portfolio.
  • Like, Share, Comment: Add the like, share, and comment functions to your blog posts and desired portfolio pages.
  • Curating and Integrating: Pay attention to what is available about you on the web and make it professional. Add what you’d like to be seen about you. Improve search results by linking, sharing, and using other SEO techniques. Feature the most prominent social/professional presence that you have on the web within your portfolio.

We will discuss in class other ideas and strategies for showcasing your academic/intellectual caliber in ways that are professionally relevant, as well as using social media and the contents of your professional portfolio to present a strong and substantive identity and voice on the web.

World Wide Web of People and Ideas

[This post is from WRT304 Fall 2014]

Thoughts about a Cross-Context Twitter Summit

Sixty minutes of class time today felt like six. A community of educators along with their students, their colleagues, and other professionals that they invited… had an extremely engaging conversation. In the words of Mark McGuire, one of the participants and instructor of Design in the Department of Applied Sciences at the University of Otago in New Zealand, the Twitter Summit we had today “was a good party. [Too] many (mostly) strangers squeezed into a kitchen, all making new friends. The buzz all we remember.” I couldn’t say it better.

The experience was pretty “cool”– Creative Open Online Learning (a concept that I will elaborate in a future post)!

Instead of the web being a lonely place, with each individual staring at their own individual screen, as the “kitchen” metaphor powerfully conveys, the web was a community, a network, a rhizomatic flow of ideas and a friendly place where time and place collapsed. For an hour, a few dozen people from Egypt and New Zealand, Australia and Nepal, and cities in New York/New Jersey and California and Florida and Missouri discussed their thoughts and experiences about writing in their professions/disciplines and how it is changing, how new media are affecting those changes and creating new possibilities as well as challenges. Participants that students talked to included a microbiologist (Egypt), a hydrologist (US), college administrator (Nepal), and among others, a number of teachers/professors from different countries.

There was a second way in which the “kitchen” metaphor was apt. As another participant, Kate Bowles, a higher ed and educational technology scholar from Australia, put it, the medium of Twitter didn’t allow participants to “discriminate between ‘teacher’ and ‘student’. We’re just writing here together.” In place of a class where my ideas about writing too often/quickly meant instructions even when I mean them to be suggestions, there was a busy room with students directly engaging—by using writing—in conversation with fellow students, teachers, and other professionals around the world. The class was quiet (in spite of my encouragement for students to discuss ideas as they read and wrote them); Gene also suggested the good idea of reading tweets out loud while typing, but the class went on being “quietly noisy.” Students were learning writing by doing writing.

The idea of the event originated from a conversation that I’d been having with a wonderful colleague of mine who teaches at the American University of Cairo in Egypt. The last few semesters, for almost every upper division and graduate course, I’ve been inviting a prominent scholar or experienced professional via Skype, letting students talk to the guest. For my Writing in the Profession (WRT 304) course, I decided to invite Maha Bali from Egypt. But there was a problem: Maha’s city is currently facing power cuts, the timing of my class (2.30pm here 8.30pm in Cairo) is not the best for the parent of a toddler, and Maha seems to prefer asynchronous professional communications to synchronous ones (as she describes here).

On the other hand, I have been regularly joining Twitter Summits with members the National Council of Teachers of English, and I have learned a lot from fellow teachers without going to conferences, making new connections, and collaboratively leaving footprints of our best ideas on the network. So, I requested Maha to be our guest “speaker” at a Twitter Summit. Then, as energetic and generous as she is, Maha helped me spread the word among her networks, and she also invited her students (quite a few of them joined the chat). I posted an open invite on Facebook as well as personally invite a good number of scholars from around the US and other countries via Twitter itself.

My students in WRT 304 and I planned the summit by collectively writing a number of preliminary questions, which they took turn to post every five minute or so during the chat. They also poses many questions, as well as actively engage guests in the conversation, during the one hour conversation.

There was a level of humor and friendliness which many participants seemed to use for countering the sense of isolation that talking through a computer or cellphone screen can create. Praveen from Nepal said while introducing himself that it was midnight in Kathmandu. Krishna from Missouri said that not much has changed in his data-driven field of higher education studies in the last 30 years. Kate said that at “5.30am here in Australia, still dark, early Autumn.” Gene, the Director of the program where I work, said as soon as we asked participants to introduce themselves: “This is my first tweet” (his Twitter handle is @GeneHammond47). Many participants greeted him with encouraging messages.

Students seemed to be more straightforward in their introduction; some of them also observed for a while before they started responding, after which they drove the conversation with great gusto. As one student observed, there was also a sense in the conversation that everyone was familiar with the topic, that we all spoke the same language, that we shared the discourse about writing.

But I have to add that this was (really) largely an illusion, and to a lesser extent a reality. Let me explain what I mean by this.

If we look at some of the conversations during the middle of the hour, especially the discussion about why participants wrote, what they wrote, what was their favorite/common writing, etc, then it seems at first that we all shared the same view of writing. Ramy, a microbiologist, said, “I have to write for every possible purpose. In science, we don’t exist if we don’t write & publish” and then “I have to write almost every day either presentations, blog posts, online tips & assignments, etc.” My students here at Stony Brook said similar things. For instance, Sonali said that she is “more of a professional writer. Not too creative. I need a purpose for my writing.” So, the Egyptian scientist and an American health science undergraduate major spoke about academic writing in similar terms.

But it took some of the teachers involved, as well as my students who helped with planning/organizing of the event, a lot of thinking and preparing so that we developed a feasible topic for cross-contextual discussions, we found a common ground and common terms, and we described and explained the subject of the conversation through blogging and multiple days of advance Twitter chat. Especially our main guest Maha and also a few other colleagues asked me a lot of questions about what I meant by “writing in the profession”—and my students and I were always conscious about cross-contextual differences (in spite of the fact that university “cultures” can be similar to some extent when it comes to areas like “academic writing”).

Thus, it was not that my students and I here in the US decided the subject, format, and purpose of the conversation in a one-way-traffic model. The planning was based a deliberate attempt to avoid making the local seem like universal. The shape of the conversation was not based on my knowledge and expertise of my profession, or by the highly local academic discipline and academic culture/conventions in which I and my students function. Furthermore, my role was limited to collaboration and information-gathering, such as helping students write the questions, soliciting feedback from guests and adapting the questions for making the conversation more open, and, during the summit, welcoming and thanking participants.  The nature of synchronous Twitter Chat reinforced the complex (even necessarily confusing) and multidirectional nature of the conversation—which I really wanted it to be. The one-hour micro-MOOC, or what we half-seriously called a “creatively open online learning” (COOL) experiment was a powerful supplement to what students have been doing. It would be unreasonable to assume that they could replace the dozens of other modes of learning, in both on-site and online learning and especially the first.

What we did was intensively collaborative, online, open, and powerful in many ways. But it was something new and it needs to be seen as unique, emergent, supplemental form of learning. So, my best insight from today’s wonderful international Twitter summit is that it is possible (perhaps necessary) to engage students with outside audiences. It is important that we inspire and guide them to engage with the world through synchronous and asynchronous modes of communication/writing. Learning how to use writing in its emerging forms can give them tremendous leverage on the job market or even higher learning as even academic/professional writing/conversations are increasingly influenced by new forms of writing.

My students would not learn as much and with as much fun and engagement about what I call “professionalized media”—or social media used in professional ways—if I had just described, demonstrated, or even let them use among themselves.

The network is powerful, and students will harness that power if they practically learn how to use the mediums. At one point, they should start using the writing skills that they use in order to do powerful things like exchanging ideas, forging new professional relationships, and influencing others in the world. And this seems to happen best when the audience is diverse in their professions, interests, contexts/cultures, and so on. As Eliza said, “Just seeing how connected we are yet we come from different backgrounds, is amazing really.” The power of writing is best seen in context, as Linda suggested when she said: “It’s amazing what 140 characters can do! Such deep and insightful thoughts being tweeted with.”

Students were very grateful to the guests, thankful for the opportunity. Here are some of the tweets from the end of the summit:

Jasmeen: “Thank you everyone for joining  What an amazing use of social media to “meet” so many people on an international level!”

Arielle: “Thanks everyone for joining us! It’s truly been an amazing experience!”

Ken: “Thank you. The guide to writing a blog is useful. I wish I had the posts on viruses during my biology course.”

Angelyse: “Thank you all for you great insight and time! hope we could do this again, enjoy your day.”

Sonali: “Thanks to everyone around the world for joining in this insightful conversation.”

Sean: “Twitter summit w/  was an enlightening experience into the new age of communication and rapid spread of knowledge. Thank you all!”

Eliza Hassan: “I am so in awe with Twitter after today’s Twitter Summit!!”

Guests were glad to offer their time and support as well. Here are some of the noteworthy tweets:

Kate Bowled: “Had a fantastic time in  — great questions, so many thoughts. Totally worth getting up in the moth-busy dark for. Thank you all.”

Cynthia Davidson: “Thanks for the opportunity-I hope we can continue the thread after class is over.”

Kristina Lucenko: “Thanks to everyone in , and to @SharmaShyam for hosting us all! A terrific discussion. See u all in the Twitterverse.”

Tanya Lau: “Agree! Thanks @SharmaShyam for organising  – the most lively and diverse tweet chat I’ve been on!”

Ramy Karam: “…We should definitely talk soon about how to join efforts, and follow up on writing & elearning.”

Maha Gayel: “Thank you for giving us the chance to join this interesting discussion.”

Iswari Pandey: “Great conversations at Write4Pro today. Thanks, Shyam, for organizing it.”

Mark McGuire: “#Write4Pro was a good party. 2 many (mostly) strangers squeezed into a kitchen, all making new friends. The buzz all we remember.”

And, Maha Bali: “Thx @SharmaShyam for hosting this! Really enjoyed #write4prowhile managing my hectic home duties!”

I tried to express my gratitude to my students and our guests using the words “love you all”—slightly awkward as it was, I haven’t thought of a better way yet. And I’ll have to leave this (unedited) blog post here because I now really need to prepare to teach tomorrow and get some sleep!

Here’s a Timeline of the Summit

——

Twitter Summit — #Write4Pro

[This post is from WRT304 Fall 2014]

On Monday March 10 at 2.30-3.30pm Eastern Standard Time (US), Shyam Sharma and his students (in an undergraduate course on “writing in the professions”) are organizing a Twitter Chat.  Topic is: “Writing In Your Profession — and Its Evolution.” Hashtag: #Write4Pro We’d like to warmly welcome you to the conversation! 

We are interested in listening to our guests about their experiences and thoughts regarding the nature and role of writing in their current or anticipated professions. The event is just a humble attempt to set aside one hour of class time to experiment with an emerging mode of professional conversation, the Twitter Chat. We will appreciate your participation/contribution.

—Here’s a Timeline of the Summit from Twitter—


HOW IT WORKS———written for students—–maybe useful for others—–
Short (for our purpose): At the set time, 2.30pm EST, log on to Twitter; search #Write4Pro using the search bar; and pick any interesting tweet to reply, favorite/like, or retweet to your network. Always add #Write4Pro somewhere in your tweet. That’s it.
——————————————————————————————————
Long (General Purpose–if you want to learn more)
Twitter Chat is a pre-arranged conversation that happens on Twitter through the use of 140 character tweets that “include a predefined 
hashtag [ours is #Write4Pro] to link those tweets together in a virtual conversation” (About.com). A hashtag serves as a filter, helping participants call up tweets using that tag by using the search function or, for greater convenience, third party applications such as TweetDeck. You can also alert users by adding their Twitter handles (or usernames preceded with the @ sign), but that is not necessary for participants who are in or aware of the chat. 

Before the chat, if you have time, consider getting to know any guests and their interest/specialty a little in advance (one guest we already know, Maha Bali, is a teacher and teacher educator from Cairo, Egypt, and I found this and this blog entries that she wrote recently worth sharing). Be familiar with the topic for the discussion and questions or common text if there are any of these. Write down a few questions, thoughts, and/or links that you might want to share during the chat. Read up a little about how to be an effective participant in this new and exciting type of conversation. If you haven’t been exposed to the power of Twitter (no kidding), this is the right time to give yourself the opportunity. It is okay to lurk, observe, say one or two things, decide that you don’t like this new mode of conversation/writing. Also, do not expect too much out of the event, learn about regular netiquette (plus, if you like, Twitter etiquette and Twitter Chat etiquette), and do not hesitate to start tweeting about the subject if you want. Help to promote the event by sharing the hashtag with your network in advance. Consider letting your network know that you may be “noisy” during the scheduled time, because your tweets could flood some inboxes during the chat. Finally, right before the chat, sign in to your Twitter account; make a little extra effort and sign in to TweetDeck if you want to save time and hassle of typing and searching the hashtag during the chat. Be prepared to use an alternative device and connection.

During the chat, start by reading the moderator’s and guest/speaker’s tweets. Also look at tweets around the leading questions or topics so you help to forward the conversation. Don’t hesitate to create tangents; it’s in the nature of Twitter chats (technically and socially) to be a little chaotic and rhizomatic (branching out in different directions). Be informal but friendly and polite (again, nature of such chats). DO NOT FORGET TO USE THE PROVIDED HASHTAG (for this event: #write4pro) in EACH of your tweets so other people in the conversation can see what you wrote (exclude it when you don’t want to speak to the whole group). Feel free to alert people outside of the conversation by adding their handles to your tweets. Retweet others’ posts, or just favorite them; these are ways of encouraging/promoting their thoughts in your network during “and” after the conversation. Remember the netiquette, do not hesitate to contribute (don’t just listen if possible), and encourage other participants.

Why Twitter Summit? I regularly join Twitter Summits with members of my professional communities (most notably the National Council of Teachers of English), and I learn a lot from fellow teachers without going to a conference, make new connections (follows and followers), and collaboratively leave footprints of our best ideas on the network.

Who will Join? We have heard from teachers (along with their students) and professionals in different fields from as far away as New Zealand, Australia, UK, Egypt, and Nepal and from the US (Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New York…). We’re excited.

I hope you will join the event and that we will all gain something from it. -Shyam Sharma

What I am Learning from the Project as a Teacher

In this post, I will be writing my own reflection about working with you, guiding you, and inspiring you (I believe) in this project. I have a lot to say about the idea, but I want to write more toward the end of the semester than early on. For now, let me just say that the blogfolio project draws on my personal interest and professional experiences working in the following areas: lessons, mistakes, and insights from exploring learning management systems and applications within then since I first started using them in mid 2000s; training on digital storytelling, digital media for teaching writing, and personal exploration of web and web 2.0 technologies as they develop; scholarship about multimodal composition in and across contexts; leadership for graduate students across a university for professional development (esp. professional networking) through strategic use of social media for participation (esp. from lurking to leading) in their professional worlds; and participation in and conversations about cross-border higher education and evolving educational technologies.

For now, let me make this post look better with some lorem ipsum text again.

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