Tweeting about Slavery: How the Open University Made Me Re-think Twitter

I recently began taking an online course in Technology-Enhanced Learning from the Open University. I’m four weeks in and finding it fascinating. The course is delivered online to students all around the world. My tutorial group of 12 has students based in the UK, Vietnam, Australia, and Tasmania, and yet we are able to see one another, meet up for informal chats online, and participate in formal, tutor-run, “synchronous” tutorials via OU Live and Blackboard Collaborate.

One of the best parts of the course, in my opinion, is that it constantly asks us as students to evaluate the means by which they are teaching and we are learning (when it’s not busy asking us to define and debate via the online forums what ‘learning’ is). Over the 10-15 hours of study and activities each week, we are provided with information in a variety of formats and are asked to think about not only the content but the means by which the content has been presented. Videos, podcasts, transcripts of conference papers, articles from peer reviewed journals, chapters from academic monographs and essay collections… we’ve already encountered course material from all of these formats.

In the course we aren’t just exposed to a wide range of formats of digitised information, but we are asked to think about the technology we use (both high tech and low tech), why we use it, what we like and dislike about it, and what could work better for us. We’re connecting with one another on Twitter, creating online profiles, blogging, gathering resources together on a group wiki, meeting up virtually face-to-face online, and being challenged to learn about new forms of technology that can contribute to learning, teaching, and course creation.

This has also got me thinking about how I might use familiar technology in new ways to create, develop, and organise content and research. For example, for a number of years I relied almost solely upon irregular notifications of new information posted to the H-Slavery forum sent directly to my email to find out what was happening in the world of slavery history research. But then I began making an effort to become more active on Twitter (BTW You can find me on Twitter @HistoryByPaula ). By following slavery researchers and anti-slavery projects from around the world with only a click of the Follow button, I am finding new leads for resources, the latest relevant news stories, upcoming conferences, and links to Facebook pages, blog posts, and calls for papers and publications. It’s fairly safe to say that I would not be aware of most of this activity without Twitter.

For me, Twitter has gone from a website where people write little notes about themselves to a useful tool that connects me with what is going on in my field of research right now. And I don’t know if I would have recognised it as a tool had it not been for H800.

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