Full circle conversations

I had to explain to journalism students how to use social media (I only had one hour!). Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe the first stage is organizing your thoughts and listening. After that participate actively in conversations but don’t just broadcast your messages. So the sequence could be like this:

  • Organise your thoughts using mindmapping. There are lots of tools, I like to use MindMeister. The added benefit is that, in a later stage, you can turn your mindmap into a collaborative map, asking others to help you. There are free alternatives for online mindmapping but they won’t all allow for collaborative mindmapping.
  •  Head over to social media such as Twitter and Facebook to listen. Organize relevant people in Twitter lists, search for hashtags. Other interesting places for in-depth discussions are Reddit and Quora, and for each subject you’ll find specialized forums.
  • Use a good dashboard such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to keep stuff organized.
  • I still use RSS-feeds and RSS-readers, in my case that’s Feedly.
  • Make your own procedure for hunting and gathering important content. You can stock posts into Feedly and in social bookmark services such as Diigo. I use Diigo a lot, it makes it easy to use tags, descriptions and to work in groups.
  • Have your own blog, but don’t underestimate the technical hassle. An easy solution might be Tumblr or Medium. Or you could go for a fully hosted WordPress or Drupal solution.
  • Of course you also need social media to talk about your blog posts and to discuss with others. Don’t hesitate giving others credit for their posts and contributions and engage in real conversations, not in thin excuses to promote yourself.
  • This is where the circle closes itself: you return to the social media to tell people about your post and to reconnect. You can use the feedback to develop your mindmap even further and then you can publish the mindmap as a collaborative document where others can add their own thoughts. Maybe this will inspire you for a new post and a new cycle.
  • Chances are that you can invite people to form a small community on Slack, where you can work together – exchange bookmarks, organize channels for different aspects of the subject the community is interested in. A videoconferencing tool such as Zoom enables you to engage with that community into a weekly of monthly meeting. Or you can invite experts for short presentations and experiment with realtime collaborative mindmapping.

Social media in this classical sense costs time and effort (which I myself lack for the moment). A lot can be said about strategy – I recommended the students to focus on well-defined subjects. Specialized subjects and real-time communication also help to avoid the kind of brutal and rude social media fights one witnesses every single moment these days.

How concept maps can be immersive

In this post I’ll talk about some rather simple immersive tools. They have to do with what knowledge is about, with visualization and non-linear thinking and presenting. Do not fear: there’s no need for high-end graphics. The elements on which this simple immersiveness is based are non-linearity, interactivity and visualization.

In the personal learning environments course #PLENK2010 you can find a discussion thread about concept mapping, with George Siemens providing a link to a paper about The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them by Joseph D. Novak and Alberto J. Cañas (Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition).

Siemens explains: “Concept mapping assumes relatedness of knowledge – i.e. the information you connect is what produces your knowledge.” The course uses Cmap but personally I love using MindMeister (which allows for open wiki mindmaps), for instance I made this map about real-time web and news media for a seminar in Moscow:

Please note that I only provided a basic structure for the map – others added many nodes, provided Russian translations etc in a pure wiki-style. The reason I like those maps is that they allow for non-linear thinking and discussion. The enhance a more organic, associative way of reflecting on things. Compare having a group discussion with a linear powerpoint presentation versus a more brainstorming type of session, or at least a meeting where people are allowed to really interact and to go back and forth the points discussed – eventually adding or eliminating discussion nodes.

Actually, you can use non-linear presentations derived directly from concept maps for larger audiences. A colleague of mine introduced me to an interesting tool, Prezi, which helps you to do just that.

Here is an example of such a Prezi presentation about teaching mathematics by Guy Murphy:

There are other examples at the Prezi site. The big advantage of a Prezi presentation, when used for an actual living audience, is that it’s very flexible and incites the group to connect ideas in ways which may even surprise the presenter.