Embedding Twitter into teaching activities.

The new academic year has started and as usual I am embedding technology in my teaching.  This semester I am going to be more consciously using Twitter to post information to my current students rather than using Twitter to connect with my online colleagues.

I am doing this because it is time to start applying what I have been discovering through my PhD research, which is that many OTs are using online technologies but many do not yet use technology well for information management and knowledge transfer activities. 

I have added a new hashtag to my frequently used list. It is the course code #OCC311 of the course that I am teaching this semester at the University of the Sunshine Coast. This course is titled Enabling Occupation: The adult. The focus is on understanding and critically anaylsing occupational therapy approaches.

I would really appreciate input by the online OT community to demonstrate to students the power of social media in information management and knowledge transfer.

Getting the most out of Twitter as a health care professional!

Two years ago I said that I thought Twitter was taking it too far in the online world and I seriously couldn’t see a role for it in my life…  I have changed my tune! 

One year ago I tried to use Twitter more often, but found it daunting because I wasn’t using an appropriate tool to get the most out of it.

Now I finally understand the role Twitter can play for healthcare professionals as I finally found a program to collect Tweets, organize them in topics and also found ways to share  my Tweets in other forums such as Facebook, my Blog and LinkedIn.  So now that it is part of my routine I thought I was ready to share some tips on getting started on Twitter and getting Twitter to work for you! 

Tip 1. Think about your online persona, have a reason to start Tweeting.   

Decide what you will Tweet about.  I mostly Tweet about OT, Higher Education, Online Technology, Assistive Technology and topics broadly related to these, (sometimes I stray away and Tweet about how my football team is going, maybe I could use a separate identity for that?)
My Twitter Profile
Tip 2. Create a professional profile in your Twitter account.  Choose an online identity (or name) that represents you.  I chose VirtualOT and use it for all my professional online activities.  Having a consistent online presence helps people to start forming a relationship with you, soon they start to send you information because they know your interests.  
Customize your Twitter profile to give a professional impression! a)  Write a brief, professional and relevant bio (it is ok to include some personal information, just keep it to what you would tell a patient/client in real life), b) Upload a picture or avatar that represents you professionally, and c) Customize your page’s background and colours.  You can do all of these things through the settings tool bar, then select ‘design’ for the background, ‘profile’ for your profile etc. 

Tip 3.  Learn the lingo (language).  Thanks to @enableOT for the foundation of this list on OT4OT wiki
@:  Use this to inform a person that you are directing a Tweet towards them (e.g. @VirtualOT). 
Find people:  This means “find people to follow”. 
Follow/Following:  By following someone you will see all his or her tweets on your page.  You can choose to follow anyone who allows it; sometimes you will get a message saying they need to approve you.
Hashtags #:  The hashtag is used to tag a topic.  For example in OT we use #OT. 
Profile: Customized information about you that others will see on Twitter.
Tweets:  The term given to the bite-sized messages of 140 characters you send out.  Tweets can be public, private, or even direct messages.  You can only receive direct messages from people you follow and vice versa.  Re-tweets (RT’s):  This is when a tweet is forwarded by another user.
Tweeps: People who use Twitter (sometimes also means people you met on Twitter).
Twittersphere:  The virtual world of Twitter.

Example Tweet using bitly (reduced URL)

Tip 4.  Be concise and informative.  You only have 140 characters to use for each Tweet, so be concise!  Think of Twitter as a virtual notice board with the capacity to leave notes or questions for individuals or groups about a topic.  Most health care Twitter use this forum post information, look for answers or brainstorm a problem.   Examples include looking for a resource, a supplier or to share news on funding changes for OT services.  If you need to add a website URL these can be very long.  To get around this use bitly or tinyurl to shrink the url address so it can fit in your 140 characters more easily.

Example Tweet hashtag #OT

Tip 5. Use #tags – hashtags.  Hashtags have made a huge difference to finding information on Twitter.   These are the best way to have non-followers see your tweets and for followers to notice Tweets of shared importance.  For a current list of Twitter hashtags that are of interest to OTs, see Twitter Hashtags List.  A helpful website is WTH: What the Hashtag, an editable encyclopaedia for hashtags found on Twitter.  Experiment with hashtags as they specify your interests.  You can invent your own hashtags (e.g. we created #OT4OT which is online technology for occupational therapy).

Tweetdeck helps organize top

Tip 6.  Use technology to organize your Tweets! The basic Twitter site will show you a constant feed of information from people you follow.  However there will be people in the “Twitterspehere” posting about topics you are interested in.  You need a way to collect and organize Tweets by topic.  There are a number of Apps for phones and computers to help you organize tweets by topic.  TweetDeck, HootSuite, and TweetCaster help you organize your Twitter account for your phone, desktop computer, iPad, laptop etc.  It can be daunting to work out which App to use, I have settled with Tweetdeck and am happy with its performance.  On my Tweetdeck I leave a search column open at all times for the terms #OT, #Virtual-World-OT-Day, #OccupationalTherapy, and #OT4OT.  I also use these hashtags frequently when chatting with my OT Twitter friends. 

Linking Twitter to Facebook

Tip 7. Set-up an RSS feed—Twitter is an especially powerful networking tool when combined with a blog or Facebook account.  You can set up Twitter to direct Tweets to your Facebook wall (if you want) and you can also set up a feed from Twitter to your blog.  Using these tools you will be able to post information just once and have it available in three different online forums!  Note: Another great way to get more impact from your blog is to set up Networked Blogs in Facebook to re-post blog posts on your Facebook wall.    

@enableOT created an OT list in Twitter

Tip 8. Find people to followTo find people you can use findpeople link in Twitter.  Once you follow one person, you can look to see who follows them and then click the “follow” button to add them to the list of people you follow.  There are also directories such as wefollow.com where you can search for people by keyword.  To find other OTs on Twitter start with @enableOTs occupational therapy list and from there you will find many other lists of OTs under areas of practice or topics of interest.  

Tip 9. Be selective about who to follow back—Once you’ve been on Twitter for a while, people will begin to follow you.  Don’t feel compelled to follow everyone back, they may even turn out to be a spam-bot or simply a person whose interests don’t align with yours. When deciding whether or not to follow-back, look at the user’s profile and see if their profile and interests match yours, read some of their recent Tweets and see if you’d like to “converse” with them.

#FollowFriday is a great tool to find OTs in Twitter

Tip 10. Make use of #FF.  Follow Friday #FF is the hashtag to help people find new Twitter friends. On Fridays “Tweeps” recommend people they think others should be following.  Take advantage of these days, follow the people your friends recommend and then re-tweet the recommendation to let the recommended know that you are now following him or her.  Apps like FollowFridayRanking help keep track of who is being recommended!


This is a copy of an email I received in April… sorry it has taken me this long to share it!

MADISON – In early April, Adam Wilson posted a status update on the social networking Web site Twitter – just by thinking about it.

Click on this link to see a demonstration.

Just 23 characters long, his message, “using EEG to send tweet,” demonstrates a natural, manageable way in which “locked-in” patients can couple brain-computer interface technologies with modern communication tools.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison biomedical engineering doctoral student, Wilson is among a growing group of researchers worldwide who aim to perfect a communication system for users whose bodies do not work, but whose brains function normally. Among those are people who have amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), brain-stem stroke or high spinal cord injury.

Some brain-computer interface systems employ an electrode-studded cap wired to a computer. The electrodes detect electrical signals in the brain – essentially, thoughts – and translate them into physical actions, such as a cursor motion on a computer screen. “We started thinking that moving a cursor on a screen is a good scientific exercise,” says Justin Williams, a UW-Madison assistant professor of biomedical engineering and Wilson’s adviser. “But when we talk to people who have locked-in syndrome or a spinal-cord injury, their No. 1 concern is communication.”

In collaboration with research scientist Gerwin Schalk and colleagues at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, N.Y., Williams and Wilson began developing a simple, elegant communication interface based on brain activity related to changes in an object on screen.

The interface consists, essentially, of a keyboard displayed on a computer screen. “The way this works is that all the letters come up, and each one of them flashes individually,” says Williams. “And what your brain does is, if you’re looking at the ‘R’ on the screen and all the other letters are flashing, nothing happens. But when the ‘R’ flashes, your brain says, ‘Hey, wait a minute. Something’s different about what I was just paying attention to.’ And you see a momentary change in brain activity.”

Wilson, who used the interface to post the Twitter update, likens it to texting on a cell phone. “You have to press a button four times to get the character you want,” he says of texting. “So this is kind of a slow process at first.”

However, as with texting, users improve as they practice using the interface. “I’ve seen people do up to eight characters per minute,” says Wilson.

A free service, Twitter has been called a “micro-blogging” tool. User updates, called tweets, have a 140-character limit – a manageable message length that fits locked-in users’ capabilities, says Williams.

Tweets are displayed on the user’s profile page and delivered to other Twitter users who have signed up to receive them. “So someone could simply tell family and friends how they’re feeling today,” says Williams. “People at the other end can be following their thread and never know that the person is disabled. That would really be an enabling type of communication means for those people, and I think it would make them feel, in the online world, that they’re not that much different from everybody else. That’s why we did these things.”

Schalk agrees. “This is one of the first – and perhaps most useful – integrations of brain-computer interface techniques with Internet technologies to date,” he says.

While widespread implementation of brain-computer interface technologies is still years down the road, Wadsworth Center researchers, as well as those at the University of Tubingen in Germany, are starting in-home trials of the equipment. Wilson, who will finish his Ph.D. soon and begin postdoctoral research at Wadsworth, plans to include Twitter in the trials.

Williams hopes the Twitter application is the nudge researchers need to refine development of the in-home technology. “A lot of the things that we’ve been doing are more scientific exercises,” he says. “This is one of the first examples where we’ve found something that would be immediately useful to a much larger community of people with neurological deficits.”

Funding for the research comes from the National Institutes of Health, the UW-Madison Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, the UW-Madison W.H. Coulter Translational Research Partnership in Biomedical Engineering and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
– Renee Meiller, 608-262-2481, meiller@engr.wisc.edu

EDITOR’S NOTE: View and download a video of Wilson using the brain-computer interface to post to Twitter at http://nitrolab.engr.wisc.edu/media/P3Twitter.mov

CONTACT: Adam Wilson, jadamwilson2@gmail.com; Justin Williams, 608-265-3952, jwilliams@engr.wisc.edu

Harnessing the power of Twitter with the hashtag!#!#

On the 26th March 2009 I said “I don’t see the point of Twitter” on my blog, but now I appear to be a born-again Twitter user!

It’s amazing! It was a gradual build-up, or was it a steady erosion? Either way, over time I started tweeting more frequently and following more and more people. This meant that I also attracted more “followers” (which is always good for the online ego), and these people sent me interesting information and links etc!

The turning point in becoming a Twitter user was harnessing the power of the hashtag! Namely while I was at a conference #celc2010 and watching tweets from another conference #cot2010.

So… what’s a hashtag # and what do they do?

Hashtags make all the difference in using Twitter because having a hashtag means that you can follow certain topics, events, people etc. Interestingly #wfot2010 was a very low key event on Twitter because we simply didn’t have the numbers in OT circles to create a groundswell of activity (and I know some key people really tried, ClaireOT, EnableOT, Su_BuOT, BridgettPiernik, alisonlaverfaw and Merrolee and even VirtualOT), but it wasn’t not enough to create an impact in the Twittersphere.

Over the past weekend I followed more and more topics of interest using hashtags and found that it was both a blessing and a curse. A good example is as Nils pointed out on Facebook, #OT brings in topics of conversation around the Old Testament and Occupational Therapy… among other things. I figure you just “block” those people who always want to talk about the Old Testament instead of occupational therapy, but will that block people who are talking about occupational therapy and the old testament? Yes! I’m not sure that there’s a solution to this.

Claire Jones suggested that we need a hashtag system! I agree, we do! So Claire initiated this on the OT 4 OT wiki on a page called “Hashtags List” and we need your help. What hashtags are we already using and what hashtags should we make?

Getting the news you want on Twitter
On another topic around Twitter, it is crucial to have a way to organize where and how you capture Tweets. Sure, you can go to their website and read through the Tweets that have been posted by the people you follow, and you can add your own tweets while you are there. But Twitter is really about getting information in and out fast! So, we need to use an application for Twitter that manages the feeds and organizes them into categories and does this on a mobile device.

I have found four applications so far and tried three: Twitterific, Tweetdeck and HootSuite are the ones I’ve tried, and today I heard about “Involver” but have not found an iPhone app for this. Tweetdeck and HootSuite are superior to Twitterific, so I would recommend choosing between these. I am not familiar enough yet with HootSuite to say it is better than Tweetdeck, and it appears from a conversation on Mashable today that the jury is “divided” on this.

The main reason to use one of these apps is that they organize information coming in for you. They organize it using the hashtags and searches you have set up, and put them into columns or folders for you. That way you can open up the Twitter app and go to the search that you want. e.g. #wfot2010. It makes it faster and easier to stay up to date with what you want. The other wonderful thing about these apps is they also allow you to feed in updates from Facebook. Tweetdeck lets you add feeds from LinkedIn as well when using it on the internet, but not on the mobile app. HootSuite brings in feeds from Twitter, Facebook and Foursquare.

I’m really interested to know who is using Twitter, what you are using for and how you are managing all that information!

‘Tweeting’ medics expose patients

This link was sent to me by Susan Burwash… interesting article from the BBC about medical students using Twitter and Blogs to inappropriately share information about patients or institutions.

Medics posting messages on networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are breaching patient confidentiality, a leading journal reveals.

Research in the Journal of the American Medical Association found examples of web gossip by trainee doctors sharing private patient stories and details.

Over half of 78 US medical schools studied had reported cases of students posting unprofessional content online.

One in 10 of these contained frank violations of patient confidentiality.

Most were blogs, including one on Facebook, containing enough clinical detail that patients could potentially be identified.

Click on this link for the full article.