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I went to the IATEFL conference in Liverpool last week wearing a variety of hats.

Not literally, but rather to do with the multiple roles I find myself in at the moment:

    • An ESOL teacher very much interested in professional development, wary about actually putting into practice or even remembering the insane amount of learning that could be possibly got at a conference like IATEFL;
    • A speaker, giving a talk on experimental practice – basically a ‘why do it and how to do it’ – expecting an audience of more novice teachers and being presented with one including rather more CELTA/DELTA trainees than anticipated (including two of the tutors from my own DELTA!);
    • A representative of NATECLA (not in an official capacity, however); and finally
    • One of the social media IATEFL team as part of the IATEFL Electronic Communications committee.

It is in this last guise that I intend to report to you today, as while I was tweeting and sharing things on Facebook, as well as moderating both platforms on behalf of IATEFL, I shared some data that I found particularly interesting. I’m not drawing any conclusions yet, but I’d like to share them with you and suggest some possible applications for either your own association or classroom work.

IATEFL last day

Explanation courtesy of Guido: ‘it´s live! online plenary talk starts iatefl13 liverpool. Walter: language students need night video materials, dogme teacher.’

This word cloud was generated using an online tool called Tweet Archivist, which essentially archives and analyses tweets based on a particular search term, username or hashtag that you specify. It operates a freemium model (i.e. some features are free, and to get more there is a subscription fee or one-off payment you have to make).

By logging in to Tweet Archivist using your Twitter credentials, at a free level you have access to the following:

  • A snapshot archive of tweets from up to seven days (as far as I can tell) before the time of enquiry – I just entered #iatefl and it pulled up data from 1,899 tweets from the 11th to 18th April
  • A selection of recent tweets containing the search term, username or hashtag. NOTE – you used to be able to download an Excel or PDF version of an archive of these tweets, but this NO LONGER APPEARS TO BE THE CASE for the free version.
  • Visualisations of the following:
    • a top user analytics piechart – just who is tweeting about the hashtag
    • a word cloud of words that people are tweeting with the hashtag (like the image above) – what are they saying
    • top URLs – what resources people are sharing
    • tweet source piechart – are most people tweeting from tablets, phones or laptops?
    • top languages pie charts
    • tweet volume over time
    • user mentions
    • other hashtags
    • images shared

You can choose to subscribe and your archive then gets updated every hour for a fixed fee per month (you can have up to three archives running simultaneously).

There is also a desktop application version of the program, although it only seems to run on Windows.

Possible applications

Well, obviously other associations running twitter accounts might be interested to get snapshots of info about what people are tweeting using their hashtag or based around their events. It might help to inform of general opinion about different elements of the conference experience, or give an idea as to what themes are being discussed on Twitter around the conference, convention or other event.

For teaching, if you are a teacher who tweets… it might be interesting to use this as a prompt for language work in tha classroom. A quick analysis for the word ‘school’ reveals many tweeters’ opinions on this part of life. (WARNING – Twitter is an open public platform, so there is no control about what people tweet and there may be explicit language in Tweet Archivist analyses. I accept no responsibility for the content of searches you run and advise you to CHECK THEM BEFORE YOU TRY THEM OUT IN CLASS.)

If you have a class of tweeters, you might find it useful to set a unique (as far as you can) hashtag for your students to tweet with each other and share and then analyse what has been tweeted.

Side note: Petra Pointner’s talk on using Twitter with students from IATEFL Harrogate 2010 may well be useful here:

So where next for me… Well as an IATEFL ElCom person, I’m going to be experimenting with this a bit more, probably trying to find some other tools to compare (especially Mac or other OSs) and see what happens around some other events. Regarding Twitter in class, it’s not something I really have capacity to do, as not all of my students are computer, let alone social media, literate.

I leave it to you.

PS – this is part of a blog challenge: 5 posts in 5 days,  set by Tyson Seburn. You can read Tyson’s 3rd post here: Mixie Me, and Tamas Lorincz’s 3rd post here: On conflicts