Category Archives: Twitter

T-SPARC’s most useful websites of 2009

printed internetHappy new year to you all! As 2009 has now come to a close we thought it was appropriate to have a look back at all the wonderful technologies we have found throughout the last year. Below I have listed some of the Internet based tools and sites we have come across when exploring options for disseminating the activity of the T-SPARC project.

Random Useful websites

• Zamzar –
Free online file converter. A life saver when your ‘PDF’ really needs to be a ‘JPEG’ for your blog!

• Tiny url – and –
Both equally good for cutting down URLs for ‘no mess’ tweets and blogs. Although Tweetdeck has its own ‘URL shortener’

• TED –
‘Ideas worth spreading’ indeed! Some free lectures/ speeches/ talks from some truly inspiring and fascinating people on a variety of topics.

Video sites

• YouTube –
All T-SPARC’s stakeholder videos in one place (including xtranormal videos and captions)

• Xtranormal –
This is an excellent tool for anonymity of our stakeholders in interviews. Also great that it is compatible with ‘YouTube’ and ‘Overstream’.

• Overstream –
Overstream is a fantastic tool for captioning videos to create greater accessibility. To find out more about T-SPARC’s use of ‘Overstream’ read this blog:

Twitter and other sites

• Twitter –
Twitter is a new and innovative way to connect with like minded people and has proved invaluable in creating an online community here at Birmingham City University. It is a quick and easy way to communicate with only 140 characters available in a tweet  so your message must be quite concise. I feel that it is best used in a project management style to update stakeholders on the project’s progress and to also send out links to the project blog or other informative websites.

• TweepML –
A very useful way to keep lists of people from certain groups. The above link is a list of all the ‘tweeters/ twitterers/ tweeple’ in Design Cluster B, and here is a list from Birmingham City University

• Tweetdeck –
A superb way to manage more than one Twitter account, with quick and easy viewing of direct messages and mentions and a facility to search for words, phrases and hash tags, as well as a ‘URL shortener’.


Other T-SPARC sites

• Flickr –
A place to keep all of the project’s photos and pictures. We’re hoping to add a lot more to this over the coming months.

• Netvibes –
Netvibes has proved to be one of the most useful tools that I have found. Through this marvellous site I have built our own web page for T-SPARC which brings all the information and technologies we need together. I have created 3 tabs: ‘T-SPARC’,  which has the T-SPARC blog, our Flickr and YouTube accounts all easily accessible as well as education news websites and Birmingham City University website. There is also a ‘Twitter tab’ which has links to #dcb09 and #jisccdd aswell as the T-SPARC twitter account. I have also created a JISC tab where there are links via RSS feeds to various updates from the JISC.

• WordPress Blog –
This blog has also proved invaluable.  It is a space where we can document the trials and tribulations of the project and keep people up to date with the project with more than 140 characters! 


The Accessibility Factor

accessibilityAs our project is described to be ‘Agile and Responsive’ in our title, we thought it was important that our work reflects this and that we are as inclusive as possible with our stakeholder engagement, therefore making sure that our resources are accessible to all stakeholders is imperative to the T-SPARC project.

After discovering this article on twitter ‘YouTube introduces automatic captions for deaf viewers’ it got me thinking about the baseline review video we have loaded onto T-SPARC’s YouTube Channel. I began to wonder how accessible it really was, because at that time it was the only video representation of T-SPARC on YouTube and it had had quite a few hits. I realised that without at least a transcript it meant that the deaf and hard of hearing communities as well as people for whom English is not their first language, would struggle to access this resource as well as people who did not have speakers on their computer.

I decided to do some detective work and look into captioning. You may notice that I am writing about ‘captioning’ and not ‘subtitling’. ‘Captions are usually in the same language as the audio. Subtitles are usually a translation.’ (See point 6). When researching captions and subtitles I came across ‘Caption it yourself’ which recommended I began to explore overstream and was surprised at how easy it was to caption our 3 minute video. In fact the most time consuming part of it was writing the transcripts –putting them onto overstream was a breeze, all you need is a little bit of patience…

The service was free, all T-SPARC needed was a log in.  After having a bit of a play around with Overstream I began to realise how crucial this tool could be to the accessibility of our work. Not just in the case of a deaf person trying to access it – but it could also be argued that captions can actually assist learning. (see ‘The benefits of captions’)

Our Cluster has also had some interesting discussions around accessibility issues at our most recent Cluster meeting in Cardiff  (see: “No CAMEL route is long, with good company”) in October. We were joined by Katya Hosking, the Inclusive Curriculum Officer at Cardiff University to discuss Equality & Diversity issues around curriculum design and the accessibility of programmes. It was a fantastic session which made a lot of us in the room question the way that we were doing things, hence my thoughts on captioning.

I must admit that I do have a personal interest in this as I am currently working towards my Level 2 certificate in British Sign Language so who knows – perhaps in the future you may see me signing away at the bottom of the screen!

To enable captions on this video please click ‘cc’ on the right hand side of the screen.


Tweet to Who?


(WARNING: Large amount of twitter speak used in post.)

TSPARC_BCU has been tweeting now for 2 months. We keep a daily log of a similar style to our tweets on SharePoint and thought it would be appropriate to tweet along similar lines to let stakeholders know what we are up to with our project. Since joining on Thursday 16th July we currently have 25 followers and are following 42 ‘tweeters’ who range from JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee), to members of our cluster, to people from other institutions who are interested in course design.

Since being on Twitter and using it as a serious tool to connect with our stakeholders we have come across a few issues. I’ll outline them here:

The problems with twitter…

  • Is Twitter too new?

Twitter is still quite a new concept to many people, therefore not all the stakeholders that we want to reach will be signed up to it, also it takes some people a while to get used to replying (e.g ‘@tsparc_bcu’) and contributing to trending topics (‘#dcb09’). Therefore it is quite difficult to get the same ‘buy in’ as you would with a blog. A blog would generally attract more people than a Twitter account as people do not need to be signed up and can stumble across a blog page quite easily.

  • How do you tweet to as many stakeholders as possible but not over do it?

A recent issue we came across was when Paul was at ALT-C (The Association for Learning Technology Conference) and I was back in Birmingham. Paul was tweeting away and I thought that his tweets looked very interesting and informative so I began re-tweeting them from the T-SPARC account. Unfortunately I fully re-tweeted them with the ALT-C hashtags, not realising that it came up in the conference feed just above where Paul had already tweeted. Paul sent me a direct message via twitter asking me to stop re-tweeting, but I didn’t get it as I did not have DMs set up on the T-SPARC account on TweetDeck, therefore I continued to re-tweet his tweets until he sent me an email asking me to stop to which I replied that I was only trying to reach the people who are following T-SPARC but not following Paul. We could both see each other’s issue: how do you tweet to the widest audience possible but not be so excessive that you begin to lose followers?

Good Things about Twitter

  • Networking.

I recently re-tweeted something that Harriet (CourseTools, University of Cambridge) put out on Twitter and I noticed that a BCU lecturer tweeted back to Harriet discussing it. This example shows how Twitter is a great way to network and speak/tweet to like-minded people.

  • More hits on websites

Twitter is a good tool to encourage people to look at your blog or website. As you can only use 140 characters it is easier to put a link (tiny url) to a website then try to explain your point on twitter.

  • Let’s talk business

Unlike Facebook, Twitter allows for a profession specific focus and is used by people across the ages for a number of uses. Also people that you communicate with are called ‘followers’ rather than ‘friends’ so it takes the creepiness out of lecturers talking to students outside of lecture time.

Here is a list of BCU Tweeters:

Birmingham City University’s Faculties, Schools and Services who are on twitter

Here are some links to some blogs about how Twitter was used at the ALT-C Conference:

The use of twitter at ALT-C Conference

Twitter: A walk in the park