This time last week, I was getting set for the inaugural European Twitter Fight Club, with some big plans about how I would use the opportunity to teach and educate, even as I crushed the opposition.
Sadly, my dreams were to be denied me come the quarter-finals, when I crashed out to Berlaymonster, a glove puppet who works in Brussels in a job that clearly allows it too much free time. Its superior limerick-writing skills eventually did for me, even though I’d managed to land some punches through my powerful use of jpgs.
Tant pis, as my mother used to say.
More important than my personal failure to win (and I’ve discovered what I always knew, which is that I am really much more competitive than I pretend I am), we might consider what I’ve learnt.
- Don’t compete against glove puppets. Especially gin-drinking glove puppets.
- My plan to educate did not work out at all as planned. The pace of each round, fought over an entire day, coupled to some notional feeling I needed to do my day-job too, meant that the more creative projects I had in mind simply fell by the wayside. Indeed, it was only because of my hubris in assuming I’d get through the next day that meant I could prepare anything to use.
- However, I still was able to do some different things. Most substantial was working through a Party Political Broadcast from the UK Independence Party, responding to claims made almost frame-by-frame. This I tweeted, then Storify-ed. As an activity, it generated some interesting interactions with other users and demonstrated how information can be broken up and then re-combined later on, something with obvious applications in the classroom.
- The use of humour was particularly important, both specifically and generally. Twitter encourages rapid posting and responses and so lends itself to various forms of humour. In a broader sense, this also offers potential in an educational setting, both by allowing for unconventional contributions and for getting students to unpack insights that humour might contain. To take a small example, as a judge in the semis, I’ve asked the competitors to suggest new policies for UKIP, which could in turn be used to stimulate class debate about how parties formulate policy and about the nature of UKIP specifically. In this case, it’d be a short debate (to look at the suggestions) but it’s a start.
- Twitter is very good – in part for the reason above – in building an internal sense of community. The intensity and immediacy of the medium have built a network of interactions and shared experiences that will last for some considerable time. This happens despite (perhaps even because) those interactions are not all serious. Even with the role I was effectively handed of ‘the academic’, my contributions were not all (actually, barely) academic.
- Externally, TFC was also very good for making new connections with other non-competitors. as a profile-rising exercise, it has much to commend it. While this might be more marginal for students, the ability to be both professional and playful is one that has its uses.
So overall, a mixed bag. I’m definitely up for it again next year (if they’ll let me). But for use as a framework for learning, one could also see how a smaller version might be used to get students to demonstrate learning in a different way. For example, rounds might only last an hour, with more specified topics for discussion, with classmates voting, and all outputs being captured somewhere, for ex-ante feedback and discussion.
And with that thought, I’ll leave you with some of my pictures, since that’s what most people want to see in these things. I only now notice how unhappy most of the people are in these, which maybe says something about something. One to discuss
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