Can Web 2.0 improve Q&A?

May 24, 2011 at 10:06 pm (Twitter, Web 2.0) (, , )

The use of questioning to gauge understanding and provoke discussion is a familiar tool in traditional classrooms. Due to their directed nature, question and answer (Q&A) sessions are more easily utilised in smaller classes than larger classes.  This is because larger classrooms like lecture halls can create barriers to interaction due to their physical size and generally larger numbers of students. In this situation individual student questions and opinions can become lost in amongst the ‘masses’. Equally lecturers may struggle to put forward questions, correct understanding or, create discussion when they have an obligation to continue teaching to the majority of students.

So, can web 2.0 applications enable us to  reach greater numbers of our students in a large class environment?

Gary felt awkward Tweeting to ask to go to the bathroom

Web2.0 applications by virtue of their informal and social nature, promote the development of educational communities. It is these that Clinton (2011) identifies as allowing the development of the critical thinking encouraged during the andragogical process. Web2.0 applications also provide a window for other students to passively view any discussions or questioning threads. The behavior of these ‘lurkers’ (a Twitter term for a non-participatory user) allows them to observe the cognitive processes that others apply to the questioning or discussions and in the process learning themselves  (Williams & Jacobs, 2004).

A number of Web2.0 applications are available that allow synchronous, and more importantly free, questions and answers discussions to occur during a normal classroom session. My initial thought was to use Twitter as a Q&A tool due to its ease of use and familiarity to a number of students and staff. The capacity of Twitter to create engagement allowing asynchronous and synchronous conversations to occur in and out of the classroom environment is its greatest asset.  In a recent study (Junco, Heiberger, & Loken, 2011) found that use of Twitter as a discussion tool increased grades in comparison to non-users. However Twitter does have some limiting features such as a small message size, hard to follow discussion threads, and noisy background chatter (social conversations), that may make it less than idea for in-class real-time Q&A discussions.

Fortunately there are two other tools which are also freely available and address some of the downsides of Twitter. Those tools are Google Moderator, & the Live Question Tool, an open source application developed byHarvardUniversity. Both operate in a similar way so I will discuss them as a whole rather than as individual applications.

Both applications allow students to post questions to the speaker/lecturer during a lecture in real-time.  Responses to each question can be posted by staff or if allowed, by other students. Students are also able to vote on individual questions to highlight the relevance  of the question to them.  The Live Question Tool also enables anonymous posting which may allow previously ‘shy responders’ (Educause, 2009) to participate in class discussions. In a large class where a greater numbers of questions may be asked the voting method can provide some filtering enabling the lecturer to devote their time to the most popular questions. Voting can also enable’ themes or the ‘knowledge gap’ to become more obvious to the lecturer who can then correct or revisit the content to suit. In contrast to Twitter these two tools provide a structured, simple approach to discussions however neither application offers the same degree of social integration as Twitter.

Twitter, Google Moderator, and Live Question Tool, are just some of the applications that can allow students and lecturers alike to engage in synchronous and asynchronous questioning and discussions. Technology availability (cell phones, laptops), communication medium (Wi-Fi) and appropriate use guidelines are just a few of the wider issues surrounding the deployment of these applications. These issues should not be under estimated however they should be measured against the benefits of using the technology e.g. increased learner engagement, creation of educational communities, and shy responder participation.


Clinton, G. (2011). Educating for critical thinking: thought-encouraging questions in a community of inquiry. Higher Education Research and Development, 30(3), 357-370.

Educause. (2009). 7 things you should know about…Live Question Tool. Retrieved from

Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2), 119-132.

Williams, J. B., & Jacobs, J. S. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

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Education in 140 Characters or less

May 15, 2011 at 10:24 pm (Twitter, Web 2.0) (, )

Recommend going full screen for the presentation


Al-Khalifa, H. S. (2010). Finding a Place for Twitter in Higher Education. eLearn, 2010(5).

Chamberlin, L., & Lehmann, K. (2010). Cultivating Twitter. eLearn Magazine, 2010(8). Retrieved from

Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Horton Hears a Tweet. Educause Quarterly, 32(4). Retrieved from

Kearsley, G. (2011). Situated learning (J. Lave). The theory into practice database  Retrieved 15 May, 2011, from

Schulten, K. (2011). Ask Teachers about Twitter and microblogging in the classroom. The New York Times. Retrieved from The New York Times website:

Twitter. (2011a). Twitter is the best way to discover what’s new in your world.  Retrieved 11 May, 2011, from

Twitter. (2011b). The Twitter glossary.  Retrieved 11 May, 2011, from

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A KFC Education Model?

May 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm (Web 2.0) (, , , , , , )

It only cost $7.90 for a heart attack?, book me in for a bypass!

As I sat watching a segment on Campbell Live tonight, I couldn’t help wondering how we could make education as popular as KFC’s new ‘Double Down‘ burger?

The key it seems, is to always have something new and exciting on hand to engage the students. KFC hasn’t kept trying to sell the same old burger (originally just chicken) to its customers all these years, if it did it would have probably gone bankrupt a long time ago.  Instead KFC, or Kentucky Fried Chicken as it was formally known, constantly reinvents itself to meet the changing requirements of its consumers. And so it is with education. The latest classroom technology can quite quickly become old and stale to our students reducing their engagement. Who remembers OHP’s, printing whiteboards, and reel to reel projectors? To your students these devices become part of the furniture, useful but boring.

What does this mean for educators? Unless you are one of the early adopters, and even they get it wrong sometimes, get used to being on the technological back foot.  Just as your parents use of the word ‘groovy’ signalled that it was uncool; when educators start getting comfortable with the latest You/Twit/Face app, your students have already started to move to the next big thing.

So what is the next big thing and how do we use it? Nobody knows, well actually your students probably know but they won’t tell you for fear that it will become uncool. However, you have a secret weapon…. your training. When KFC create a new burger or a delicious chicken treat, they don’t replace the staff because they only know the old products. No, instead they up-skill them, providing them with training that builds upon their existing knowledge of KFC products and methods. For educators this means your knowledge of pedagogy and its application to adult education remain the same. The application of these skills to new technology may however require some ongoing re-training.  Fortunately it is now easier than ever to up-skill yourself into the world of Web 2.0. If you have the internet at home then you’re already halfway there. So why not explore the current raft of applications available to you; Twitter, Wikis, Facebook, YouTube, WordPress are all examples of new education applicable technology that is free to use.

Just remember its not the method, its the message. Oh and here’s the link to the inspirational ‘burger.’

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