A bit of background
I got introduced to Twitter through a course run by the OU (H806). Through this course I got to know about many interesting people whom I now follow on twitter (Matrin Weller, Grannie Conole amongst others).
Last year I had piloted e-logs for supervision of project students. The results were promising and students responded positively saying the amount of contact they got from me using the e-log and feedback mechanism was better than what other students were getting. For me, it meant a lot to be better informed about the progress of my students.
One thing was missing then. Twitter - an informal back channel for all students doing project with me. As soon as i heard about it, it automatically filled in that gap and I used twitter with my students for project stupervision.
How to use twitter for Project supervision
There are a lot of things that all my project students do each year this includes the process of planning, organising and doing the project. Up untill now these students would work in isolation, reinventing the wheel all by themselves again. Some students form groups on their own and meet and discuss their studies but not every one gets this opportunity. Being my students they have an added layer of commonality in their projects - GSM/Communication/web/etc - the things that I am interested in.
However, projects tends to be a one person battle. Students may feel lonely and isolated during their project phase.
Here is where I bring in Twitter. I have always belived that friends/communities are formed easily when people are going through similar events that bring with them similar challenges on all involved. Here the target group is project students supervised by myself and I use twitter with them to share with each other their current challenge(s).
We all follow each other. We regualrly post "what we are doing?". We read these short messages and try to help each other. Simple.
For example, A student posted "am stuck with this modem not working" another finds that he has used the same modem and suggests few things to try. I also step in to help. With so many suggestions the problem got solved quickly. Others see this happening and the community feelings grows and they join in too.
For the purpose of supervison I am also using a wiki with these students and they update their project plan progress status on that wiki, apart from this they also put docuements for me to provide feedback.
I have reduced the frequency of the face to face meeting (once in two weeks as opposed to every week) as a result. Blending modes of contact seems to work and my role of being s supervisor cum facilitator is made easier. I am not the only one guding the students they help each other.
I presented this work at the EdMedia Conference in Vienna in 2008.