Ah, the irony. A workshop on how researchers use social media that was conducted entirely through the medium of a board game and cut-out paper snakes.
Today, with Helen Donelan and Clem Herman, I took part in a workshop as part of the the 3rd eSTEeM conference. The workshop focussed on how STEM academics are using social media. We were also joined by Wojtek Lubowiecki, Academic Reputation Manager at the OU.
After a brief introduction from Helen and me about our different research projects, we had a game of snakes and ladders. However, instead of dice, the participants discussed statements about what they do (or don't do) with social media. All the statements in the game were based on data from interviews Helen and and I have conducted with OU academics. "I only follow people on Twitter if I think they will be useful for my work" moved players up 15 spaces!; "I've uploaded my publications to ORO and I'm pretty good at keeping it up to date" advanced them 6 spaces; "I use skype/lync to hold meetings with colleagues" (5 spaces); or "I really don't have the time to use social media" (1 space). No one got to the 100th square but then, we didn't expect them to.
Next came the cut-out paper snakes (and ladders, of course). We asked participants to think about the barriers (snakes) and about the motivations (ladders) they perceive for using social media.
Some interesting comments emerged: social media was seen as quite time-consuming, both in terms of time to create content and time to filter incoming content; participants were also unsure of the benefits of using social media and the fear of posting something inappropriate. More positively, participants felt that, used well, social media could enhance personal profiles; improve communication and knowledge-sharing; and get academics on the same wavelength as their students. It was very useful to have Wojtek with us, as he was able to hear participants' comments and respond to them directly.
Quite a lot covered in one short hour!