#ISSsocialmediaedu – I summoned the Fail Whale but did not fail

In my last post used an image of the Fail Whale just to show that I was taking the risk of the Fail Whale appearing. Well it happened. I summoned the Fail Whale.

My plan was simple yet ambitious. I wanted to get all of our faculty who did not have Twitter accounts signed up on the microblog service. Actually I had two goals. I wanted to get them all signed up but also teach them the anatomy of a tweet and how to use hashtags.

Things started out very well. I showed the classic “Book as New Technology” video which is actually in Norwegian (Our school is in Norway) with English subtitles. Several people had seen that video but many had not so it was a hit. I told them a quick story about how a teacher just this week had asked me a question about the best iPad app for mind mapping. I immediately sent out a tweet and got a reply from Jeff Dungan in Shanghai (thanks Jeff!) He had mentioned #lucidchart in his tweet and within 24 hours the product manager of #lucidchart had tweeted us both, asking for our feedback and wondering if we wanted to join the beta for the next version of the product. That the power of the network and I wanted to tell that story because people relate to stories.

We moved on to the account creation stage and things seemed okay until the fail whale appeared. His image did not actually appear on the screen but users were unable to create accounts. You’ve been there I’m sure. One person near me raised their hand and showed me their screen, “It’s asking for my phone number?!?!” I looked at their screen and sure enough there was a screen that asked for their mobile number so that Twitter could send a verification SMS. My director raised her hand and asked me for help too. She did not have her phone nearby so I told her she may not be able to make an account this afternoon. Then some people who had their phones entered their mobile numbers and got an error on the screen. Twitter was freaking out because so many people were trying to create accounts from a single IP address. I knew I was going to have to change plans.

I switched into demo mode. A few people had been able to make accounts and several people were already on Twitter so they could follow along but the majority of the faculty just watched, listened and learned while I dissected a tweet and explained hashtags. We had limited time so the switch to demo mode actually worked out quite well.

In the 24 hours since this event I have actually heard all positive feedback. I think sometimes that we are our own worst critic and while I felt bad about the faculty that were not able to create accounts, they seemed mostly unphased. Some people have actually told me they went home and completed the process of creating their accounts. I have had 5-6 teachers follow me on Twitter (and I had not asked them to do so). It was not a failure after all!

Next week I will email our faculty again and just give them a little reminder of the Twittersphere. I’m not going to let this little setback, well, set me back. I have limited time with the entire faculty and I could have just given them the “app of the week” type of session. Instead, I have given them the equivalent of a full time personal PD assistant! I did not feed them fish, I taught them to fish and I’m pretty excited about fishing with them now and in the future.

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