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Language codes for Twitter

Brueghel's Tower of BabelHow to find tweets in a specific language?

That’s an issue for many Twitter users, including language learners and native speakers of other languages. Because of the dominance of English on the web, it’s easy to find English tweets. But finding tweets in other languages is not so straightforward.

One solution could be to tag each tweet with a language code. Using IANA’s existing language codes seems an ideal solution for compatibility and ease of recognition. This coding system is used widely on the web and in its basic form uses a two-letter code for each language. For example, the code for English is en, the code for Maori is mi.

It would be possible to use a tag prefix symbol in front of each code so that we could search for tweets in that language. But we need to use a different tag prefix than is currently used for tweet topics. Ideally, we could use just a single non-alpha character: where # is used for topic tags, we could use something like the percent sign. So, a tweet in modern Greek might be tagged with %el.

It might also be useful to flag tweets written in a non-standard language character set. For example, because of the limitations of some Twitter clients, we might want an additional symbol to tag a tweet that it is in Greek but which is transliterated into an English character set. Eg %el!

Since there is a lack of documentation on which specific characters are distinguished by Twitter’s search function, any use of a new tag prefix to denote language will require some trial-and-error testing to ensure it works effectively. If the polyglot community of Twitter users could agree on such a coding system, it would make it much easier to find relevant posts in languages other than English.

Image: Brueghel’s Tower of Babel

FLLinNZ Postcard 8

I attended the Moodle Moot at Waiariki Polytechnic from 3 to 4 February. This provided really valuable insights into the status of various TEC-funded projects which have incorporated this open source platform. For me, it’s been gratifying to see how Moodle has moved on from being something of a fringe player two years ago: it’s now used by a number of large institutions and it’s no longer looked down on to quite the same extent! I suspect it’s more significant than just providing a ‘free’ alternative LMS: Moodle is a good example of a new business model which is developing alongside the more traditional ones.

On 15 February I attended a research presentation at University of Auckland by Margaret Turnbull and Mavis Haigh on Replacing the nods and smiles: raising questions about philosophy and pedagogy in a predominantly web-based Master’s paper. Although based on a small sample, this provided some useful qualitative data on student perceptions of the online learning experience and some of the issues that teachers face in providing formative feedback online.

Early in 2005 I took on a formal role with Nga Kiwai Kete: the eLearning Toolbox, John Delaney’s TEC-funded eLearning project. This is a big time commitment for me on top of all my other work but the project fits well with my FLLinNZ goals and I feel I can make a worthwhile contribution here. It means I have had to rethink some of my planned FLLinNZ activities, but Nola warned us we’d have to be flexible!

I have been able to extend the work I undertook towards the end of 2004 with a small private training provider in Rotorua by working with senior staff to talk through their goals and educational values. I’ve followed this up by developing a formal eLearning Development Plan for the consideration of the governing body. This plan establishes achievable targets for the short and medium term and the provider’s feedback has been very positive.

My experience with this provider clarified for me my own approaches to mentoring in the eLearning area, and how this role is different from that of a professional developer. I’ve started to develop better models of the overall development process and how mentoring, coaching and professional development fit within this. This has provided me with a clearer perspective on leadership and my own role as a Flexible Learning Leader.

At the same time, I have started a mentoring process with a key focus on leadership. My mentor is a skilled and experienced practitioner, and a colleague that I have worked closely with in the past providing mentoring for new tertiary teachers. We have also established a secondary focus of exploring mentoring processes, and plan to publish something in this area in the future. The process has already provided valuable insights into issues arising from my professional work.

One technical area I’ve been exploring has been synchronous communication. I was hoping to offer a remote presentation using Breeze at a US conference on Women’s History – not really my field but a teacher development workshop I’ve run in the past would have fitted nicely with this. Unfortunately, it turned out the presentation would have had to be on our final sharing workshop day – a good illustration of the limitations of synchronous delivery. Anyway, although I wasn’t able to pursue this, it did get me investigating simple desktop video – something I’d played with and given up on years ago but is now much more than a toy.

FLLinNZ Postcard 7

From 9 to 10 December I attended the Australian Flexible Learning Leaders Sharing Workshop at Coogee Beach, Sydney. For me this was very valuable: not just the content of the presentations but the whole approach to presentation and reporting back on their projects. Many of the leaders used narrative techniques such as metaphor to tell their stories. This got me thinking about my own report back at the FLLinNZ sharing workhop later in 2005.

On 13 December I attended a presentation at AUT of Desire2Learn, a commercial Learning Management System: thanks to Peter Mellow for organising this! Although I’ve mostly focused on open source systems over the last couple of years, it was interesting and worthwhile to see a new competitor to the big players. It will be interesting too to see how the market for these systems develops over the next few years!

My final activity for the year (21 December) was to visit a small private training provider in Rotorua. The provider had a connection with Nga Kiwai Kete, John Delaney’s TEC-funded project, and I met and talked to the staff about how I could assist the development of eLearning in the organisation through mentoring and staff development. For me this was very productive: it was great to have the opportunity to work with a provider where there was little or no existing eLearning involvement but a great desire to get involved!.

FLLinNZ Postcard 6

In the last two weeks I’ve participated in:

A face to face presentation by Alan Levine at Unitec on Connecting Learning Objects with RSS but which in fact was re-titled on the day to PhotoBlogging: Publish and Build Communities Around Digital Images. So it wasn’t quite what I had expected but useful: I was motivated to have another go at fixing a faulty link between my photos on flickr and my blog. A boring technical detail perhaps, but as Godfrey Parkin recently posted:

…trainers who really want to encourage experience-sharing and dynamic learner-created content are scrambling to understand blogging…

I also visited a private training provider here in Auckland who is looking to explore eLearning strategies for delivering training. I met with three of the organisation’s managers and discussed some of the options. I’m expecting to follow this up with a face to face eLearning workshop for teaching staff on eLearning and (hopefully) some online mentoring. One aspect of my contact with private training providers that I’ve become aware of is the need for confidentiality, since they work in a competitive environment!

I also met with the other FLLinNZer’s in Auckland and Northland at AUT to discuss a possible eLearning event in 2005. Lyn Smith has done a great job in co-ordinating this! We’re still in the early stages of planning but there is plenty of enthusiasm and lots of ideas, so watch this space…

Between 8 and 19 November I took part in the NET*Working 2004 online conference but I was unable to take a full part due to unforeseen circumstances. I also found the choice of platform a bit frustrating – as Stephen Downes pointed out, if you didn’t run IE on a Windows PC some synchronous features were unavailable or unreliable. But overall the conference showcased Australia’s dynamic eLearning community – it’ll be interesting to see how the new developments there pan out over the next 12 months or so.

FLLinNZ Postcard 5

I’ve just returned from a workshop at Unitec on Digital Storytelling by Alan Levine. I’ve used storytelling in courses for teachers that I have facilitated, so this was a high-interest topic for me. Alan’s institution runs a one-week workshop on digital storytelling.

I was pleased that the session was focussed on the stories themselves, not the technology used. The technology is relatively simple: the final product is a movie incorporating still images with transitions and a voice-over. The first two days of the workshop are focused on writing the stories, then the photos are taken and the voice-over recorded. The stories are put together using iMovie and look rather like the sorts of things done in schools where ITC is integrated into the curriculum.

Most of the examples shown were stories of personal significance to the tellers – I was hoping to see some examples related to specific curriculum areas, and maybe some text-based examples too, but the model was clearly a very successful one and could easily be applied to a subject area.

I really like the way Alan is constantly publishing his thoughts via blog and wiki – the wiki for his NZ visit is well worth a visit and includes notes and links for all the workshops he has run to date. If you get a chance to get to one of Alan’s workshops, they’re highly recommended! He has a lot of knowledge and experience and he’s happy to pass them on.

Alan talked about stories as being
told around the campfire – a nice concept!