A couple weeks ago I took a group of students away from the classroom for an experiment in teaching blogging and social capital – the Birmingham Social Media Treasure Hunt.
After a quick briefing and some pointers on using Posterous and Twitter from a mobile phone, the students fanned out across the city, finding people with a social media presence, talking to them, and blogging, tweeting and audiobooing all the while. The idea was to get them to stop thinking about ‘the story’, start building social capital, and think of online journalism as something that can take place away from a desk.
Now some time has passed I wanted to share how the experiment went and how the students found it.
In short: it worked.
Mitchell Jones blogged 4 social media tips he’d learned this year, saying the treasure hunt:
“Added an extra dimension to our learning process by throwing us out into the real world and encouraging us to broaden ourselves beyond good writing of good stories. Social media is more than reporting on stories online with a link posted to a Twitter account; it’s about communities, networking and bridging the gap between the journalist and the consumer.”
Rachel Simmonite said:
“I found it a very useful exercise, one that I really enjoyed, as it got us talking to actual people rather than just sitting in front of a computer screen. I also think that we found out more doing it in a more personal way.”
Yasmine Hachani said:
“Today, I have realized how important it was to have an active social life. I always thought about the way to get great social capital but did not know that every little helps and that each person you meet might have useful contacts. For instance the [people] who gave us the contacts we needed for our blogs are not in the [environment] field at all. I was amazed to see that people were happy to help, right now I see the world differently and have another vision of the UK [Yasmine is French].”
The one thing that didn’t seem to quite work was the tagging element. The use of the hashtag #bsmth was patchy, and none of the blog posts appeared to use the tag at all (although Mitch’s audioboos were tagged). So the pre-treasure hunt briefing needed to look at the practicalities of tagging blog posts as well as tweets.
Also, if you’re going to need to check the tweets later make sure you archive them within a few days using one of these tools, as Twitter Search only reaches a week or so back.
As an aside, a different group of students last week spent their normal lesson time at the Birmingham Social Media Cafe meeting people from the local social media scene over free coffee. Again, it seemed a useful exercise, and both seem to have made them more confident in attending meetings and events of all sorts in the local area. I’m sure they’ll correct me in the comments if I’m wrong…