Sunday, April 25, 2010

Comparing PLURK ( and TWITTER (

In the recent months, started exploring this platform, PLURK (after a quick introduction by buddy Ching Ya). She started using it for her HCL lessons, and started to fell in love with it... probably because

  1. It's really a new playground that not many have ventured into! ah! She's like Christopher Columbus, who discovered America, filled with excitement.
  2. More importantly, the platform has presented to her the potential educational value :D This is not because it's a new or flashy tool, but it's after sound comparison and analysis :D
Plurk, according to wikipedia: Plurk is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as plurks) through short messages or links, which can be up to 140 text characters in length.

Description is similar to Twitter, according to wikipedia: Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers.

One common characteristics between these 2 platforms are "140 characters" feature - which on one hand, it's deemed as a limitation, while on the other hand, it's an opportunity! (ah! The "2 sides to a coin" analogy applies here).
  • Limited with 140 characters, it means one could not express the thoughts in long stories, using flowery languages! So, it's not a good platform when one is expected to elaborate or deliberate on certain topics. It's not a place for one to 滔滔不绝,口若悬河。
  • On the other hand, 140 characters would be a good way to train one to express his ideas succinctly. Good training for summary writing. It's also a way when one starts to learn to make appropriate choices of words. Yes, there are people who love to beat around the bush... saying the same thing over and over again... there goes to 'air time'.
  • On the other hand, "140" characters has different significance - in different subject context. For instance, in both English Language and Mother Tongue Languages, it could be used to sharpen Summary skills? On the other hand, in Chinese Language, it could be a write-up like 阅读报告;读后感 which could reasonably amount up to 100 characters or so.
Well, how about other tools that allow users to comment? Quick examples: Blogs, Discussion Forum (including message board), Facebook 'wall'? Well, these are interactive platforms which allows the writer to go beyond 140 characters... so, you see, each platform has its strength. One would say, simply ask the writers to limit the number of characters in their inputs. Well, they could do manual count, however, it would be a painful process!. So, why not tap on the affordances of technology? Let the built-in feature to 'remind' writers that adhere to the requirement options :D
Both Plurk and Twitter require registration and login, hence one is 'identifiable' and hence is responsible for his own behaviour in that space, as there's a norm to follow (in that community).

3 features, that I observed, distinguish Plurk from Twitter are (i) "grouped" responses (ii) scaffolds (text) (iii) timeline. These additional features 'enhances' its educational value, as compared to twitter.

Indeed, look at it from another perspective, both are microblogging platforms - with its original objective/intent - to serve as a social interaction platform. The creators might not have thought of its role in education... it's WE, the educators who start to explore and creatively exploit the platforms to turn them into our advantage (hahahaha...)

"Grouped" responses: In the earlier days when we started using Twitter for our Professional Development workshop, one feature that we heavily tapped on is the "tagging" feature in Twitter - yes, it's like grouping. We have tags like #sstpd01 where all the inputs were consolidated for discussion. Hahah... It's like the state-of-the-art tool (especially when we introduced that to our trainers during the BSC workshops)! However, soon, we also discovered its shortcoming: Such tags do not last long. Meaning that, the tag will only remain active for about one week, afterwhich, if there isn't any active contribution using the same tag, the tweets will no longer be 'pulled' together. Hence manual archive is still necessary. In other words, the 'groups' are not permanent.

Here's an example: This tag #ade2010 comes alive since mid March this year, as it's specially set up for the class of 2010 Apple Distinguished Educators. To-date, after a month, it's still active because there is a constant flow of contributions from the various members in the community :D

retrieved on 25 April 2010, 7.43 am (Singapore time)

Here's an example to show Twitter's "non-permanence": Just one week ago, when we did the 'live-tweet' about the Parents Seminar held in the school, it was tagged #ParentSeminar. On that day, we were able to retrieve to consolidated tweets pertaining to the event.

However, as I returned this morning (one week later) to search for the tag #ParentSeminar, the consolidated tweets no longer exist.

Instead of using tags to 'group'/consolidate responses pertaining to a partiular topic, Plurk provides a 'dialogue box' where the respondents could input their responses to a particular topic.
The way it organised the inputs keeps the discussion going on and remain focused, rather than the respondents have to filter what's relevant to the topic or not. Yes, it's like those discussion forums where we could follow the threads - well organised.
  • The way it organises the inputs is similar to wall in Facebook. Of course, to keep the discussion focused and inputs short and sweet, this would be a better platform. Else, both are equivalent.
  • On the other hand, because Plurk doesn't come with too many other fanciful features, it is cleaner and deem to be more organised. So, sometimes, it's good to keep it simple :D
Here's an example when I posted a topic on how plurk could be used in teaching and learning. While inputs came in and parked under the topic, I could start plurks on other topics and continue my discussion with the respondents. Indeed, it generated a fair bit of inputs... and within 20 minutes, it generated more than 60 inputs :D

From the above, it's obvious to see that, it provides opportunities for respondents to build on each other's ideas or generate new talking points... cross fertilisation of ideas could be very powerful to generate new ideas.

Here's another example how we could use this... for consultation... or I would say, it creates an opportunity for peer learning and teaching (to some extent). Of course, how effective it is really depends on how we facilitate the 'discussion' and guide the learner through the thinking process.

Make a comparison to blog. The interactive platform engages the respondents through eliciting inputs from them (they are active), whereas in blogs, we can simply post the full set of solution. Indeed, shortly after this particular activity, the working were consolidated posted in the Maths blog.

Scaffolding Text: This is a feature which I thought it's pretty unique to be 'included' in a social networking/ microblogging platform. Indeed, it guides the user on the thought process, through his 'emotion' before before penning it down.

On the other hand, this 'scaffold' lands itself very well in language learning; also good for lessons or activities that aims at eliciting responses related to emotion, feelings... reflection... oh yes, the scaffolds also come in Chinese :D

Came across similar scaffolding features in another platform, "Knowledge Forum", whereby reesarch has also carried out to examine the impact of a structured 'online' approach (including scaffolds) on collaboration (over project work).

Another not-to-be-missed powerful feature is the TIMELINE. To many, the purpose of the timeline is to help retrieve conversations at a particular point (which I'm not aware that twitter allows that?). On the other hand, if we were to put it into educational use, in a structured manner, it helps to record, organise and keep track of observations.

  • In the context of social humanities or sciences, such observations could be put together to establish patterns over time (if recorded over a period of time) or to consolidate observations gathered from various remote locations.
  • In the context of narrative or descriptive writing, observations, feelings could be recorded and put together like a 'digital story' :D
  • Have not tested these ideas, but am very sure these are the some benefits it would generate - authentic learning & emotional connection > Personalised learning for enhanced learning experiences.


Harsh Seth said...

i think i will open a plurk account after the exams as you short article has shown me that plurk is so much better than twitter

Harsh Seth said...


LOH Kwai Yin said...


Yup... it seems to have more features to support our learning :D