Exploring Twitter for Learning, Teaching and Research.
Our last day! Hopefully by now you are comfortable with Twitter basics and have explored a couple of tools and approaches to organising and curating content. Along the way, you will have undoubtedly seen great potential for amassing a valuable network on the platform. Twitter is a community from which you can both draw and contribute knowledge and experience – not unlike how you might describe a university! In our final post, we provide an overview of some of the ways in which Twitter can be used for learning, teaching and research. If you want to explore a particular aspect in more depth, we link to relevant case studies, articles or discussions that will hopefully inspire you, or perhaps prompt some debate on #LivUni10DoT. Whilst not exhaustive, there is a lot in today’s post so don’t worry about clicking every link in one sitting. Use Day 10 as a reference point throughout what will hopefully be your long and fruitful relationship with Twitter!
Learning & Teaching
There are a myriad of ways in which Twitter could be used within and alongside lectures or seminars, depending on your subject, topic and creativity. Dr Mark Sample, Associate Professor of Digital Studies at Davidson College, developed a framework for teaching with twitter which considers the level of interaction and activity required by the student. The vertical axis of the framework is a continuum of the conversation level required/generated by the type of use (from monologic to dialogic); the horizontal axis measures the level of student activity (from passive to active):
The framework highlights the variation between using Twitter as a broadcasting medium and fully embracing it as a learning community. One may be more appropriate than the other for your circumstance, or you may like to test with the water with a passive/monologic approach before diving in. Below are some ideas that fit within Sample’s framework.
Students’ personal learning community
Think of the number of useful articles, videos or connections you have found via Twitter in just ten days. There are just as many opportunities for students to expand their personal learning network and build a Twitter community around their subject. Establishing and encouraging the use of a module/programme/subject hashtag can facilitate student-student and student-tutor engagement amongst the cohort, outside of the formal setting. It also provides a convenient forum for resource-sharing and commentary, by both tutor and student. Even more valuable, it can offer the opportunity for students to interact with the actual subject of their studies, e.g. authors, companies, actors, educators etc. by tweeting questions directly to them.
Tweeting as a persona
There are numerous examples of parody Twitter accounts for historical personas, e.g. presidents, prime ministers, inventors, writers, even God! The tweets often react to modern day happenings in the persona of their chosen figure. Historian, Sean Munger provides his tips for tweeting as a historical figure, while David Moore (Social Media Analyst) describes examples of live-tweeting historical events. Aside from comedic value, by adopting the mindset of their subject, and analysing events or topics from the perspective of that person/organisation/time period, the student is acquiring and demonstrating an understanding of that person, company or era. Users are allowed to create parody, newsfeed, comedy and fan accounts on Twitter (within guidelines), so why not try it out?
On Day 7, we looked at how the hashtag is used for livetweeting conferences or CPD events. Educators are adopting this approach to enhance student engagement and build a classroom ‘backchannel’ for a module. Livetweeting can foster both a community discussion around the focus of a lecture, as well as enabling students to feed through questions or comments to the tutor – this is particularly useful in large lectures or for shy students. Students can use livetweeting as a means of synchronous, concise note-taking or resource-sharing. The tutor needs to embrace the element of chaos or unknown that accompanies livetweeting!
Watch the video below to hear staff and student experiences of using Twitter as a backchannel on one US-based university module:
Example of Twitter Use in Higher Education
LearnHigher’s ‘Twitter Use in Higher Education’ case studies describe similar real-world examples:
Mark Sample also provides his practical tips for teaching with Twitter, which include:
- you don’t need to follow all of your students – use lists and hashtags to participate in the conversation
- be sure to publicise your module/programme hashtag to students. Why not embed the course hashtag or your account Twitter feed in your VITAL course area(s)?
- decide at the outset how often you will expect your students to tweet, and how often they can expect you to reply. It’s important to match your the frequency requirement to the intended learning outcomes, and that these expectations are explicit from the start.
- decide how much direction you want to provide for the substance of students’ tweets – it’s useful to scaffold their use with some intermittent questions or activities, but avoid being overly prescriptive.
- Don’t forget to curate and archive your students’ tweets – they can quickly become unnavigable for large classes.
- Consider whether Twitter will form part of any assessment. How would you grade it? Might it be a contributing factor to a class participation grade? Karen Franklin (2011) shares this example of a Twitter assessment rubric from the University of Wisconsin.
A frequently asked question to consider is whether to maintain a separate account when using Twitter with students. This is ultimately a personal decision, but if you choose to operate multiple accounts – a public and private one – it is a good idea to use one of the applications explored in previous posts, e.g. Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, to manage them efficiently.
Medium for personal learning and reflective practice
Of course, you don’t have to use Twitter in the classroom for it to have an impact on your teaching practice. As you continue to expand your personal learning network over the next few weeks, begin to compile a list of influential educational tweeters – both on pedagogy and your own subject area. Exposure to a larger network of educators results in new influences and should encourage reflection on your own methods. Lewis and Rush (2013) investigated the role of Twitter in initiating digital networks in Higher Education, finding it to be a valuable tool in the development of educational professionals and one possessing characteristics of a community of practice. Similarly, William Ferreter’s (2010) reflective piece on why teachers should try Twitter focuses on the influence this has had on his own teaching, revealing: “I now turn to Twitter friends for help in the same way that I turn to the teachers on my hallway“. Twitter is littered with such examples…
Twitter can act as a valuable source of information for any research topic. We looked at using Twitter Advanced Search and saving searches in Day 9. You can also create ‘If This Then That’ (IFTTT) ‘recipes’ (instructions) to trigger future searches. ‘If This Then That’ is a free online service that allows you to set triggers which result in particular actions across your social media accounts and apps. So, for example, you can trigger an email whenever a new tweet matches your defined search parameters – in other words, if this happens, then that should happen. If you use Evernote to manage your digital information, you could also activate an IFTTT recipe that sends a tweet to your Evernote account whenever you ‘favourite’ it, so it’s easily recoverable, searchable and can be labelled according to its relevance in your research. You must create an IFTTT account before you can activate a recipe for your profiles (look out for a future TEL post on IFTTT!).
Dissemination and impact
Twitter’s 200 million+ monthly active users makes it amongst the largest platforms for reaching a global audience, so it is unsurprising that researchers have been exploiting the benefits of a Twitter presence. The London School of Economics’ The Impact Blog hosts a wealth of articles on the role of Twitter in increasing the impact of academic research – particularly in relation to public engagement. Amongst those is a look at the complementary role of traditional bibliometrics and altmetrics. Altmetrics – or article level metrics – go beyond the citation impact measurements of h-Index (measuring the productivity and impact of the author) and impact factor (measuring the impact of the journal), to take account of the social media and larger web presence of a piece of research. Jane Tinkler’s (2012, LSE Public Policy Group) presentation examines the relationship between social media dissemination and the openness and accessibility of research:
Funding and conferences
Responding to funding calls and attending or submitting to conferences are part and parcel of research. Here too, Twitter can lend a hand!
- Search for Twitter accounts from the funding bodies relevant to your discipline (e.g. @ESRC, @AHRCPress, @EPSRC, @WellcomeTrust) and monitor for funding calls.
- Follow the professional body(ies) in your discipline for useful event and resource tweets. The University of Manchester Careers Service have started this helpful Twitter list of professional bodies. Why not create your own, as this tweeter has done for Management and Enterprise bodies?
- Follow the accounts of the prominent conferences in your field and look out for sponsorship or abstract calls. If you can’t make an important conference, follow the conference hashtag and/or livestream (where they are available). Conference speakers increasingly invite and answer questions from the Twitter audience, alongside physical attendees.
- Follow the keynote and any interesting speakers or attendees you have encountered – you are growing your network and potentially cultivating research collaborations.
- PhD and early-career researchers may find it useful to follow @ECRchat(#ECRchat), @PhDForum, #PhDChat and #PhDLife.
We’d love to see some discussion on the #LivUni10DoT hashtag today around the following questions:
- do you currently use Twitter in teaching and/or for your own learning or research purposes?
- if not, would you consider using it? Why/Why not?
- in what way might you use it with your students, or conversely, how would you like your tutors to use it?
That’s it! We hope you’ve enjoyed the ten days and have picked up some useful tips along the way. We’d like to thank everybody for their continued participation. We’re keen to hear your feedback and would be grateful if you could spare the time to complete the evaluation form we will circulate on Monday.