The following are my notes from Jeffrey P. Carpenter’s (@doccarpenter) and Daniel G. Krutka’s (@dankrutka) study, How and Why Educators Use Twitter: A Survey of the Field, published in JRTE Vol. 46, No. 4.
- As of July 2013, there were approximately 200 million users of Twitter, including approximately 18% of online adults in the United States (Duggan & Smith, 2013).
- Various scholars have noted that Web 2.0 sites such as Twitter afford users numerous benefits, and Jenkins and colleagues (2009) went as far as to say that the “new participatory cultures” afforded by such sites may “represent ideal learning environments” (p. 10). These tools reduce spatial and temporal constraints on communication and allow users to collaborate around topics of interest.
- The “affinity spaces” facilitated by such media encourage sharing and peer-to-peer learning that enable participants to benefit from collective intelligence (Gee, 2004).
- Junco and colleagues (2011) have argued that Twitter in particular may be the “social networking platform most amenable to ongoing, public dialogue” (p. 1).
- Its brevity, immediacy, and openness can empower educators and students to interact with a variety of people in new ways.
- Microblogging can be used for one-way sharing from an official school account to keep a school community informed of events, deadlines, or policy changes (e.g., Porterfield & Carnes, 2011).
- Kurtz (2009) utilized Twitter to share the work of his first and second graders, thus providing parents “windows into their children’s days” (p. 2).
- Twitter can also provide many-to-many communication among administrators, teachers, students, and other stakeholders through the use of a common hashtag or interactions between accounts (e.g., Ferriter, Ramsden, & Sheninger, 2012).
- Domizi’s (2013) coding of tweets found not only that students in her graduate course benefited from her reminders about class assignments and deadlines, but also that Twitter helped students communicate with each other professionally and socially, even providing each other encouragement. Chen and Chen (2012) reported that Twitter facilitated communication between university students who were otherwise too inhibited to speak directly to the instructor.
- University-level students in a number of studies have cited Twitter for increasing involvement in and satisfaction with courses (e.g., Krutka, 2014; Rinaldo, Tapp, & Laverie, 2011). For example, after surveying marketing students in several classes over two semesters, analyzing instructor tweets, and conducting focus groups, Rinaldo and colleagues concluded that Twitter has the “potential to engage students with the emerging technology, increase the interaction between professor and students and broaden access to information related to course material” (p. 202)
- Krutka and his 20 preservice social studies teachers both used and studied pedagogical possibilities for social media use in middle and high school classrooms (Krutka, 2014).
- Surveys, reflective journals, and field notes indicated that Twitter was the most beneficial of several social media services utilized in the class because of its diverse uses. Class participants indicated that the use of social media fostered a community feeling and enhanced students’ relationships with the instructor, each other, and practicing educators who used Twitter.
- Research suggests Twitter has the potential to encourage concise writing (e.g., Dunlap & Lowenthal, 2009), and Kurtz (2009) further found that his elementary students were excited to co-construct tweets and analyze language appropriate for the authentic audience of their family members.
- Twitter appears able to facilitate educators’ professional development in a number of ways. Through synchronous chats or asynchronous tweeting, educators contribute and discuss ideas, as well as sharing and acquiring resources by tweeting links to education-related articles, blogs, wikis, and other websites (Brown, 2012; Lu, 2011).
- A handful of studies suggest that Twitter can function as a professional development tool for teachers. Microblogging can offer educators grass-roots professional development that boosts networking and fulfills a “bridging function” as teachers use it “as a way of importing new ideas into their local communities of practice from distant peers” (Forte, Humphreys, & Park, 2012, p. 106).
- …Others shared how the service enabled them to escape philosophical or methodological isolation within their schools. For example, one math teacher explained, “As the only teacher in my district who is flipping the classroom, Twitter is an invaluable source for working/collaborating with others who are doing the same.”
- Districts and building-level administrators should consider ways in which they can recognize, tap into, and learn from teacher professional activity in online settings such as Twitter. PD via Twitter could potentially count toward some of the hours of professional development typically required of teachers, and/or be included in formalized professional development plans or processes.
- School leaders might also explore ways that other forms of PD might embrace the qualities of Twitter PD that our respondents valued, such as immediacy, personalization, differentiation, community, and positivity.
- If provided opportunities to do so, tweeting teachers may also be able to share with their colleagues at their school site some of what they learn via Twitter (e.g., Forte, Humphreys, & Park, 2012).