Thursday 11th April, 2013
9:35am to 10:05am
There has been growing interest in the many possible uses of microblogging in higher education, for sharing research but also in learning and teaching. Yet few studies have been undertaken to examine systematically how microblogging technologies are used by academics in their teaching. Most of the studies that have been published focus on practical applications, usually of twitter, to enhance pedagogy and support collaboration in the classroom. These studies have not addressed in detail how academics’ use of the technology in turn shapes teaching practice. The research presented in this paper is an exploratory study that examines how and why academics engage in microblogging in their teaching and learning. It builds up a picture of the temporal and physical rhythms of its use, how its affordances are taken up and how conventions of use emerge. In particular, it focuses on the complex factors that influence microblogging use by academics’, such as their pedagogy, beliefs and prior uses of social network tools and the policy context.
The study employs a qualitative approach to uncover microblogging practices and to obtain rich descriptions of cases that give deeper insight into how twitter is used by academics and how this practice shapes their teaching. The methodological approach is based on developing a series of case studies of academics’ use of twitter, drawing on interviews, observations of twitter streams and student questionnaires. Practice theory is used as a theoretical lens in mapping the reciprocal constitution of academics’ ongoing interactions with microblogging, through recurrent practices, and how these in turn shape their academic routines and use of the tool. This paper reports thematic analysis of the interview data. It shows that academics use microblogging for different purposes in teaching including administration, dissemination of research, sharing of resources and class room learning activity. Academics in the study viewed Twitter as a promising communication tool to support collaborative activity, prolonging participation and interactions. They believed that Twitter enhanced active learning in a blended environment. Results highlight that academics have different beliefs about using Twitter in facilitating learning, distinct levels of expertise, and certain rules may be indeed carrying out different practices of twitter though apparently seem the same. The initial findings contribute to deepening our understanding of the decision to adopt microblogging, the consequences of use on teaching practice and students’ learning experiences. There are practical implications for how the risks of using social media in the classroom can be managed and for institutional policy.
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