Educators Microblogging Via Twitter

Carpenter, J. P., & Krutka, D. G. (2014). How and why educators use twitter: A survey of the field. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 46(4), 414-434.

Carpenter and Krutka offer a solid research article on the role Twitter plays in the field of education. Although usage of Twitter in the K-16 arena is often muddled and contradictory because some institutions block social media sites while others embrace these tools, the authors felt it was important to examine the “how” and “why” educators use Twitter. Their literature studies supported three key uses of Twitter in the classroom as of late including: 1) for communication purposes like events and deadlines, 2) for classroom activities like classroom happenings, subject matter questioning or to showcase finished projects, and 3) for teacher professional development. Most interestingly, to solicit survey respondents for their study, the authors disseminated their survey by tweeting an invitation and link and were able to get 755 K-16 educators to participate in their research.

The survey findings demonstrated that K-16 educators employed Twitter in diverse ways and that Twitter was most frequently used for professional development purposes to acquire and share resources and/or to connect with digital colleagues (p. 422). Additionally, the authors noted that many of the survey respondents prized Twitter as a valuable medium for its personalized and immediate nature as well as considered Twitter to be superior to traditional professional development (p. 422). Of special importance was how Twitter helped combat isolation in the classroom and connected educators with positive and creative colleagues and leaders. Although Carpenter and Krutka highlighted that their survey sample was not random and that the respondent population age was closer to 18-30, their research findings did align with other scholars’ assertions that participatory cultures thrive in online affinity spaces (Gee, 2004; Jenkins et al, 2009). Overall, their study findings have implications for educational institutions to consider the many reasons to tap into or leverage social media as a value-added professional development resource.

This study supports the great work that my district does with regard to social media usage for staff and students, yet reminds us of the work we still need to do to continue to refine and pinpoint best Twitter usage. Over two years ago, I offered virtual PD for staff to learn about Twitter through creating a Twitter account, finding colleagues to follow, finding a Twitter chat session to join and tweeting out lessons learned. I’ve also offered Twitter backchannel sessions for live PD as well as showcased the ways that Twitter can be used in the classroom to engage and extend student learning. Although there still is a level of enthusiasm for teachers using Twitter in the teaching and learning process, of late, it has felt more like a competition of what classrooms are doing, or better yet, “brag tweets”. It’s a great time to take stock of how teachers are using Twitter to communicate, interact with colleagues and showcase classroom happenings. Furthermore, it’s also a great time to figure out how teachers learn best using Twitter for PD and what Twitter activities most impact the teaching and learning process. #tweetwithpurpose and #tweetforeffectiveness

Works Cited:

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling. New York, NY: Routledge.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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