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.

Improving Online Motivation Through Emails

Huett, J. B., Kalinowski, K. E., Moller, L., & Huett, K. C. (2008). Improving the motivation and retention of online students through the use of ARCS-based e-mails. The American Journal of Distance Education, 22, 159-176.

Huett et al., created a study to examine how periodic mass email messages could improve the motivation and retention of students enrolled in an online course. They felt there are significant challenges when it comes to retaining online learners and were searching for a simpler approach to motivating those learners in a cost-effective way, fit within the time constraints of the class or for the teacher, and could be seamlessly integrated into the teaching and learning process (p. 160). The authors selected the ARCS model as the overall framework for creating the motivational mass emails because the approach attempts to synthesis behavioral, cognitive, and affective learning theories and demonstrates that learner motivation can be influenced through external conditions (Huett et al., 2008). Through their research, studies have cited that motivation can account for 16% to 38% of the variations in overall student achievement (Means et al., 1997), thus the importance of designing appealing instruction to manipulate learner motivation for online learning courses.

According to the authors, there has been little research in using the ARCS model for motivational messaging in online learning. I do believe there is value in studying this phenomena as a potential mass intervention to improve learner motivation and performance in an online learning environment. The ARCS model is quite comprehensive and broken down into two parts. The first part of the model is a set of categories (attention, relevance, confidence, satisfaction) that represent the components of motivation and the second part of the model is a systematic design process that assists in creating motivational enhancements that are appropriate for a given set of learners. Overall, the study revealed that there was a statistical difference in means between students receiving the treatment and those who did not receive the treatment. In fact, Huett et al., highlighted that there was a statistical difference in every measure of motivation except relevance in the study and explained why given the nature of the treatment that their results made sense (p. 171). Additionally, the study yielded greater student retention as well as a lower student failure rate for the treatment group. Any positive findings related to new motivation and retention strategies should warrant further studies.

In my district, we do offer online learning courses for students who need credit recovery, a class that is not offered for a specific hour or trimester and/or for a class generally not offered. The program is administered through our Alternative High School and students who participate must take their online classes within the school district in designated locations during the school year. Although the online programming is somewhat manageable now, as the number of students requesting online classes continues to grow, I feel it is important to develop a set of strategies and interventions to support a multitude of learners and realize that not all communication exchanges can be personalized each and every time. This study gives pause to current and future practice and potentially represents another tool to use to complement our current efforts.

Means, T., Jonassen, D., & Delaney, H.D. (1997). Enhancing relevance: Embedded ARCS strategies vs. purpose. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45, 5-17.