@Twitter is Always Wondering what’s Happening: Learning with and through Social Networks in Higher Education

@Twitter is Always Wondering what’s Happening: Learning with and through Social Networks in Higher Education

Narelle Lemon (RMIT University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 25
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2970-7.ch012
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Twitter as a learning tool offers many possibilities; however, what comes with use of this platform for education purposes is a need for awareness around and establishment of consistent pedagogies that support learning communities, learners, and the educators themselves. This chapter aims to establish what qualitative researchers in this field have found in regards to Twitter as an explicit social networking platform for educational purposes in higher education, including a discussion of literature. Interwoven is a case study of one Australian academic who is using Twitter both as a networked learner and networked teacher in the higher education learning environment. Exploration is shared into Twitter and what it can offer for different levels of engagement for the teacher as a learner who wants to engage with new and innovative ways of accessing information and knowledge. From this stance, Twitter is seen as learning centered on the teacher for the student in teaching courses and workshops in higher education thus learning with and through social media.
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Twitter as a microblogging platform ‘enables a real-time interaction between users, using different devices, technologies and applications’ (Grosseck & Holotescu, 2008, p.1). Twitter is seen as one of the most popular microblogging applications (Java, Song, Finin, & Tseng, 2007) with over 572,000 accounts (Twitter, 2011). Allowance is made for users to write up to a 140 character messages via the Internet, short message service (SMS), instant messaging clients, and by third party applications and interfaces. Options of promoting blogs, marketing (Larsen & Everton, 2008), networking, news and media sharing (Palser, 2009) are all options within the Twittersphere (the Twitter community or environment). This diversity in audience creates various options for community and a community of learners.

Tweeps, that is the users of Twitter, can use this platform in a variety of ways with the main attractiveness of these options being to ‘communicate, to ask questions, to ask for directions, support, advice, and to validate open-ended interpretations or ideas by discussing with the others’ (Grosseck & Holotescu, 2008, p.3). Twitter allows a combination of personal publishing and communication with a new type of real-time publishing, allowing opportunities for immediate and anytime, anywhere feedback.

In the Australian context Twitter offers much potential as a social networking medium for educational interactions. The statistics provide interesting numbers to establish the current position; offering perspective for future growth. Twitter numbers indicate a significant increase in Australian visitors to their site (Cowling, 2011). At the end of June 2011, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2011) there were 10.9 million Internet subscribers in Australia (excluding internet connections through mobile handsets). This represents annual growth of 14.8% and an increase of 4.4% since the end of December 2010. At the end of June 2011, there were 9.7 million mobile handset subscribers in Australia that represents an increase of 18.1% from December 2010. Of the 9.7 million mobile handsets, 3.6 million (37%) were dedicated data subscriptions and 6.1 million all other active standard mobile subscriptions. As far as Twitter usage goes, twitter.com has 1.1 million unique Australia visitors each, with an increase of 100,000 since January 2011 and shows that Twitter is a popular social networking channel, with potential to grow with more users (The digital marketing agency, 2011).

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