In recent times there has been an increasing wave of interest in the use of Social Media for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (HE). In particular, the micro-blogging platform Twitter has been experimentally used in various Universities world-wide. There are relevant publications reporting on experimentations with twitter for reaching diverse learning goals, including better engagement (Junco et al. 2011), informal learning (Ebner et al. 2009), collaboration among students (Kassens-Noor, 2012). Most advanced papers also discuss the connections between learning theories and the practical use of Twitter (Junco et al 2011). Existing research papers on the use of Twitter however focus exclusively on the positive aspects of experimentations, on what went well in the use of Twitter.
In our University we are running a small project on the use of Twitter with goals that are similar to those of others: fostering participation and better learning processes. In our experimentation however we encountered a number of practical problems connected for example with use of technology, with the class settings, with tools for carrying out a feedback survey and with spam. In our analysis of the literature we found however that these types of problems are never discussed. However, in our project we had to find proper solutions to these practical problems, including tweaking with technology, minimising problems with the class architecture and so on. For example, during our experimentation we wanted to embed a Twitter feed in to the Virtual Learning Environment, allowing access to content for students not possessing a Twitter account. However due to the set-up of the VLE this process was not as straight forward as we initially thought and we had to investigate the problem and tweak with the VLE settings to get this right.
For a discussion and theorisation of practical problems (and our solutions) encountered during our use of Twitter we will use a perspective from the Social Study of Technology (Latour, 2005) and the idea that a successful project requires a stable alignment of a number of human and non-human actors, which includes in our case various technologies (eg. The VLE, Twitter, the projector), class settings, Students, University personnel and so on. We reason on the fact that obtaining the learning goals and ride the wave of Social Media depends therefore on aligning various actors and solving the breakdown that could appear at any point of this alignment.
Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M., & Meyer, I. (2010). Microblogs in Higher Education–A chance to facilitate informal and process-oriented learning?.Computers & Education, 55(1): 92-100.
Junco, R., Heiberger, G., & Loken, E. (2011). The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades.Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(2): 119–132
Kassens-Noor, E. (2012). Twitter as a teaching practice to enhance active and informal learning in higher education: The case of sustainable tweets. Active Learning in Higher Education,13(1): 9-21.
Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social-an introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
|Name||Stefano De Paoli|
|Affiliation||Abertay University Dundee – Division of Sociology|