Caught in the Web of Technology Yet? The use of social media as a tool in education: Twitter

The social media tool which I have chosen to critically evaluate of its use in education is Twitter.

Twitter is a social media tool, a Web 2.0 technology and can be described as a social networking website, a microblogging platform which connects people and organisations to one another through the use of short (140 characters) messages (tweets). Others may be tagged in tweets and hashtags to promote key concepts may be used. Using Twitter in Higher Education, an article published by Ecology of Education, (2014),  states; “…there are over 271 active users worldwide sending 500 million tweets per day” and suggests, the use of Twitter in education can be evidence from as early as 2008.

Twitter 2

Ecology of Education (2014) cites; (Velestianos, 2012) who analysed tweets of 45 scholars who use social networking professionally. The following uses were found to be a common theme, sharing information and resources; expanding learning beyond the classroom; requesting assistance; sharing life activities; managing digital identities; connecting and networking; and highlighting social presence on other networks. These findings are also supported by Gabriela Grosseck and Carmen Holotescu (2008), as outlined in; Can We Use Twitter for educational Activities.

Additionally, Junco, Elavsky and Heiberger (2013) and Ebner et al (2010), found that when faculty members engaged with students on Twitter, and where Twitter is a required part of the course, student engagement increased. This is said to be particularly evident at the time assignments were due. Furthermore, in (2014), Juan M. Lopez-Zafra and Sonia de Paz-Cobo published an article; Twitter as a Learning Tool in Higher Education, for Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros, Madrid, which states, a survey of 127 students found; “Twitter is very powerful in motivating students”, it “increased interest in the subject”.

From these studies the student perception identified the following advantages of using mobile devices (generally) as; access to quick information, constant connectivity, multiple learning paths and situated learning, “was easier than logging back into the course discussion board”, providing opportunities of informal interaction with their professors and other researchers, (Ecology of Education, 2014). Furthermore, Lopez-Zafra and Paz-Cobo, (2014 ) identified that, 58% of students thought twitter is an interesting media for university teaching and therefore, believe it is beneficial, stating, “It promotes knowledge sharing, facilitating informal learning within the community”. 22% of students were doubtful about the success of the experience and 23% did not seem to have a clear opinion.

As primary focus of these research pieces are on the benefits of using Twitter as a tool in education, there are very minimal drawbacks being identified. However, Junco et al (2011-2013), states that, no significant impact on student engagement or grades were identified where students were given the option and concluded; outcomes, would likely be a result of how the instructor chooses to embed its use into the programme off study. Whereas, Grosseck and Holotescu (2008) identify that, it can be a time consuming task, could hinder student socialising, only useful to those in the network, response rate will be limited, sometimes no educational value added, teacher ‘on-call’ 24/7, blurring the line of professional/private life, 140 characters may lead to bad grammar skills and so on. Furthermore, Gikas and Grant, 2013), state that students identified drawbacks as; anti-technology instructors, device challenges and device-as-distraction.

twitter

Findings do suggest that the Twitter can be a useful and effective tool in education. However, I am still not convinced. Whilst information sharing can be quick and it may be rich, it can also be superficial, and from non-authority sources, and as announcements can be made instantly, it is also a place where rumours etc… can run and fast. Thus, evermore vigilance would be necessary by the tutor who is overseeing the tool as a provision, would it require a 24/7 presence from the tutor/instructor to ensure that the tool is not being mis-used? Would it be possible to establish a clear boundary between professional and private life?

Furthermore, I notice, most studies which I came across in my research, focus their inquiry on the ‘students’ perception. Whilst this is an important perspective to have, what added value was identified as being provided, did this increased interest have an impact on the student outcomes? Facts and figures of successful achievement; pass rates, increase of grade projection and so on, would be far beneficial, to consider how useful a tool Twitter may be in education.

Bibliography:

Ecology of Education, (2014) Using Twitter in Higher education; [Online] http://ecologyofeducation.net/wsite/using-twitter-higher-education/ Accessed 16/02/2015

Grosseck, G. and Holotescu, C. (2008). Can we use Twitter for educational Activities? [Online] Paper to be presented at The 4th International Scientific Conference eLSE “eLearning and Software for Education”; file:///C:/Users/Tina/Downloads/0fcfd50aa46c8394e6000000%20(2).pdf Accessed 16/02/2015

López-Zafra, M, J. and Paz-Cobo, S. (2014). Twitter As A Learning Tool in Higher Education, [Online] Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros (CUNEF), Madrid, Spain Facultad de CCEE, Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain; http://iase-web.org/icots/9/proceedings/pdfs/ICOTS9_C277_PAZCOBO.pdf Accessed 16/02/2015

See also:

Bharti, P. (2014). Great Higher Education Technology Expert Accounts to Follow on Twitter: Twitter Accounts for Higher Education Professionals, [Online] EdTechReview; http://edtechreview.in/news/1283-great-higher-education-technology-expert-accounts-to-follow-on-twitter Accessed 16/02/2015

Bharti, P. (2014). List of Twitter Hashtags for Higher Education Professionals: Twitter Hashtags for Higher Education Professionals, [Online] EdTechreview; http://edtechreview.in/e-learning/1256-list-of-twitter-hashtags-for-higher-education-professionals Accessed 16/02/2015

Line, H. (2015). Twitter’s not literature, but it can be a novel teaching tool, [Online] The Times Higher Education,     http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/twitters-not-literature-but-it-can-be-a-novel-teaching-tool/2018184.article  Accessed 16/02/2015

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