Twitter, pre-service teachers and their thoughts on use

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

#visarts13 in action in the teacher education visual arts classroom (N. Lemon, 2013)

I’m writing a book chapter at the moment that celebrates pre-service teachers use of Twitter while studying visual arts as a part of their teacher education studies.  I thought I would share some of the findings that I will share in the publication to  get your response. I have been exploring the data through Wenger’s (1998, 2000) Community of Practice framework.

The invitation to participate was offered to 155 pre-service teachers  (Males = 17, Female = 138) with 136 aged 18 to 25, 16 aged 26-40 and 3 aged between 45-50) as a way to experience social media for professional use and to make connections to personal experiences with similar media. The pre-service teachers were invited to participate in order to achieve three goals: a) to extend their professional networks; b) to use Twitter as a digital access point to content; and c) to extend their current knowledge of arts education resources, artists, artworks, art organisations, and pedagogical approaches.

The concept of social media for professional use was unfamiliar to many with only three occasionally using Twitter for personal communication with friends. Only 32.5% had considered Twitter as a social media for professional connections and networking and 24.7% had considered Twitter as a social media for accessing content associated to their role as a teacher prior to the use in this study. All pre-service teachers but one participated in use of Twitter. The one pre-service teacher who did not felt anxious about her digital identity and at the stage of the study preferred to observe from a far rather than in the online space itself.

The notion of community of practice (COP) derives from Wenger who suggests that COPs can be small, highly focused and strictly bounded, or highly fluid and informal. In the case of pre-service teachers using Twitter, the latter is certainly the case. Wenger proposes that groups of people working together as a community of practice are distinguished by:

  •       Meaning – a shared common interest and a way of talking about our (changing) ability to experience meaning making. This research has enabled documenting a domain in which there are overlapping interests, but where pre-service teachers interaction patterns and practices are guided by their lecturer modeling use, peer guidance or teaching and work patterns and practices that develop as a part of studying to become a teacher.
  •       Community – a way of talking about the social configurations including shared activity, joint discussion, sharing information, assisting each other, and seeking advice. The analysis suggests that these are the core activities of pre-service teacher tweeters.
  •       Practice – a way of talking about sharing historical and social resources including a collective repertoire of resources, experiences, narratives, tools, interaction patterns, modes of address which developed over time. The process of constructing a tweet and sharing the content of the tweet lends itself to practices that afford themself to a relatively informal ‘voice’ and that of a developing professional (educator).
  •       Identity – a way of talking about how learning changes and the pre-service teachers interactions with Twitter suggest, form the basis of professional tweeting, reflective practice, and newly formed professional digital practices strongly connected to professional digital identity.

So if we unpack this further communication, connecting to others especially peers, and ability to understand how others were interpreting and exploring visual arts were all ranked highly on the 5 point likert scale evaluation survey.  


Learning as  Belonging

A sense of belonging amongst the cohort enrolled in the subject shifted with Twitter being a space whereby friendship groups were extended to communication within a workshop itself,  across workshops and across the two campuses. This was a significant disruption to usual ways of working where pre-service teachers would work in friendship groups with minimal communication with each other.

Table 3: Items associated to community

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter Increased interaction with subject teacher and fellow students 68%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing in class. 89.6%
Twitter Increased understanding of what peers are doing across workshops and campuses 65.2%
Twitter is an effective method of communication between peer and peer 63.5%
 I’m enjoying using social media to facilitate more participation 70.5%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via peer use 82.6%
I enjoy the class modeling of Twitter via teacher use. 77.4%


Learning as Doing

Pre-service teachers were active participants with Twitter embedded in class and assessment and their tweets became a  shared history of their learning and a shared repertoire of  doing things. They learnt as doing, in action if you like, as all were trying Twitter for the first time in the teacher education context and they were participating in a united positioning in a new discourse of social media being a digital access point to information and resources as professional development. This is a unique undertaking within the university where this was undertaken.

Table 4: Items associated to practice

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter integrated into the visual arts subject was a student centered approach to support discussion and sharing subject outcomes and aims 60%
Twitter was real world application of technology in class. 68.7%
Twitter is beneficial as a gallery of our work. 88.7%
I am developing confidence in being able to share content about my own art making 84.8%
I am developing confidence in being able to respond to a wider audience about education or arts education 45.3%
Twitter was supporting my ability to reflect on work being undertaken in class 79.1%


Learning as Experience

The use of Twitter for professional engagement was generated in a safe and secure environment where the pre-service teachers could all support one another with use and learning how to engage in this online community professionally. They developed a common language, way of operating, habits for use in and out of class, as well as a way to talk about their experiences in becoming a primary school teacher. The pre-service teachers learnt about arts while experiencing theory and practice and they shared these insights and their reflections via Twitter.

Table 5: Items associated to meaning

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
Twitter was supporting my communication and ability to express, learn and share work, ideas and experiences. 87%


Learning as Becoming

Pre-service teachers were learning to become a teacher, a generalist primary teacher who needs to be able to integrate arts. Through an establishment of a supportive community the pre-service teachers identities were openly explored with each other and a global Tweeps. The Twitter feed for the class hashtag became a gallery of work and supported ways to connect with each other and others who engage with arts education. The personal natural fears and trepidations personally experienced were shifted from being internal worries to public discussions and supportive problem solving to shift towards positive outcomes and building of confidence.

Table 6:Items associated to identity

Item Agreed and strongly agreed
I have an understanding how I could use twitter to access resources and content. 86.1%
I am developing confidence in using Twitter professionally. 70.5%
I like that I am being introduced to Twitter for professional use. 77.4%

Conclusion remarks

Twitter enabled the pre-service teachers to communicate about their subject work in an online space. They were encouraged, through the maximum 140 character construction of a tweet, to carefully think about the content they could share associated to their learning experiences in arts education and to a lesser extent teacher education. Connecting to course work supported the pre-service teachers sharing process, reflections and insights online.  The class hashtag (#visarts13) allowed the pre-service teachers to trace their classroom interactions through the online while also learning from each other, thus forming a gallery of work, while also learning from each other.

The pre-service teachers constructed their knowledge and understandings of visual arts education based on their semesters’ study. They could link to the weekly course content and the checklist that was constructed for them as a guide to types of topics, questions or work they might wish to share.  Throughout the project, the pre-service teachers were invited and encouraged to articulate their learning, understanding and observations with others via Twitter.  The pre-service teachers accessed new resources, content and information from others, or developed their own; all were shared with followers and #visarts2013 as a way to support the constructive use of Twitter as a professional development tool. Of note was the extension of peer-to-peer contact in this online space across workshops and campuses that traditionally would not have engaged with each other.  This was a model for further extension into the global connections power of this online site.

The pre-service teachers’ in their journey to understand and explore how Twitter can support their engagement to visual arts and professional development have embodied the enactment of Wenger’s notions of domain, community and practice. The collective inquiry, that is invitation and participation as a group enrolled in a core subject, supported notions of a community of practice that both transferred face-to-face and virtually. Twitter enabled the ability for the pre-service teachers to explore creativity in a safe and nurturing place – especially important for those addressing and acknowledging low self-efficacy and human dilemmas associated to creativity and the arts (Craft 2006; Lemon and Garvis 2013).

The strength of Twitter was set in the extension of peer-to-peer interactions, moving beyond friendship and workshop groupings, and the Twitter feed forming an online gallery of work. Reflection, common language, confidence to interact with content and each other as well as global connections were all enacted by the pre-service teachers that inherently supported them to explore creativity as connected to integrating visual arts in the role as primary school teachers. The short text (up to 140 characters) and visual is strength for pre-service teachers in a fast paced environment where reflective practice is highly desirable. Date stamps assist in accurate recording of curation of and generation of content. This timeline documented a semester’s work and offered a space for further reflection, metacognitive thinking, questioning, and inquiry.


Wenger, Etinne. 1998. Communities of practice. Learning, meaning and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wenger, Etinne. 2000. “Communities of practice and social learning systems”. Organization. Speaking, 7(2): 225–46.

Educating Laos

This is a guest post By Lindsay Holt. In her second blog post we hear about teaching in Laos and gain insights about space, place and impact of education. Lindsay was so inspired by her experience she has taken up the opportunity to  complete an internship at the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap.


During my month in Laos I was able to observe the impact education is having on the the children and broader community in developing a sustainable future. From grassroots initiatives to INGOs (International Non-Government Organisations) much is being done beyond the four walls to maximise the spread and depth of delivery in a country where 80% of its residents still live in rural communities.

 The Luang Prabang Library provides an open learning space for the local children, adults, Novices and Monks to study and practice conversational english with visitors (not advertised). Their greatest initiative is their ‘floating library’ whereby a boat library coasts up the Mekong River to areas with limited, or sometimes no access, to books. They allow the people to read the books for as long as they like while the boat is docked, before moving onto another village. The books are sold at the library and when all 20 of the books are sold the floating library goes on another trip. Unfortunately marketing is something Loatians are still mastering the art of, and selling the books can often take months.

 Big Brother Mouse is a local publishing house that prints educational, fun and interesting books not only in Lao script, but many with dual print with either English or French. Many of these books end up on the Floating Library, and are highly recommended as gifts for any local family or village you might visit (along with toothbrushes) rather than lollies or toys. To raise funds the organisation invite foreigners to host ‘publishing parties’ to cover to cost of publishing a new book. They also have advertised times for visitors to chat with locals wanting to practice their english. During the peak season the supply outweighs the demand as the holistic travellers embrace their inner teacher.

 As a massive fan of elephants I would have felt remiss if I didn’t make the most of being in the land of a million elephants. On recommendation from my local Canadian guide from Tiger Trails (formerly Fair-trek, one of the first eco-trekking organisations in the region) I found the Elephant Conservation Camp in Sayaboury. Elephants have traditionally been deeply respected and cared for by their trainers called Mahouts, they speak a particular tongue and develop an incredible bond with the animals over the course of their lifetimes. Increasingly ‘Chinese Buffalo’ (tractors) are replacing elephants and the local logging industry is becoming more regulated hence investing in the lifetime commitment of maintaining a healthy elephant is no longer socially or financially appealing. The Elephant Conservation Centre have taken the initiative to educate local Mahouts on how best to care for their animals, and what their options are for transferring their skills to the tourism industry.

 My Lao teaching experience was with the global voluntourism organisation Global Vision International (GVI).Voluntourism has enabled people from all over the world to access authentic experiences in country that go beyond the shoestring guide. Its increased popularity has many questioning the authenticity of some organisations as the experiences are paid for and run out of country.GVI were open about their concept, where the money goes and how the structure benefits the entire community from the onset. Not only did I have a wonderful experience exploring the challenges of teaching in a third world country, without my time in Luang Prabang I would not have had the confidence to apply for international jobs, nor would I be considered for them.


Prior to my departure I spent many of my allotted ‘study hours’ researching NGOs in Laos, trying to find out what else is being done in country in regards to education. I discovered the US NGO Pencil of Promise (POP) an organisation founded on the premise that pencils provide the potential for children to learn and grow. I  was so moved by their simple yet incredibly powerful model I wrote an email asking if I could pop in- I even tried to find their office on arrival- to no avail. By chance I happened to meet a US photographer whose partner is one of two internationals working for POP! My faith in the universe restored, I spent a wonderful evening discussing the trials and tribulations of Monitoring & Evaluation in a third world country.

 One month on and I am still incredibly motivated, so much so that I not only applied for but was accepted to my first Graduate position at the Jay Pritzker Academy in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I look forward to embracing the opportunity and continuing on my global education adventure. You can follow me on twitter @Lindsay_D_H or on my new (work in progress) blog A Global Education. A big Thank You to Narelle for the inspiration to write, a wonderful mentor to have.

Perceptions of Pre-Service Teachers Value of Art Museums and Galleries

Art museums and galleries provide many educational opportunities for generalist classroom teachers to engage in learning experiences with students. Beliefs about engagement with art museums and galleries can begin in teacher education programs. This paper explores the beliefs of pre-service teachers in a Bachelor of Education (primary) program in the state of Victoria, Australia, about engagement with art museums and galleries at the start of semester and at the end of semester after a visit to a gallery. Using a survey, open-ended questions, and course evaluations about the teacher education program, data was collected to show the changes in perceptions regarding beliefs towards engagement with art museums and galleries as a primary teacher. Findings highlight the importance of engaging with art museums and galleries during teacher education to allow pre-service teachers to experience and understand the importance within their teaching and educational contexts.

Read more of this paper …

Embracing the creation of good writing habits

In the higher education world here in Australia we are busy bees organising for a new semester – selection, subject guides, curriculum development, team meetings, and getting our heads around policy are action items on all our lists. But if I interrupt this busyness and ask the question: So where does research sit? A colleague and I were chatting yesterday and she posed the question, if you can’t find time to research (data collect in the field, analyse, write your outputs up, etc)  now then when will you? This question made me think. I know personally research is a strong priority in my diary, actually it is number one. I designate time everyday to write, with a minimum of one hour. I also guard my one full day of research. I generally connect most of my other tasks to my research as well. Some would call this strategic thinking. In some ways yes, in other ways I’m seriously thinking about what I do, when I do it, why it do it, and am I the best person to do it.

My colleague stimulated an interesting conversation - what are you going to research?  when is your deadline? and how are you going to make it happen? So often we don’t use our time wisely as academics and we can get easily distracted and bogged down with tasks that take us away from one of our core responsibilities. Now don’t get me wrong, learning and teaching are also important, but what is not important is valuing administrative tasks with buckets of time. I wonder how much time we would save and transfer across to research if we attended to these tasks much quicker or perhaps not even at all. I have observed for many years now colleagues dedicating time to tasks that actually do not need to be done or could be completed much more efficiently by someone else.

Now is the time to set good habits. To organise the diary, create pockets of time that are focused on research. As I have blogged before there are numerous strategies that support developing healthy writing habits (Shut up and write sessions, pomodoro technique, #ciricleofnicrness, #acwrimo, etc). So the challenge is set, what are you going to do to create a healthy write habit? What is your first step to assist you creating more time to research, write, or analyse?

Here’s some ideas:

  • Map your diary out for the week with blocks of research time
  • On you computer open up the file for your current writing task the night before you begin to write in the morning, them It will be the first thing you see in the morning when you sit down at you computer
  • Go for a run, stretch and the. Head straight to the computer to write
  • Head to your favourite cafe in the morning, enjoy a coffee while you write before you head into the office
  • Roll out of bed and write I your pj’s
  • Don’t check email until 2pm
  • Read a new article each day to inform your writing the next morning
  • Download a pomodoro app to help you build writing time

How will you embrace the creation of good writing habits? 

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,600 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

CALL FOR CHAPTERS: Revolutionizing Arts Education in K-12 Classrooms through Technological Integration.


 Revolutionizing Arts Education in K-12 Classrooms through Technological Integration.

Edited by Dr Narelle Lemon,

Faculty of Education, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia 

This book will be a part of the Advances in Early Childhood and K-12 Education (AECKE) book series for IGI Global.

 You are invited to propose a chapter for the upcoming advanced academic publication geared toward the interests of educators, researchers and academicians, which identify methodologies, concepts, tools and applications through reference citations, literature reviews, quantitative/qualitative results and discussions framed around case studies of arts and technology use in K-12 classrooms. The objectives of this book are to:

  • Contribute to the research on productive pedagogies of K-12 educators
  • Promote best practice and pedagogical decisions made in order to design, deliver and/or evaluate K-12 learning experiences that integrate technology in arts education
  • Address a gap that moves forward arts education research about active, innovative and unique practices of using technology in the K-12 classroom
  • Share case studies of educators and learners about their use of technology in the K-12 context of educational settings
  • Propose strategies with evidence
  • Discuss importance of training, professional development and seeing all as learners
  • Promote students as capable users who can teach others (both students and teachers)
  • Contribute to the use of technologies in all learning spaces including museums, art galleries, public spaces, virtual, home, school, and so on
  • Contributes to evidence in how technology in arts can contribute to the personal, social, professional and cultural lives of individuals


There are many K-12 arts educators, in the fields of dance, drama, media arts, music, and visual arts, who integrate digital technologies into their teaching to support creating and making or exploring and responding with innovative purposes. There are however, just as many who do not consider digital technologies a part of arts education or know how to meaningfully consider the appropriate digital technology to enhance the learning experience.  For each of the fields within arts education, and indeed for arts education itself, innovative practices are occurring as well as challenges emerging in productive pedagogies, self efficacy, resourcing, time, and ability to access a community of peers and colleagues who can inspire, motivate and engage our practices. Observations can be made internationally about K-12 arts education being undervalues, cut or marginalized yet much innovation practice is being undertaken to promote and in many ways validate arts. Integration of technology is one of the contributors to supporting shared visions, innovative arts practices and high levels of engagement for learners with arts and indeed the bigger picture of being able to explore meaning making to understand the world.  This book disrupts the discourse of questioning surrounding the place of arts in K-12 education and celebrates the innovative partnership between arts and technology to engage learners. Highlighted are the unique and innovative practices that promote engagement with creating and making as well as exploring and responding through, with and in the arts in partnership with interdisciplinary skills such as thinking, refection, metacognition, communication and problem solving.

The use of digital technology is expanding the learning and teaching possibilities of arts education for both areas of creating and making, and exploring and responding. Opportunities for extension in innovative practice are available, whereby curriculum design and good pedagogy underpin new tools existing for arts educators. These technologies provide new opportunities and changing roles for art teachers in the 21st century (McCann, et al., 1998).  A shift, however, does have to occur in the uptake; a different way of looking and transferring pedagogical skills and designing curriculum. Technology itself will not deliver or support innovative and meaningful learning. Rather, the why, what, how as well as purposeful application needs to be considered and planned for.

An understanding of technology is central to young people’s preparedness for life while empowering individuals to participate appropriately in understanding the impact technology has on their lives, and how it contributes significantly to the personal, social, professional and cultural lives of everyone (Tapscott, 1998; Groundwater-Smith, Ewing & Le Cornu, 2007; Thomson, et al., 2010). Building students’ capacity to engage with technology in the arts classroom supports the development of young peoples’ understanding of personal, social and global contexts. Building capacity also scaffolds the understanding of technology in different contexts (Key & Stillman, 2009; Thomson, et al., 2010).  In order to think about digital technologies in the arts classroom, teachers are required to think about and address their own use, beliefs and skills.  But in regards to application in the art classroom what does this actually mean? New communication technologies open up new possibilities for use in the classroom but to keep up to date is an onerous task. Not only must there be consideration for how to use the digital technology but then there is the transference to personal use and then of course the extension of this for use in the classroom for meaningful learning experiences. These experiences in turn not only enhance young people’s learning but also take into account their previous experiences with this technology.

This book intends to bring together a variety of perspectives from educators who are and have worked in the K-12 arts classroom. Specifically lived experiences shared provide insights into pedagogical decisions, teacher and students voice, and innovative practices that meaningful integrate a digital technology for the purposes of learning and/or teaching.  “Current scholarship in education and pedagogy has raised new awareness about the presence of many voices, viewpoints, ways of knowing and being in schools and society, and of the necessity for teaching methods which acknowledge this” (Beattie, 2000, p. 19), this book highlights these perspectives and invites the reader to engage with possibilities of considering the technology for their practice. The often unheard and unsayable stories of arts educators provide the opportunity to consider, adapt, implement, and influence what is possible in critically thinking about and reflecting on the purpose of technology in the arts K-12 classroom when creating and making, or exploring and responding.  These case studies invite the reader is prompted to think about issues of equity, equality and access for arts education within the educational landscape situated with the school classroom, gallery and museum, organisations or institutions that support learning where catalytic, negative, social and ethical areas are highlighted.

Indexing Keywords: Arts Education (Dance, Drama, Media arts, Music, and Visual arts); Mobile technologies; Digital technologies; Social media; Integration; Blended learning; Online learning; Student centered learning; Pedagogy; Inquiry

Word length:

8,000 to 10,000 words with APA6 referencing style and including images, figures and table where relevant to represent your case study/studies.


28 February 2014 Proposal submission due date (Include these details: abstract 250 words, proposed chapter outline and focus, keywords, how fits into K-12 educational contexts (i.e.: age or grade level, focus within the arts, technology focus), and author(s) contact details and institution.
14 March 2014 Notification of acceptance
30 June 2014 Full chapter submission
1 July – 15 August 2014 Review Period (authors will be invited to peer review)
30 August 2014 Review Results Returned
30 September Final Chapter Deadline


Contact for further information:

Dr Narelle Lemon


Twitter: @rellypops

I felt quietly confident I could teach…Children, In Melbourne, & with the internet, interactive whiteboards, air conditioning and projectors…

This guest post is by Lindsay Holt and shares insights into teaching in Laos.  Lindsay is a recently graduated Primary Teacher with a Bachelor in Arts majoring in Sociology and Anthropology. She is fascinated with the constructed space of the classroom and the context surrounding it, wherever it may be. Lindsay is currently exploring the linear space between graduating and post-grad studies by teaching in Luang Prabang, Laos. You can follow Lindsay on Twitter @Lindsay_D_H

Luang Prabang, Laos (L.Holt, 2013)

Luang Prabang, Laos (L.Holt, 2013)

Reflections on exploring the space of teaching

Having recently completed a university year learning how to teach at La Trobe University in conjunction with the Charles La Trobe College Graduate Program at Olympic Village I felt quietly confident I could teach. Children. In Melbourne. Who have access to the internet, interactive whiteboards, air conditioning and projectors.

To mark the finale of ‘the five year plan’ (become a teacher) I wanted to celebrate by going on an adventure, dusting off the passport and embracing the unfamiliar; teaching english in a foreign country. I find myself now in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang with two classes. The first class I teach is with another Australian to Level 2 Lao adult students (we teach together in the morning and the same lesson but separately in the evening), and the second class I team teach is with a German to Lao Novices ages 11-18.

Novice classroom (L.Holt, 2013)

Novice classroom (L.Holt, 2013)

After a crash course in how to teach english to Lao students, we were thrown in the deep end, five hours teaching plus planning per day- felt just like placement just without the behaviour issues, and without the resources. This is what I imagine ‘old school’ teaching was really like, students in rows at desks, drilling words, copying from the board and the teacher doing most of the talking. It’s a stark contrast to the classrooms of Melbourne. I have really had to approach this with an open mind. I am not here to change the system but to experience a totally foreign one and hopefully help some students engage with the subject.

My first unsupervised lesson (ever) was teaching ‘idioms’ to wide eyed, very confused adults. I have learnt that ‘kick the bucket’ is much more complicated to articulate than I thought and that ‘What’s up?’ does not translate from NYC to LPB. It was fun and we all had a good laugh, but it was definitely a challenge.

LPB Interactive Whiteboard (L.Holt, 2013)

LPB Interactive Whiteboard (L.Holt, 2013)

Teaching Novice Monks has been a truly fascinating experience. As a female teacher there are many rules by which both they and I must follow as part of their Buddhist training. This includes not touching, directly passing, pointing, standing over or generally being too close to any of the Novices. A hard task in any room let alone a room half the size of an average Melbourne classroom, one whiteboard, two teachers, 24 Novices and one dog having a nap. They are incredibly motivated though. Becoming a Novice is still considered a rite of passage for many young Buddhists. It is also a great way for the young men (many still boys) to access formal education, particularly those from rural areas where it can take hours to walk to the nearest school.

Novice classroom + dog (L.Holt, 2013)

Novice classroom + dog (L.Holt, 2013)

I arrived into the class just in time for ‘classroom commands’- a favorite of mine as it meant I could introduce the students to “Novice Says”. This allows the braver students to take control of the directions, and gets everyone up and actively engaged.

For more reflections stay turned for my next post about education development in Laos, grassroots to BINGOs.