I’m a part of a team of Australian researchers looking into Twitter as a digital tool to assist with networking (Project #pstn). We are from different locations in Australia, all working in universities. The project has a focus on Teacher Education and pre-service teacher’s use of Twitter too connect to content and people/organizations who can extend their PLN (personal learning network), ideas, possibilities, resources, contacts, and professional development. The pre-service teacher’s I’m working with are students in their second year of undergraduate studies, although not all are the same age, there is however a high percentage of 19 year olds, and I’m noticing some interesting features. So far the following has stood out to me:
Mobile digital technology – using mobile phone and tablets in the classroom and for leaning seems foreign let alone that their lecturer is encouraging use with frequent reminders and modeling.
Digital natives?????? – a term I don’t like and continue to see is not the case. Personal use of various digital technologies maybe, but the capacity to transfer to learning and then consider for professional really needs scaffolding and explicit teaching. So it’s great to be involved in a project that is highlighting these ideas and action.
Social media dominate use is Facebook – every student I teach is active on Facebook in some way or another (I would question though levels of use and what is being done but that is another post). Of the 149 students I’m introducing Twitter to for professional engagement 9 had a Twitter account already with 4 saying they don’t use it as don’t know what to do, a further 4 used it to follow celebrities, and the other 1 was an active user for multiple content sources (this student happened to be older than 19 yrs). Interesting stats!
“I can’t do this” frequently said in the classroom when learning to use Twitter– learning a new social media in terms of sharing content and connecting professionally seems to ignite some hesitations and for some an immediate giving up frame of thinking. The beautiful part of this project is that as a class exploring Twitter we can problem solve, peer teach and model use, the how to and share ideas of what could be sent into the Twitterverse.
So is a “star” a “I like” button? – Facebook language and ways of working play intriguing games in the social media world. A star in Twitter = good, therefore = I like, seems to be the assumption by most students. Changing a culture of working in one media doesn’t take long to shift once this idea emerges, but nonetheless it was one I actually did not expect to dominate conversations.
How do I join the group? – A culture of Facebook has meant there are comments and questioning surrounding how to do things with Twitter based on other social media ways of working. I like to say that Twitter is a nicer version – we don’t get told when we have been “unfriended”, no pressure to follow someone as they follow me, you can Fav (favorite star) to come back to ideas and tweets, easier to maneuver the feed and to share content via a tweet. The hash tag phenomena is a challenge and students think that it is a group we have to join and ask permission to join – this soon changes.
There is generally an openness to try and explore Twitter for the semester (at the very least) as a way to participate in exploring their PLN. It’s new. It’s challenging. But most are taking it in their stride and taking up the challenge to see what is possible. Others are champions and extending their networks and tweeting like no tomorrow – one student even commented “I’m addicted”…after 48 hours.
I’m challenging how we work in the higher education classroom. I’m teaching Visual Arts but I’m talking to my students as professionals in education as a whole. I’m introducing them to Twitter and inviting them to participate as teachers. Professional etiquette and profile are strongly connected and prompted throughout the exploration. What the challenge is is that when we first talked about this idea they expected me to just talk about art and not link to the bigger picture of the profession. The initial shock is over and now this approach has stuck and we have some holistic students approaching their PLN as actual pre-service teachers and connecting as professionals in an undergraduate world. Exciting!
Do you use Twitter in your teaching? How? Why? What have you noticed? Are you a student who has had an educator introduce you to Twitter for professional use? What do you think?