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A personal research and observation of the value of twitter in writing and thinking

Tweeting as a Pre-Service Teacher: Learning to use Twitter for Professional use Author: Narelle Lemon Abstract Social media has been well reported for its benefit to connect individuals globally while communicating new knowledge. In the context of Teacher Education it is, however, under utilised and rarely researched in regards to how it is integrated with pre-service teachers.

This paper shares a case study of how pre-service teachers from one Australian university accepted an invitation from their teacher to learn how social media, specifically Twitter, can be accessed to support professional development and growth as a future teacher while in the higher education classroom.

The case focuses on pre-service teachers in their first year of postgraduate studies and explores the formation of digital identities, the generation of content, and peer support while participating in the study of a core subject within their degree.

Highlighted throughout the paper is how it is possible to integrate Twitter into Teacher Education studies while teaching the benefits of social media to explore the co-construction of knowledge whereby 140 character tweets support productive, rational and reflective thinking.

Impact on pre-service teachers reveals the importance of community and connectedness to support engagement and usage. The uptake demonstrated how curation and communication of content supports inquiry into becoming a teacher. The strength of peer support and peer teaching as new skills and knowledge were enacted as collaborative learning took place online with intended motivational and learning consequences.

Learning to Use Twitter for Professional Use. Introduction I am completely new to Twitter and it is good to know others are too. I guess tweeting or sharing my thoughts and ideas does not come naturally to me.

I am still wondering what to write in my first tweet. I am sure we will all get the hang of it but right now I must say I do feel a bit lost. Having said that I am glad we are challenged to come out of our comfort zone and try something new, particularly because I am sure we will have to do that again and again in the future to keep up with the times, our students and other teachers.

I am sure it will be an exciting journey of sharing resources and ideas so I am looking forward to using Twitter. What are your initial thoughts about using Twitter professionally?

Learning something new can be daunting, exciting, and challenging. It can induce feelings of resistance, hesitation, and anticipation.

Learning in an online environment ignites many of these feelings. There is a newness that sparks feelings of the fight or flight response — How do I? What does this mean? What are others doing? How does that work? Am I doing this right?

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These are all questions that emerge as one explores something new in regards to topic and way to access learning activities, and are not uncommon in higher education students when they are undertaking studies virtually. In the online environment learning something new often means one can feel alone, connections are yet to be made for support, thus illuminating how a sense of belonging is crucial especially in the beginning stages of establishing an online learning community.

The teacher is the key individual to problem solve, scaffold, and support each learner when setting up the online learning community. The teacher is the troubleshooter and responsible for solid pedagogical planning of social, cognitive and teacher presence in order to support the students Anderson et al.

The opening reflection, shared during the first week of an online Teacher Education subject by a student, a pre-service teacher, illustrates these feelings.

It is a reflexive piece on the initial thinking associated to being invited to use the social media platform Twitter professionally and within an subject delivered in a blended a personal research and observation of the value of twitter in writing and thinking. The professional voice is being called upon and this pre-service teacher is wondering what this might look like. The newness of using Twitter is at the forefront. This paper introduces and reflects on the integration of the social media platform Twitter into the higher education classroom.

Specifically the case shared is located in Teacher Education and the Masters of Teaching primarya postgraduate teacher preparation degree. I was the teacher of the student cohort of 67 pre-service teachers undertaking a core subject located within this degree. I invited the students to engage with and participate in developing a professional online identity through Twitter.

I personally engage with various social media platforms professionally. I have developed a profile on Twitter whereby I communicate with a community associated to my teaching and research interests. I am an advocate for this informal learning environment, or personal learning network PLNespecially in making connections, accessing new and innovative thinking, connecting with others globally, and for any time, any where professional development.

My underpinning aim to introduce Twitter to these future teachers was to support them in being aware of, and trialing with support, how Twitter can be an asset to them as a teacher. To explore this within a degree enables the opportunity to learn about new ways to connect, how to integrate new technologies into reflective practice, how support the development of a professional online identity and how social media can be a part of this Lemon, 2015.

There is the chance to find like-minded people and to explore new perspectives while considering a future way of finding informal and personally driven professional development that can be tailored to current and emerging professional interests. As a part of their studies in the second trimester of their first year, students were invited to form a professional learning network and engage with the social media platform Twitter.

They were invited to learn together about how social media, often associated to maintaining personal connections, can support professional connections.

In this paper the reader is guided through the background of Twitter as a social media platform and how it is currently used within the Higher Education and Teacher Education environments.

This is then followed by the context of the study and the pedagogical decisions associated with integrating Twitter into a higher education subject with students studying to become future teachers.

Data and discussion is presented under two themes, firstly, the exploration and co-construction of knowledge, and secondly, the development of peer support. Social media for learning Social networking tools are giving people unprecedented opportunity to download resources, discuss their ideas, and record their learning Hillier, 2009.

It is about dialogue — two-way and at times multiple voice discussions bringing people together to discover and share information Reuben, 2011; Solis, 2008. Twitter emerged in 2006. It is an evolving social media platform with tweaks continuously occurring as user accessibility and functionality develop. At the time of carrying out this research, Twitter enables a 140 character tweet of public information and a 10,000 character direct message, or DM as it is often referred to, allowing for a private conversation between users Agarwal, 2015; Hern, 2015.

Users generate a profile that introduces them to their audience s constructed with a combination of text and an image. A profile is key to extending audiences, communicating with likeminded others, and providing identifying information Stewart, 2015.

This is what Donath and boyd 2004 suggest as being visible peer connections that service as identity markers for profile owners, and are a part of impression management purposes.

Tweets can be responded to or retweeted often shown as an abbreviation of RT. Key words are often labeled with a hashtag symbol in front to direct audiences to like content and conversations. As an information network, Twitter supports the sharing of text and media including photographs, video and web links.

As with other forms of social media, Twitter is ideal for higher education; it is nimble, flexible, easy to use, and often very powerful. It focuses on doing one thing only and on doing that thing well: Research describes various uses of social media in the higher education environment and highlights how it is flexible, easy to use and a powerful tool for learning and teaching Poore, 2012.

Various studies report the student use of social media within higher education contexts to: Underpinning these benefits are pedagogical decisions to use various social media platforms to engage the learner. The invitation for professional use is framed around content as explore in the Teacher Education subject, and not use for administration or an alternative communication tool for broadcasting non-content information for example, a reminder of a lecture time or assessment due date.

A personal research and observation of the value of twitter in writing and thinking focusing on the higher education environment and specifically looking at Teacher Education, pre-service teachers use of social media are often embedded in pop culture sensibilities that may not have been translated into the academic or teaching contexts Bull et al. Instead of rejecting these ways of participating online, it is important to assist pre-service teachers to transform their understandings and values regarding the content and processes used to create and co-curate content that supports both their development of pedagogical understandings and connections to the profession Bull et al.

Currently, it would be common for some pre-service teachers to engage with Twitter on a personal level, but most report they do not know what to do and have little or no idea of how to use this platform for professional engagement and development Lemon, 2013a; Lemon et al.

  • To study the effects of Twitter on undergraduate learning dynamics, it was essential that the course had a defined and well-articulated learning outcome that could be associated with Twitter;
  • Learning to Use Twitter for Professional Use.

In an educational context where technology is mandated to be taught and integrated to support meaningful and authentic learning activities, this brings to light an underdeveloped area. The reflective use of digital media—including video, figures, and, indeed, social media—in Teacher Education degrees has been suggested as a way to bridge the perceived gap between theory and practice and highlight the opportunities to observe and interact in authentic real-life classrooms Bencze et al.

These digital access points to information and discussions provide pre-service teachers with an opportunity to engage in a sustained self-directed learning experience using digital technologies, thus encouraging them to engage in metacognitive talk about their experiences learning with and through technology Bullock, 2012.

In her study of eight participants in a teaching practicum, Wright 2010 found that posting to Twitter from phones or computers raised attention. Context of study The focus on Twitter in this paper comes from a data source associated with a larger study aimed at evaluating how pre-service teachers connect to a variety of resources that assist them in the writing of curriculum and professional development.

The focus of this study was on: This paper only focuses on aspects of using Twitter to connect with professional resources. Connecting future teachers to the breadth of resources for learning within museums and galleries was the driver for a personal research and observation of the value of twitter in writing and thinking development of an accredited Teacher Education core subject located within a Master of Teacher primary.

This subject is called Connected Learning: Working with museums and galleries to deepen arts and humanities learning. Developed in partnership between La Trobe University, Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum and National Gallery of Victoria, the subject focuses on how these sites as well as other cultural organisation sites are resources for primary Year Foundation to Year 6 curriculum and learning opportunities onsite, offsite and online, and for ongoing teacher professional development.

The subject is offered as a core subject in the second trimester in the first year of an 18-month accelerated degree. There is a focus on arts and humanities, with reference made to integrated curriculum, technology, and other discipline areas.

The subject scaffolds pre-service teachers to consider cultural organisations for ongoing learning, resources for curriculum, and reflecting upon education across formal and informal sites while connecting with museum educators through online and face-to-face opportunities. The online component specifically introduces social media platforms for professional engagement to develop a PLN and make connections with peers, teachers, museum educators, and global community.

Pre-service teachers were invited to use Twitter to: Expose alternative ways of connecting to fellow educators; Demonstrate how museums and social media are sites for informal learning with transference across boundaries into formal learning settings; Support learning by doing, underpinned by a social constructivist and connectivism learning framework; Extend connections between pre-service teachers and museum educators and museums; Support digital engagement anywhere, anytime to build ongoing professional relationships; Connect beyond just the subject content; Establish relationships and possibilities for future growth professionally and in integrating meaningful use of museums in curriculum; and Share how relationships can build from Teacher Education into teacher practice and take this knowledge into the classroom on practicum and once graduated and employed.

This project was a qualitative mixed methods Mason, 2006 ethnography. As the teacher practitioner researcher, I moved between Twitter, blogs and offline spaces, systematically observing, documenting, and talking to students about their practices and attitudes. Data collected was guided by the research question: The sub questions ask: Analysis was thematic and emergent, building from the research question and sub questions while being informed by literature.

Sixty seven pre-service teachers participated in the study in 2015. Comparative analysis will occur for five years in total across Teacher Education cohorts undertaking the subject.

Tweeting as a Pre-Service Teacher: Learning to use Twitter for Professional use

Age and gender were not noted as this was deemed as unnecessary demographic information. All data collected was done so through ethical permission. In addition, opportunity to express thinking, processing, perspectives and ideas is important and should be considered in learning activities produced for the online environment. Thus as teachers engaging with students in an online space, there must be an understanding of the online classroom and the impact on learners both socially and academically.

Levels of connectedness and learning are a measure of learning community Shea et al, 2006. This is where the notions of cognitive, social and teaching presence in online community must take into consideration inviting the online teacher to learn to transfer face-to-face teaching strategies to the virtual space Anderson, et al.