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Friday, 24 April 2015

10 tips on how to use #twitter to build a learning #community

The 10 tips are derived from this paper "Understanding micro-processes of community building and mutual learning on Twitter: a ‘small data’ approach" by Hilde C. Stephansen & Nick Couldry. (There is a full citation at the foot of this post and below the citation are links to other posts you maybe interested in).  

The paper presents a case study of how teachers and students at a sixth-form college in the north of England used twitter to help construct a ‘community of practice’ for a department in the college.  

They managed to create a space in which – despite anxieties about privacy and context collapse – it felt ‘safe’ for students not only to contribute information but also to debate, joke and even disagree with their teachers.

I found this paper via a retweet by @MediaLSE of the tweet below
We've updated our Media, Cultural and Communication Studies Open Access page with more fantastic content-FREE!

In the tips below I use the original papers's terminology of "department", "teacher" and  "student". But I think this terminology could in a business setting be replaced with "directorate", "manager" and "team members".

1) Run the Department twitter account collectively - using a core of 4 teachers.

2) The core 4 should use the Dept. account to interact with and encourage students - rather their own individual twitter accounts (even when such interactions were ostensibly only relevant to a particular class or subject group) 

"We've not gone on individual Twitter accounts, we're combined, we're a joint effort and because of that it means that there is always something that you can talk about, and there's always something going on somewhere within the team".

3) Share seemingly mundane information and humorous quips via Twitter - this helps create a sense of informality and proximity, from which a community of practice can more broadly be built.

"One of the reasons why I think we get a lot of followers is because we do share things which as a teacher, there has to be a professional divide between personal and work, and that's a divide that has to be kept, but it's also quite a grey area, but because all of us are signed into the Twitter feeds, and because there's that accountability, you do feel that you're able to share a holiday pic, or, ‘Look what happened to me today!’ [ … ]. They [students] love that and that's what they like because it's something personal that you're sharing, but it's the ability to be able to share it that's safe. It's completely public, it's completely accountable, and it's quite nice that isn't it [ … ] they no longer see you as the teacher that's going to tell you what to do"

4) Craft tweets to focus on specific subsets of students - so students following the Dept. twitter account will be regularly exposed to information and interactions not directly related to their subject area.  Rather than being perceived as irrelevant ‘noise’ these tweets will contribute positively to a momentum that supports a sense of department-wide community. 

5) Encourage teachers and students to use the Dept. account to document & announce student group activities.  (E.g  a field trip out for geographers).  Documenting students' experiences through a collaboratively produced Twitter ‘photo essay’ strengthens bonds among the students involved as the collective narration affirms the group identity. 

6) Regularly tweet links to relevant articles and web resources - this enables students to take an active role as co-producers rather than just recipients of knowledge. 

7) Retweet all tweets directed at the Dept. twitter account - this is crucial to encourage students to share information (see 6) above).  Retweeting gathers students' tweets into one place, making them visible to the Dept's other twitter followers and so the students peers.  Also immediately follow up such retweets with a further tweet praising a students contribution.  Such public acknowledgement validates the student's status as a knowledge source and also acknowledges that those other than teachers have capabilities of value to the community.

8) Use twitter frequently as part of classroom activities - typically for revision. Teachers can adapt previous analogue activities (summarizing information into bite-sized chunks) by asking students to tweet revision notes.

".... especially if I hashtag up something like that, they can scroll through what other students and how other students have summarised or have expressed information."

9)  Use the Dept. account to post a tweeted debate amongst teachers - with the teachers starting their tweets with their initials to indicate who is debating.  Such a debate can have a mixture of arguments, factual references and gentle ‘digs’.  Crucially, students feel able to join in.

10) An important precondition for using twitter in such a way is pre-existing relations of trust among staff.  Indeed the collective way of running a department account means staff benefit from a safety net provided by the collective responsibility and mutual accountability of a joint account. In this way (paradoxically) the public and shared character of Twitter enabled staff to feel comfortable engaging in more personal and informal modes of communication.  Note sometimes students will developing strategies to separate different realms and so avoid losing ‘kudos’ among their peers: 

 "I had a few that said that they were going to tweet, ‘I'm only doing this for college purposes.’ [ … ]. 


Understanding micro-processes of community building and mutual learning on Twitter: a ‘small data’ approach

Hilde C. Stephansena* & Nick Couldryb
pages 1212-1227

© 2014 The Author(s). Published by Taylor & Francis.

The article was an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The moral rights of the named author(s) have been asserted.

Permission is granted subject to the terms of the License under which the work was published. Please check the License conditions for the work which you wish to reuse. Full and appropriate attribution must be given. This permission does not cover any third party copyrighted material which may appear in the work requested.

The research behind the paper was conducted as part of Storycircle, a core project within the Framework for Innovation and Research in MediaCityUK (FIRM) consortium, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the joint UK Research Councils Digital Economy programme [grant number EP/H003738/1]. 

The authors thank the other members of the Storycircle team, Dr Wilma Clark, Dr Richard MacDonald, Dr Aristea Fotopoulou and Dr Luke Dickens, for valuable input during the drafting of the paper.

other posts on RSA, TED, other lectures, conferences, others blog posts

18 top tips and thoughts about using #social media to enable #community source = an article by  Anatoliy Gruzd PhD & Caroline Haythornthwaite PhD 

Data Protection & Privacy - 8 issues from an International Conference
escape your social horizon limit & understand more - source = a blog post summarising the work of  Jeffrey A. Smith, Miller McPherson & Lynn Smith-Lovin
social media & death - 10 things you may not have thought about - #DORS conference

the development of the U2 spyplane - source = CIA historians Gregory Pedlow & Donald Welzenbach
considering culture and business process improvement  - source = an article by Schmiedel, Theresa, vom Brocke, Jan, & Recker 
ideas that may help you attract older volunteers - source = a paper by Brayley, Nadine, Obst, Patricia L., White, Katherine M., Lewis, Ioni M.,Warburton, Jeni, & Spencer, Nancy
physical factors which help people get better quicker - source = a paper by Salonen, Heidi & Morawska, Lidia 
a new approach to school and education - by Geetha Narayanan 
guiding principles on designing construction kits - by Mitchel Resnick & Brian Silverman
signs of overparenting - source = an article by Locke, Judith, Campbell, Marilyn A., & Kavanagh, David J
making ideas happen - source = a 99U conference

how to spot a liar - by pamela myer 
measuring happiness - source = talk by jim clifton, jim harter, ben leedle

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