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Exploring higher education professionals' use of Twitter for learning

O'Keeffe, MB; (2016) Exploring higher education professionals' use of Twitter for learning. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This study draws on the responses of seven higher education professionals working in various roles in higher education in Ireland. Individual case studies illustrate participants’ use of the social networking service, Twitter, for professional learning. Cross-case analysis is used to highlight similarities and differences among cases. There are increasing pressures in higher education to professionalise teaching to provide excellent teaching to students. Opportunities for formal learning exist for those who teach and support teaching but recently online social networks have emerged as ways of accessing informal professional learning opportunities through sharing and discussing practice online. However this study calls into question the widely accepted notion that Twitter inherently enables social learning and thus enables professional learning. Wenger’s (1998) community of practice model, which proposes that learning occurs in relationships between people and that mutually negotiated activities contribute to identity construction, was used to problematise how professionals used Twitter for learning. White and Le Cornu’s (2011) Visitor and Resident typology helped identify online engagement of participants on Twitter and highlighted differences in social presence and participation. While all participants recognised Twitter as valuable for informal learning, what was most interesting about findings was that Visitor participants experienced barriers inhibiting them from establishing social presence and participating in social activities on Twitter. These factors included the capacity to participate in social networking activities, issues of confidence and vulnerability, and absence of belonging in online spaces. These findings have implications for those who advocate online social networks for learning and professional development and this study argues that support is needed for higher education professionals in using public online social spaces, such as Twitter. Such support should include critical thinking and dialogue about the complexity of online social spaces coupled with identity development work, while building digital capabilities of professionals.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Exploring higher education professionals' use of Twitter for learning
Event: Institute of Education, University College London
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Third party copyright material has been removed from ethesis.
Keywords: professional learning, informal learning, Twitter, social networks, identity, higher education
UCL classification: UCL > School of Education
UCL > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Education, Practice & Society
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1521971
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