HYELN – using Twitter in Education

Presented at the Higher York E-Learning Conference 2014 – The session featured two presentations from academics who have used twitter in different ways and contexts to support their teaching.

c1cff-twitter-bird_mortarboardUsing Twitter to enhance understanding of children’s literature: Caroline Elbra Ramsay, York St John University

Caroline Elbra Ramsay is the Head of Programme for the BA in Primary Education and gave an insightful look at how her students have been using Twitter to expand their awareness of current children’s literature and share recommended readings within the cohort. She presented her research illustrating how for most of her students their prior knowledge of children’s literature was informed by the books they read when they were children. She wanted to use Twitter to help them to extent their awareness and understanding of children’s literature and use it as a resource for research, networking and peer communication.

Ably supported by St John’s Technology Enhanced Learning team (who recently hosted their 10 days of Twitter mini MOOC), Caroline developed a number of directed tasks which both introduced her students to Twitter as a tool but also allowed them to explore and research their subject areas in ways that would not have been possible with “traditional” media. The supportive, scaffolded approach helped to overcome a number of digital literacy barriers and initial sceptism about the usefulness of Twitter to support educational development, with detailed evaluation showing the benefits of Twitter on trainee teacher’s development as general practitioners as well as specifically in this area.

Caroline concluded with a number of key findings, highlighting how this approach acted as a valuable “enrichment”  activity but was not a replacement for other, more “scholarly” activity.

Caroline’s slides area available here: twitter project caroline elbra-ramsay

Twitter as a reading list: teaching current events in the Middle East: Jacob Eriksson, University of York

Jacob described how he has experimented with using twitter to extend the formal reading list for his module and invite students to contribute to the reading and other primary sources with their own research and commentary. Using a module hashtag #PTMEYork, supported access to the most current resources for this rapidly changing political landscape, allowing students to move beyond traditional media and engage more actively with online media in an academic context, particularly video and blogs.

Jacob highlighted a number of challenges, particularly with student engagement and participation in posting resources, in contrast to Caroline’s approach where students were tasked to do this within class time, at least initially. Jacob also identified that the 140 character limit prevented in depth critical analysis, highlighting that news sources and twitter are no substitute for academic literature and that each should have their place in this module. One approach to ensuring equity amongst all students, even those who didn’t have access to twitter was to embed the feed within the VLE. Although a number of students did post and share resources on a number of occasions it was observed that the majority of tweets to the hashtag came from Jacob himself but that this was still useful to extend the scope and range of resources exposed in this module.

“A useful, well received teaching tool… but complementary rather than central”

Jacob’s slides are available here: Twitter York Higher conference (2)

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