Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform
The scholarly community faces a lack of large-scale research examining how students and professors use social media in authentic contexts and how such use changes over time. Continuing our investigation into how professors and students use social media, Royce Kimmons and I just published a paper in which we used data mining methods to better understand academic Twitter use during, around, and between the 2014 and 2015 American Educational Research Association annual conferences both as a conference backchannel and as a general means of participating online. The first paper we published using similar methods, data, and comparing students and professors’ social media use is here. All of our research on networked scholarship and students’ and faculty members’ use of social media is gathered here.
Descriptive and inferential analysis is used to explore Twitter use for 1,421 academics and the more than 360,000 tweets they posted. Results demonstrate the complicated participation patterns of how Twitter is used “on the ground.” In particular, we show that:
- tweets during conferences differed significantly from tweets outside conferences
- students and professors used the conference backchannel somewhat equally, but students used some hashtags more frequently, while professors used other hashtags more frequently
- academics comprised the minority of participants in these backchannels, but participated at a much higher rate than their non-academic counterparts
- the number of participants in the backchannel increased between 2014 and 2015, but only a small number of authors were present during both years, and the number of tweets declined from year to year.
- various hashtags were used throughout the time period during which this study occurred, and some were ongoing (ie, those which tended to be stable across weeks) while others were event-based (ie, those which spiked in a particular week)
- professors used event-based hashtags more often than students and students used ongoing hashtags more often than professors
- ongoing hashtags tended to exhibit positive sentiment, while event-based hashtags tended to exhibit more ambiguous or conflicting sentiments
These findings suggest that professors and students exhibit similarities and differences in how they use Twitter and backchannels and indicate the need for further research to better understand the ways that social technologies and online networks are integrated in scholars’ lives.
Here’s the full citation and paper:
Kimmons, R. & Veletsianos, G. (2016). Education Scholars’ Evolving Uses of Twitter as a Conference Backchannel and Social Commentary Platform. British Journal of Educational Technology, 47(3), 445—464.
Fecher and Friesike reviewed the literature relevant to open science and found that “open science is an umbrella term that encompasses a multitude of different assumptions about the future of knowledge creation and dissemination; an umbrella term however that comprises five more or less distinct schools of thought with different assumptions about what exact aspect of research should be ‘open’ and ‘open’ to whom.”
One of these schools of thought is the “public school” whose advocates appear to believe that “the social web and Web 2.0 technologies allow and urge scientists on the one hand to open up their research processes and on the other hand to prepare research products for interested non-experts.”
There’s a number of interesting results here, lending support to, and further defining, the following assumptions and themes of open scholarship we identified in Veletsianos & Kimmons (2012):
- Open scholarship has a strong ideological basis rooted in an ethical pursuit for democratization, fundamental human rights, equality, and justice
- Open scholarship emphasizes the importance of digital participation for enhanced scholarly outcomes
- Open scholarship is treated as an emergent scholarly phenomenon that is co-evolutionary with technological advancements in the larger culture
- Open scholarship is seen as a practical and effective means for achieving scholarly aims that are socially valuable
Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2012). Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning,13(4), 166-189.
Image courtesy of NetWork
In the Fall, I will be teaching an open course entitled Networked Scholars. We are having our first design meeting this week, and in preparation for that, I have written up a course description (see below). The course is my response to the fact that Research Methods courses in the social sciences rarely examine scholarly practices in the digital age. Digital, networked, and open scholarship are topics that students and academics discover and examine on their own. These topics are too important to ignore. I believe that we should be teaching them in research methods courses. I am creating this course to help introduce individuals to these topics and to create an open online resource to help those who want to integrate these topics into their research methods courses. If you are interested in integrating aspects of this course with your (on campus or online) research methods course, I’d love to talk to you!
In this course, we will examine the tools and practices associated with networked, open, and digital scholarship. In particular we will investigate the emergent practice of scholars’ use of social media and online social networks for sharing, critiquing, improving, furthering, and reflecting upon their scholarship. Recent reports indicate that social media are at an early stage of adoption in academia, even though mindful participation in digital spaces is a significant skill for today’s academic and knowledge worker.
Participants will study scholarly presence online. They will examine how particular tools and practices may enhance the impact and reach of scholarship, and will explore the challenges and tensions associated with emerging forms of scholarship. By gaining an understanding of modern forms of scholarship, participants will be better equipped to use digital technologies and networked practices in their own work.
This course will be of immediate relevance to doctoral students, academics, and knowledge workers. Faculty members who teach research methods courses and faculty development professionals may also find this course valuable.
August 20, 2014 update
The course will run on the Canvas network (and concurrently on social media via the #scholar14 hashtag). The course registration page is live.
June 4, 2014 update
Course hashtag: #scholar14
If you’d like to be informed about the start of course or if you’d like to give feedback on the content and design of the course, please fill in the short survey below (also found here).
November 16, 2013 update: This presentation was recorded and archived.
Title: What Do Academics and Educators Do on Social Media and Networks, and What Do Their Experiences Tell Us About Identity and the Web?
Facilitator: George Veletsianos
Institution: Royal Roads University
Date and time: Nov 13, 2013 10:00am PST (click here to convert to local time)
Where: Adobe Connect: https://connect.athabascau.ca/cidersession
I am giving an open presentation to the Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. Don’t hesitate to join us if you have time and are interested on the topic! In this talk I will draw on empirical studies conducted by a number of researchers (including work by myself and Royce Kimmons) to examine academics’ and educators’ participation in networked spaces. These studies point to three significant findings: (a) increasingly open practices that question the traditions of academia, (b) personal-professional tensions in academic work, and (c) a framework of identity that contrasts sharply with our existing understanding of online identity.
I am in Cyprus to meet with a number of colleagues and give an invited talk at ICEM 2012.
Talk title: What does the future of design for online learning look like? Emerging technologies, Openness, MOOCs, and Digital Scholarship
Abstract: What will we observe if we take a long pause and examine the practice of online education today? What do emerging technologies, openness, Massive Open Online Courses, and digital scholarship tell us about the future that we are creating for learners, faculty members, and learning institutions? And what does entrepreneurial activity worldwide surrounding online education mean for the future of education and design? In this talk, I will discuss a number of emerging practices relating to online learning and online participation in a rapidly changing world and explain their implications for design practice. Emerging practices (e.g., open courses, researchers who blog, students who use social media to self-organize) can shape our teaching/learning practice and teaching/learning practice can shape these innovations. By examining, critiquing, and understanding these practices we will be able to understand potential futures for online learning and be better informed on how we can design effective and engaging online learning experiences. This talk will draw from my experiences and research on online learning, openness, and digital scholarship, and will present recent evidence detailing how researchers, learners, educators are creating, sharing, and negotiating knowledge and education online.
What is open scholarship? We discuss it, allude to it, but what are its components?
Royce Kimmons and I were working on a revision to a paper that we hope to be able to share soon and the following comment from a reviewer led us down the path of reflecting upon the concept. The comment was:
One challenge the authors face is defining the “open scholarship” movement when there is so little consensus about what that is. I think many readers will object to the very broad term “Digital Presence through Blogs, Microblogs, Personal Websites, and Social Networking Sites” as being considered “open.” I might consider focusing more on the open publishing and OER and less on social media which may or may not be open.
The reviewer was right in that social media may or may not be open, especially when contrasted to open access and OER, and considering that social media can often be viewed as walled gardens. However, we also think that the use of social media is reflective of current scholarly practice and that open practices are enacted through them. This led us down the path of describing open scholarship as composed of three components. Our revised description was as follows:
We view open scholarship as a collection of emergent scholarly practices that espouse openness and sharing. Boyer’s (1990) framework of scholarship is often used as a starting point for defining scholarly practices in the digital age and a number of authors have sought to update Boyer’s model to reflect contemporary thinking relating to scholarly practice (e.g., Garnet & Ecclesfield, 2011; Heap & Minocha, 2012; Pearce et., al, 2010; Weller, 2011). Nonetheless, there appears to be little consensus in the field about what exactly constitutes open scholarship. Here we take an inclusive approach to open scholarship and consider it to include three components: (1) Open Access and Open Publishing, (2) Open Education, including Open Educational Resources and Open Teaching, and (3) Networked Participation. In our previous work, we have discussed networked participatory scholarship, which is the third component of open scholarship and refers to scholars’ uses of online social networks to share, critique, improve, validate, and enhance their scholarship (Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012). We are taking an inclusive approach to open scholarship because we believe that this is reflective of current scholarly practice. All three components noted above are instances of open scholarship, but they are enacted or made visible in different forms. Within our frame of understanding, open scholarship is a set of phenomena and practices surrounding scholars’ uses of digital and networked technologies underpinned by certain grounding assumptions regarding openness and democratization of knowledge creation and dissemination.
What do you think? We’d love to hear your insights.
When we wrote about Networked Participatory Scholarship we discussed how as a culture we have found great value in online collaborative projects, ranging from Wikipedia, to Firefox, to Apache, Python, etc. We argued that such collective ways of thinking are scarce in academia though innovators are currently toying with such approaches. One example includes the cadre of mentors who helped Alec Couros teach one of his open courses in 2010 (see other examples pertaining to crowdsourcing in education).
The value of the Web as a platform for collectives to organize around issues of interest is now being demonstrated again with a call to boycott Elsevier that appears to have been successful. This is an example that demonstrates the value, implications, and insights of digital/network skills and literacies for academics. For instance, the social web supported Timothy Gowers in organizing the boycott. Of course not everyone has such a great following as Gowers to be able to enact change, but the possibility is there – after all the Star Wars kid didn’t have any sort of following prior to his video being released online, but following that he quickly became an Internet sensation. The lesson here is that as academics we need to understand the culture of the Web and its participatory nature because it can help us forge a scholarly future with values that we deem to be important.
Reddit is one of the communities that I follow for professional and personal purposes. For professional purposes specifically, it serves as a site for my online ethnography on networked participatory scholarship and digital scholarship. As part of that work, I am trying to make sense of the meaning of open digital participation for learning, teaching, scholarship, and education. One of the most informative and enjoyable aspects of Reddit is the IAmA subreddit in which individuals with interesting stories answer user questions. For example, one individual shared intimate details of his/her work and experiences with for-profit education, and another discusses teaching high school science and the misconceptions surrounding the teaching profession. The other day, Salman Khan (of Khan Academy) answered questions on the site, and I thought some of you might be interested in reading the Q&A, not just for Khan’s answers but also for the types of questions that were being asked. Though my vision of education differs from Khan’s vision of education, I appreciate that numerous students and teachers have found value in his efforts and I welcome any initiative that opens up conversations about what the future of education should look like. In any event, here is the Q&A with Salman Khan.
* Reddit logo courtesy of Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Reddit_logo.svg