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Hands on Assignment 3
A Virtual Ethnography

ETEC 565G 65A
(Morgan, 2013)

What is Twitter?
dis Twitter?

Pictures posted to #sd36learn

(Craft, 2008)

For this ethnography, the virtual
environment which was explored
was Twitter. More specifically,
#sd36learn was the focus for
observing aspects of culture.

Microblogging has become an
extremely popular communication
tool among users of the Internet (Pak
& Paroubek, 2010). As mentioned in
the video above, individuals are
looking for opportunities to share
opinions about different topics and
discuss their everyday routines with
the world (Common Craft, 2008).
Twitter, the largest microblogging
site, is an online social networking
platform which allows users to
interact with one another by sending
and reading “tweets”, which are
text messages limited to 140
characters (Picard, 2011). Twitter’s
population spread quickly and users
learned that they could distribute
their messages by instant
messages, email, mobile phones or
the Internet (Acar & Deguchi, 2013).

Twitter originated in 2006 and its
influence has impacted media,
businesses, politics, and individuals all
over the world (Picard, 2011).
Twitter delivers instant news and
stories for the world to view. Several
educators have utilized Twitter in their
classrooms for multiple reasons:
language learning, motivating
students, and teaching digital
citizenship skills (Reinhardt, Wheeler &
Ebner (2010). In addition to student
learning, educators in the Surrey
School District in British Columbia have
created several hashtags to share
their learning with other educators.
#bcedplan #educationcanada
#sd36learn #edchat
How do Twitter users in education
present themselves?

Facts about Twitter
There are now over 550
million registered users
34% of marketers use
Twitter to successfully
generate leads
Twitter was the fastest
growing network with a
44% growth from
Twitter has 215 million
monthly active users
(Bullas, 2014)

(Twitter wordle, 2013)

Key Questions



What are the implicit rules for behavior?
What cultural norms are operating in this situation?
What factors may have shaped them?
What is happening? Who is involved?
What aspects of the actions are of particular interest?
What informal rules guide the action?

Facts Pertaining to Ethnography

(Zee, 2010)

Focus: to observe how participants seek to present
themselves as ‘encultured’ individuals and how
language of participants expresses norms of that
cyber culture.

Time for observation: One hour

Role in Observation: Lurker

After careful observation of this virtual environment
for one hour, several aspects of behavior and
culture were identified.

Administrators, teachers and teachers on call were
sharing their knowledge, information and success

Information posted:
 Professional development opportunities
 Sharing of events
During the 24 hour period on March 3rd, 2014, 49 tweets
 Personal opinions or requesting of teachers on
were sent in total to #sd36learn. During one hour, 9 tweets
were delivered. The implicit rules of behavior seemed to
 Asking for help (resources)
be the need for attention or a writer’s sense of audience
 Quotes
awareness. For example, users were mostly educators
 Liked apps or programs used in the classroom
and the types of messages they tweeted indicated that
 Resources (anti-bullying, innovative thinking,
the flow of information had an influence on others.
21st century skills)
Educators were retweeting other posts or specifying that
 Links to articles or other blog slots of
they liked the post. For example, one teacher was
retweeted 9 times in the course of one hour (See Figure 1).
According to Marwick & Boyd (2011), while on Twitter
“people tend to present themselves in fixed, singular, and The cultural norms which were operating within this
context included the ways individuals presented
self-conscious ways” (p. 3). Individuals seemed to be
themselves. Often we present ourselves differently
aware of what they were posting as the types of posts
based on the recipients
we are talking to and where
centered on education; hence the hashtag sd36learn.
Caption describing picture or
the communication isgraphic.
taking place (Marwick &Boyd,
2011). While socializing online, “participants have a
sense of audience in every mediated conversation”
(Marwick & Boyd, 2011, p.2). In order to present
oneself appropriately, this audience is constructed or
Figure 1 –Twitter User’s Comment is Retweeted 9 Times After
imagined by the user, based on technological
Promoting @ClassroomChamps
affordances and social context (Marwick & Boyd,


Other norms included the use of friendly and
morally accepted words or language to address
people. Within this context, educators used
positive words and gave shout outs to followers.
This developed a sense of community and
motivated users to tweet back. It was a safe
environment as most users shared detailed
information about themselves in their user
profile. As I browsed through some profiles, it
was apparent that the more ‘popular’ educators
had created a name for themselves. “Many
online communicators show a real desire to
paint “physical pictures” of themselves in the
process of identity construction, and frequently
included details of physical attributes, age, and
marital status” (MacFayden, 2006, p.5).
On the other hand, the hashtag was misused by
some educators which influenced the mood of
readers. Since the focus was education,
anything irrelevant was deemed inappropriate
by the dominant group, as the virtual
environment was about professional
development (See Figure 2).

Figure 2: Users React to Misuse of #sd36learn

What can be concluded from these
findings is that the twitter culture is a
space for educators to share their
learning. It is a space where users think
about what they will say before they
post. I believe this is because users
interact and behave differently online.
From my personal experience, I know
many of the educators who post on this
page and I find it interesting how their
online self is different than their real
self. It could be that posting online can
act as a safety net for users to share
their learning. Zhao & Rosson (2004)
believe this is the case because
“microblogs provide a new
communication channel for people to
broadcast information that they likely
would not share otherwise” (p.1)
As we live in a technology driven world,
Twitter may be a tool which can be
used in the workplace to promote more
informal communication amongst

colleagues. Emotionally, microblogging may be used to reach a level
of cyberspace presence (Zhao & Rosson, 2004). In order to bridge
the gap between our online self and real self, Twitter can be utilized
as a tool to communicate in the workplace. Possible benefits of
informal communication include:

(Zhao & Rosson, 2009)

In conclusion, I was interested in exploring Twitter because it is
talked about a lot in the Surrey School District. Its craze was
overwhelming and I struggled to understand how educators were
benefiting from tweeting. Aside from professional development, I
found it more of a task for educators to complete and compete with
how many posts they sent out in a day. In other words, it was a
constant war of retweeting. Looking back to the key questions I was
curious about, I learned that the cultural norms which were shaped
by the environment were focused on being an educational tool. I
saw a community of learners who tweeted about classroom
community and helped each other with assessment and practice. A
culture was created within this environment and I can see how I can
assimilate into the goals and values of #sd36learn.


Figure 3: Types of Information Posted on #sd36learn

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Figure 1. (2013, March 3). Twitter user`s comment is retweeted 9 times after promoting @ClassroomChamps .
Retrieved from
Figure 2. (2013, March 3). Users react to misuse of #sd36learn. Retrieved from
Figure 3. (2013, March 3). Types of information posted on #sd36learn. Retrieved from
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 Virtual Ethnicity: The new digitization of place, body, language, and memory.
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Picard, A. (2011, March 20). The history of twitter, 140 characters at a time. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from
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