To tweet or not to tweet?

A phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices.

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Masters in Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change by Helen Crump St. Angela’s College, Sligo Accredited by the National University of Ireland, Galway June 2012

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercialShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Abstract .......................................................................................................................... 1 Chapter 1: Introduction .................................................................................................. 1 Twitter and higher education ..................................................................................... 1 Relevance and significance ........................................................................................ 2 Objectives and conceptual framework ....................................................................... 3 Enquiry methods ........................................................................................................ 5 Notes on terminology................................................................................................. 5 Chapter 2: Literature review .......................................................................................... 6 Technology, change and higher education................................................................. 7 Attributes of Twitter .................................................................................................. 9 Application of Twitter.............................................................................................. 14 Implications of Twitter ............................................................................................ 17 Disposition to adopt Twitter – the lecturer and the context ..................................... 20 Lecturers‟ philosophies ........................................................................................ 22 Contextual factors ................................................................................................ 22 Twitter as an appropriate literacy practice for higher education ............................. 24 Key findings of literature review ............................................................................. 27 Grounds for enquiry – research questions ............................................................... 28 Chapter 3: Methodology .............................................................................................. 29 Research framework – interpretivist and qualitative ............................................... 29


Research strategy – descriptive phenomenology ..................................................... 31 Research methods .................................................................................................... 33 Sample population ............................................................................................... 33 Recruiting participants ......................................................................................... 34 Ethical considerations .......................................................................................... 34 Data collection ..................................................................................................... 35 Piloting ................................................................................................................. 36 Data analysis ........................................................................................................ 36 Validity and reliability ......................................................................................... 38 Limitations of the enquiry .................................................................................... 39 Chapter 4: Presentation of findings.............................................................................. 40 Aidan - social science .............................................................................................. 40 Declan - religious education .................................................................................... 44 Conor - film, photography and digital media........................................................... 47 Erin – information technology ................................................................................. 50 Brendan - politics and social policy ......................................................................... 54 Chapter 5: Discussion of findings ................................................................................ 58 The lecturer – proclivities, philosophies and practice ............................................. 59 The context - appropriateness, negotiation and validation ...................................... 64 Possibilities for action .......................................................................................... 66 Overall findings ....................................................................................................... 67


Chapter 6: Issues and implications of findings ............................................................ 67 Disruption to practice – a new value proposition .................................................... 68 Disposition as action or positioning......................................................................... 69 How Twitter is entering higher education ............................................................... 70 References .................................................................................................................... 71 Acronyms ..................................................................................................................... 84 Glossary ....................................................................................................................... 84 Appendices ................................................................................................................... 88 Appendix I – Researcher‟s prior assumptions ......................................................... 88 Appendix II – Recruitment email ............................................................................ 89 Appendix III – Participant consent .......................................................................... 90 Appendix IV – Participant information ................................................................... 91 Appendix V – Interview schedule (part A) .............................................................. 92 Appendix VI – Interview schedule (part B) ............................................................. 94 Appendix VII _ Process of data analysis exemplar ................................................. 97 Appendix VIII – Student endorsement .................................................................. 102


This phenomenological enquiry into lecturers‟ disposition towards the adoption of the disruptive Web 2.0 technology Twitter comprises in-depth interviews with five lecturers in Irish higher education. The enquiry views Twitter as a digital literacy practice and takes a New Literacy Studies perspective to position Twitter as a social practice. Disposition is considered in terms of Bourdieu‟s contextual disposition. The enquiry reveals the disruptive affects to long-standing knowledge-making practices and analysis of data, by a phenomenological condensation of meaning method, reveals a range of dispositions amongst the research sample lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter. Analysis suggests that the research sample lecturers are disposed towards its adoption if it affords congruence with the purpose of their practice and the values and beliefs upon which this is based, as well as with their personal beliefs and values too. Nonetheless, as a social practice, the adoption of Twitter does not go undisputed. Keywords: Twitter, Web 2.0, disruptive technology, innovation, change, digital, literacy, New Literacy Studies, disposition, Bourdieu, habitus

Chapter 1: Introduction
Twitter and higher education
Facilitated by the advent of Web 2.0 technologies (O‟Reilly, 2005), the popular embrace of a participatory and networked web would appear to offer exciting opportunities for lecturers to adopt new practices and harness its potential for the purposes of higher education. Twitter is an expression of Web 2.0 that combines microblogging with social networking and is accessible via multiple technological platforms, most notably via mobile


smartphones; consequently, it is beginning to attract serious attention amongst some educators. Regarded as a disruptive Web 2.0 technology (Bower and Christensen, 1995; Meyer, 2010), Twitter is changing the way in which higher education is able to access content and interact with knowledge, and as such presents unique challenges to an institution that is commonly perceived as slow to change (Marshall, 2010); it is widely held that many educators resist technological innovations (Baggley, 2010). To date, simply introducing new technologies into educational establishments has proved largely insufficient in itself to deliver any significant transformation of practice. Society though in the 21st century is changing rapidly and becoming ever more digital. Twitter constitutes a new digital practice with many arguing of the pressing need to incorporate such digital practices within traditional academic practice (Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008; Young, 2008, 2009; Holotescu, 2009; Mayernik and Pepe, 2009; Rankin, 2009; Sample, 2010 and Ebner et al., 2010).

Relevance and significance
The emergence of Twitter and its subsequent rapid adoption within many facets of society has fascinated me greatly. This is because Twitter, with its microblogging function, essentially constitutes a literacy practice, albeit a new digital literacy one, and with a background in adult literacy practice, I am widely interested in the socio-cultural aspects of literacy. Concerning Twitter, I have witnessed its increasing and widespread use together with the high value placed upon it by some, not only as a broadcast and as a social networking medium but also when championed as a tool for professional development. Yet, within the context of higher education I perceive reluctance and hesitancy on the part of many lecturers to entertain Twitter‟s credentials as either a tool for professional development or as an application for teaching and learning, and more generally, a failure to attribute any significant merit to the practice of “tweeting” (a tweet being a microblog message sent within 2

Twitter). Considering the advance of “digital society” with trends towards networked communities, distributed and collaborative workplace practices and where valued knowledge is increasingly communicated in digital forms (Beetham et al., 2010), this is of significance for shaping higher education‟s relationship to such a society.

Objectives and conceptual framework
Connecting the profound socio-technological changes taking place within society and the impact of a disruptive technology upon knowledge-making practices, the aim of this enquiry is to ascertain the disposition of lecturers towards the adoption of new practices that Twitter enables. The enquiry plots the emergence of Twitter and its attributes positioning it within the conceptual framework of disruptive change confronting higher education and the emergence of new literacy practices that this engenders. The notion of disposition is crucial to this as it is within the bounds of this concept that lecturers‟ value judgement and inclination towards any adoption of Twitter is to be found. As accounted for by Bourdieu (1990), disposition is a dialectical process between the individual and the context in which they operate or practice. This means that applicable to the adoption of Twitter, lecturers participate in an evaluation process, weighing up factors pertinent to themselves and those emanating from their professional practice in conjunction with wider cultural considerations and those specific to their respective institutional context. Fitting together with this contextual view of disposition is the perspective of literacies as social practices (Barton and Hamilton, 1998; Street, 1984, 1995); that is to say, it is by being situated in the specific social and cultural context of higher education that Twitter practices will derive meaning and on which they will be significantly dependent for their acceptance and performance. Advocates of New Literacy Studies (Barton, 1994; Gee, 1996; Street, 1984, 1995) assert that literacy is always for a purpose and as such, it must be recognised as operating within specific social and cultural contexts. In line with the New 3

Literacy Studies this enquiry expounds that literacy practices are not merely incidental as they embed ideologies and ways of viewing the world. Consequently, such a perspective considers matters pertaining to literacy through the similitude of organisations, institutions or groups. In this, an “ideological” model of literacy, emphasis is placed on the significance of literacy practices for the people involved, which in this case are higher education lecturers. In light of such perspective, I believe higher education needs not only to be abreast of technological developments and the new literacy practices that they engender, but also it needs to pay attention to what these practices mean to those involved; after all, literacy “has always been a key site of cultural contestation and an important indicator of cultural values and social organisation” (R.C.L.C.E., 2007, p. 7). In this enquiry, it is important to understand that a disruptive technology (Bower and Christensen, 1995), alternatively referred to as a “disruptive innovation” (Christensen and Raynor, 2003), is deemed such because it helps to create a “new value proposition” (Christensen et al., 2004, p. 2). It is important to distinguish that it is not the technology itself that is disruptive but rather disruption is derived from its innovative application that produces new, and often unexpected, propositions. Thus, any acceptance of Twitter within higher education will not only disrupt traditional practices but will disrupt customary values as well. The implications of Twitter‟s adoption pertain to its ability to permeate institutional walls and spawn access to multiple sources of knowledge, its impact on the role and function of the lecturer, its alteration of the learning experience, as well as issues regarding quality, security and its suitability in general for higher education. Disruptive change is acknowledged as being difficult to reconcile for an institution where current practices have long been seen as successful (Marshall, 2010).


Enquiry methods
To ascertain the scope to which Twitter practices may be deployed within higher education, a literature review is undertaken together with assessment of the disruptive implications that any adoption entails. Through a literacies perspective, attention is also given to the negotiation and validation of Twitter alongside appraisal of the contextual disposition of lecturers to adopt such practices. Broad in scope, this enquiry seeks to yield via a qualitative phenomenological strategy a temporal insight into lecturers‟ disposition as they consider the suitability of Twitter for their practice. Considering that a great deal of information can be gathered simply by talking to people, five in-depth interviews with lecturers are presented as précised vignettes to afford through rich description as holistic a view as possible of the phenomenon of lecturers‟ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter. What is more, it is conceived that a descriptive analysis promoting an authentic depiction of the situation and the dispositions revealed will be of benefit to a wide range of interested parties, especially policy makers, administrators and lecturers themselves as they may be able to relate to the situation and the data presented and thus extract meaning pertinent to their own circumstances.

Notes on terminology
Within this enquiry, the term lecturer is used interchangeably with that of tutor, teacher or educator and is used to denote the role of a professional within higher education. The term higher education itself is used to denote the diverse institutions that nowadays constitute what traditionally would have been considered the university or the academy, and as such, these terms are also used interchangeably. Similarly, it is important to note that within this enquiry the term practice is used in both a general and a specific sense. Its general sense derives from Bourdieu‟s (1977) notion of how things are done or happen in specific cultural contexts. Here, denoting lecturers in 5

higher education with any recognisable behaviours or interactions being accounted for by culturally given dispositions and interests that incorporate both agency (people choosing what they do) and social structure (the expectations that „cause‟ people to do certain things). The more specific sense refers to the concept of “literacy practices” (Street, 1995), which takes account of the behaviour and the social and cultural conceptualisations that give meaning to the use of Twitter (a literacy practice due to its microblogging function) underscoring the conceptions that lecturers have of it in terms of its situated norms, values and beliefs. Hence, this enquiry utilises the terms practice and disposition to convey the things that lecturers do and the personal and cultural considerations that consciously or unconsciously position them to make certain choices.

Chapter 2: Literature review
Apposite to higher education and against a background of technology and change, the purpose of this chapter is to determine through a literature review the attributes of Twitter technology and to establish its application within higher education before considering the implications that any adoption might hold. This is reviewed from the perspective that Twitter institutes disruptive change, presenting a new value proposition and engendering new practices (implicitly literacy practices). Pertinent to lecturers, it considers matters in terms of contextual disposition that will determine whether they choose to adopt Twitter into their practice or not. The aim of the review is to establish Twitter‟s credentials and disruptive affects and to demonstrate the need for an enquiry that seeks to discover lecturers‟ disposition towards such disruption and any subsequent adoption; further to highlight the importance that this has for the incorporation of Twitter, or any other social Web 2.0 practices, and the future of teaching and learning within higher education.


Technology, change and higher education
Before considering the application and implications of Twitter, it is first necessary to take account of technology and change within higher education in general. As an institution of knowledge production (Delanty, 2001a) higher education is seen as crucial in leveraging for society the benefits brought about by digital technologies. Hence, many people are deliberating if Twitter can be appropriately utilised to this end. However, despite the apparent potential of technology to transform educational practice, over all adoption of new technologies within the sector is more speculative in nature than established in practice (Selwyn, 2008). This is particularly noticeable in the case of Web 2.0 technologies. As Baggley (2010) notes, not all teachers strive enthusiastically to embrace the latest technological approaches, which has helped to create the idea that traditional education is unprepared for a new generation of technology savvy students, dubbed “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001) that is now entering higher education. Lord Puttnam (2011) illustrates the impasse regarding technology with his analogy of a surgeon from 1911 being brought forward in time to an operating table in 2011 and finding today‟s hospital environment alien; whereas a teacher from 1911 on the other hand could easily deliver a lesson in a 2011 classroom because the technology remains largely the same. Consequently, he concludes that within education “the roots of profound change that have to be addressed must run deep” (cited in Kennedy, 2011, p. 1). Marshall (2010) deems it pertinent to ask if higher education really needs to change. After all, having existed for centuries the institution of the university appears relatively stable (Waks, 2007). Marshall (2010) goes on to suggest that its “apparent resistance to change may reflect the value to society in its current form” (p. 181). However, the 21st century presents a world in constant change therefore the paradigm has now become about embracing change, as change is endemic within the system (PenaLopez, 2011).


Technology is seen as a key driver that can help execute the purposes of higher education (teaching and learning, research and wider engagement) in new and innovative ways (Dept. of Education and Skills, 2011). Bradwell (2009) points out that: universities are now just one source among many for ideas, knowledge and innovation, that seems to threaten their core position and role, but in this new world of learning […], there are also great opportunities. The internet, social networks, collaborative online tools that allow people to work together more easily, and open access to content are both the cause of change for universities, and a tool with which they can respond (p. 8).

However, there is a wide range of stakeholders, all of whom seek to modify higher education to better suit their needs or resist changes that do not conform to their perception of it (Marginson, 2004). Routinely, change is driven by individuals or groups that seek to exploit new capacities as they become available. When these changes make improvements in ways that are consistent with previous activities they are seen as “sustaining” changes, however “disruptive” changes create new ways of doing things or reshape existing ways (Christensen et al., 2004). eLearning, which has emerged as a major paradigm for teaching and learning in the 21st century represents an example of sustaining change; institutional learning management systems [LMSs] or virtual learning environments [VLEs] are well suited for the electronic distribution of academic resources essentially reinforcing the established transmission model of learning (Acker, 2004; Reeves et al., 2004). Today, the concept of eLearning is evolving towards Learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005; Brown and Adler, 2008; Walton et al., 2008; Berlanga et al., 2010), or Education 2.0 (Selwyn, 2008), which denotes a discourse pertaining to how education should integrate social Web 2.0 (O‟Reilly, 2005) technologies such as Twitter into educational and institutional practices. However, Web 2.0 can be regarded as provoking “disruptive” change within education (Garrison and Anderson, 2003) as it profoundly alters the generation and dissemination of knowledge. In the emerging


Learning 2.0 paradigm the focus moves away from content to place the student at the centre of the learning experience (Anderson, 2008) and see them become active participants and creators of knowledge (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008a). Christensen and Raynor (2003) importantly observe that Web 2.0 technologies should more accurately be regarded as disruptive “innovations” as disruptive innovations help to “change the value proposition” (Christensen et al. 2004, p. 2) in relation to particular products, services, processes or concepts; implicated here for higher education is the generation and dissemination of knowledge. It is not usually the technology itself that is the cause of disruption but rather its application and ensuing impact. The application of Web 2.0 technologies could radically transform practices, create wholly new practices and even destroy existing ones. Understandably, academic discussion is fiercely contested in relation to the role of rapidly evolving and widely accepted Web 2.0 technologies. This enquiry accepts Christensen‟s (Bower and Christensen, 1995; Christensen and Raynor, 2003; Christensen et al, 2004) proposition relating to disruptive technology, innovation and change and applies it to Twitter within higher education. However, before moving on to consider the nature of any disruption, the attributes of Twitter must first be established and its application within higher education subsequently determined.

Attributes of Twitter
Twitter signifies an important convergence of Web 2.0 and mobile technology as it is easily accesible on both the web and mobile devices. Stevens (2008) defines Twitter as a multi-platform Web 2.0, part microblogging tool, part social networking tool. Accordingly, with around 200 million users generating 140 million tweets per day (Gannes, 2011), Twitter would appear to deserve rigorous examination in order to ascertain its over all credentials for the purposes of higher education.


Web 2.0 Web 2.0 is an umbrella term for internet applications such as social networking, wikis, weblogs, microblogs, virtual societies and more. Web 2.0 technology applications are built around the appropriation and sharing of content offering greater opportunities for creation, collaboration and communication (Downes, 2004; O‟Reilly, 2005). The term “social media” is often used to describe these Web 2.0 tools and applications, the effects of which are already widespread in social and economic life, as attested to by many familiar, highly populated, websites and online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Wikipedia, amongst others. The development of Web 2.0 has fashioned the web into a more participatory medium transforming the social interactions and the modes and patterns of our lives; it is changing human behaviour (O‟Reilly, 2005). An underlying feature of Web 2.0 is the harnessing of collective intelligence (Mason and Rennie, 2008), stimulating new relationship structures and communication patterns that foster new learning experiences. Sarker et al. (2005) emphasise that “conversations serve as the vehicle through which knowledge workers discover what they know, share it with their colleagues, and, in the process, create new knowledge” (p. 214). Web 2.0 applications elevate the role of dialogue and interaction, consequently requiring educators and stakeholders to regard education as a social activity that occurs in interaction with others (Laurillard, 2005). This enquiry adopts the term Web 2.0 to signify an open communication medium that enables web-based communities of users to connect and collaborate. Social networking It is necessary to clarify that this enquiry is concerned with the uptake of practices engendered by microblogging with Twitter. However, such practices largely exchange information through the mechanism of social networking. This enquiry acknowledges this 10

and accepts the definition that social networks are “comprised of various independent actors who develop relatively loose relationships between each other to pursue some common goals” (Johannisson, 1987, p. 9). Online social networking has been made possible by the emergence of Web 2.0 and the affordances it offers. Boyd and Ellison (2007) present social networking facilities as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semipublic profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. These sites allow users to post a profile, to invite their friends, to join a variety of „groups‟ with like interests and to make new „friends‟ through searching for others with like interests (p. 211). These facilities permit the interactions and relationships arising from social, professional and/or learning purposes to be established online and extend to include people who would not otherwise ordinarily be in contact. Thus Wellman et al. (2002) determine that a fundamental shift is occurring, away from place-to-place community towards person-toperson community; people are fashioning their own networks through social networking sites. Upon joining Twitter, users start to build up their network by connecting with other users. These connections are referred to as “followers” and customarily are made public. This is a crucial element as it allows users to extend their own networks by linking to “followers of followers”. Once connected, people can freely exchange messages and content. Microblogging Twitter was launched in March 2006. It combines online social networking and microblogging and has become very popular in a relatively short space of time. JISC (2009) assert that this is due to its combination of brevity, usability and social characteristics. This enquiry accepts McFedries (2007) generic explanation that a microblog “can be seen as a weblog that is restricted to 140 characters per post but is enhanced with social networking facilities” (p.84). Typically, tweets (the name afforded to microblog posts within Twitter) 11

are made public to anyone using the web, however they can be restricted to certain individuals if preferred (Costa et al., 2008; Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008). Microblogging emerged from a trend to make digital content smaller and faster to spread. Short posts distributed to the web through multiple platforms enable individuals to broadcast limited information about themselves and share their activities (Java et al., 2007). Posts are in reply to the question "What are you doing?", which in practice generally translates to, "What interesting thought (or experience or content) do you want to share right now?" (Makice, 2009). Significantly, hyperlinks can be inserted into posts to facilitate the dissemination of more detailed information. The restriction of messages to 140 characters either allows something very specific to be communicated or acts as a mechanism through which individuals can create a “peephole” for others to gain an insight into everyday events and discover what is inviting attention. Selfdisclosure of this nature, rather than simply being seen as a stream of mundane status updates, can be seen as a series of posts that represent an invitation to get to know the individual user and take part in interpreting their events (Oulasvirta, et al., 2010). Microbloggers post interesting things on their own public channel and because it is not necessarily expected or anticipated that someone will reply, posts become used much more informally as a form of expression (Zhao and Rosson, 2009). As it is an open method of communication, information can be shared with people that one would not normally exchange email or instant messages [IM] with. This opens up ones circle of contacts to an ever-growing community of like-minded people and may also help to establish valuable personal relationships for future collaborations. Yet, to some people Twitter appears to be intrusive and interruptive. What is more, with its social networking dimension, Twitter creates a frivolous impression to people who have never tried it. Undoubtedly, individual microblogging messages can seem trivial, but as


Thompson (2007) acknowledges, the value of microblogging is the cumulative effect of ideas and resources shared between numerous people. New users often report that the application is complex and bewildering at first, finding that it requires a lot of effort to become proficient in sending, replying and deciphering messages (Owens et al., 2009), not to mention the investment of time required to derive value from the practice. Nevertheless, despite the sustained effort that is required in order to become proficient in the productive aspects of microblogging, Ebner and Schiefner (2008) declare that its use for rapid communication and exchange between people with similar interests is highly valuable. In 2010 Ebner et al. declared “that microblogging is indeed a new form of communication” (p.98). Multi-platform access Microblog posts within Twitter can be sent from a number of web interfaces, mobile phones, short message services [SMS], or even instant messaging tools [IM]. It is because there is such a variety of applications that can be accessed from a plethora of handy devices that makes Twitter so pervasive and effective (JISC, 2009). With the increasing use of smartphones and other mobile devices, it is envisaged that learners will soon demand course materials or discussion forums to be delivered on such devices providing access from anywhere at any time, thus giving rise to mobile learning (mLearning). When conceptualised in terms of devices and technologies, Ebner and Schiefner (2008) point to microblogging as a practical example of mobile learning. It is reported that around 16% of Twitter users join via mobile devices (Whitney, 2010). In light of the above review, it would seem that Twitter comprises a potent combination of functions that are easily accessible across a wide range of platforms, therefore


consideration now turns to the range of applications to which Twitter might feasibly be applied within higher education.

Application of Twitter
The application of Twitter within higher education for both online and face-to-face scenarios is beginning to receive meaningful attention from a range of educators (Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008; Young, 2008, 2009; Holotescu, 2009; Mayernik and Pepe, 2009 and Sample, 2010), that is to say as an instructional tool to support process-oriented learning, assist student-faculty connection, promote in-class discussion, enhance student engagement and connect students with a professional community of practice (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009; Rankin, 2009 and Ebner et al., 2010). It is thought that microblogging and social networking, as part of what Gilpin (2010) calls “the new reality media landscape” (p. 236) has the potential to change the way in which educators work, communicate and colaborate (Procter et al., 2010), not just with students and faculty but with associates further afield as well. It is therefore necessary to ascertain the scope of Twitter‟s application and its implications for practice. To develop a personal learning network (PLN) Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) attest that through microblogging and social networking activities facilitated by Twitter students and lecturers alike can build personal learning networks (PLNs) and as a result participate in professional communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Communities of practice (CoPs) are “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006, p. 1). Harasim et al. (1995) recognise that social networks can be used to support professional learning networks (PLNs) whereby groups of individuals use the web to


communicate and collaborate in order to build and share knowledge (within the literature “P” in PLN is used to signify either a “personal” or “professional” learning network). There are varying explanations within the literature regarding personal learning networks, but no agreement as to an exact definition. Digenti (1999) defines a PLN as "relationships between individuals where the goal is enhancement of mutual learning [which is] based on reciprocity and a level of trust that each party is actively seeking value-added information for the other" (p. 53). More recently however the term has become allied with the technology-focused discourse associated with the learning theory of connectivism (Siemens, 2005). The advent of Twitter is relatively new so accordingly it has only recently been employed for developing PLNs. Nonetheless, it has been described as the perfect social networking application for developing PLNs as it brings a steady flow of relevant content (Lopp, 2008), one that is often suitably vetted by ones peers. It also allows individuals to monitor on an international scale any new developments in their subject area (Rigby, 2008). By modelling Twitter practices lecturers can introduce students to professional communities of practice, assisting them to connect with practitioners, experts and colleagues thus helping to enculturate them into a community. Through their legitimate peripherality within the community, and plausibly anticipating a reply, students may solicit information and opinions from practising professionals. Students can also build their own networks and discover ideas and resources of benefit to their coursework. To facilitate self-directed and informal learning As reviewed, Twitter can facilitate the development of PLNs; Kester et al. (2006) note that PLNs are particularly attractive to self-directed learners as the learners themselves are at liberty to choose their learning package and its subsequent timing, pace and place. McLoughlin and Lee (2008b) also acknowledge that microblogging and social network 15

applications are conducive to knowledge creation and community participation, allowing learners to access peers, experts and the wider community in ways that enable reflective, selfdirected learning. Comm (2009) attests that through such activity he gained advice and suggestions from experts that he could not have reached by any other means. Costa et al. (2008) and Ebner et al. (2010) declare that microblogging is undeniably becoming a tool for use in informal learning and networking. Aspden and Thorpe (2009) explain that informal learning involves “activities that take place in students‟ self-directed and independent learning time, where the learning is taking place to support a formal program of study, but outside the formally planned and tutor-directed activities” (para. 2). Ebner et al. (2010) say that informal learning is seen as an important component within process-oriented learning and crucially that “microblogging supports [process-oriented] learning by a constant information flow between students and between students and teachers” (p. 99). Direct in- class application Twitter has been trialled as an instructional tool within a direct classroom setting (Rankin, 2009). The aim of which is to make learning more interactive and affect an increase in student participation in classroom discussion. Students post in-class comments to a class Twitter account effectively utilising it as back-channel; back-channel refers to the feedback an audience shares without interrupting the speaker, the harnessing of which has been identified by Brown (2005) as a powerful instructional mechanism. To support learning Interactions that happen before and after class or when students and faculty bump into each other between classes have potential instructional value (Kuh, 1995); the synchronous nature of Twitter replicates real-time conversation and as such can serve to strengthen interpersonal relationships between and among students and faculty. Twitter also facilitates 16

time-sensitive communication between students and faculty, and vice versa (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009). Students can request clarification on content and assignments or notify faculty of personal emergencies, thereby supporting both learning and the learner at the point of need.

Implications of Twitter
The adoption of Twitter practices such as those identified above constitute a change away from the traditional practices of higher education with implications not only for the role and function of the lecturer, but for engagement with knowledge and higher education‟s relationship with it. Hence, consideration is now afforded to the implications of any adoption into practice of Twitter, before moving on to consider lecturers‟ disposition towards such adoption. Epistemology and knowledge The advance of Twitter, and other Web 2.0, applications appears to challenge our concept of knowledge as they facilitate a culture of participatory knowledge creation (Brown and Adler, 2008) and raise questions of how we learn, what kinds of knowledge we access, and how we evaluate knowledge sources. To embrace this culture of participatory learning with its epistemological stance of learning as knowledge creation, Cook and Brown (1999) believe that our notion of knowledge and knowing will change from an epistemology of possession to that of an epistemology of practice. The focus will become one of „„learning to be through enculturation into a practice” (Brown and Adler, 2008, p. 30). What is more, Siemens (2005) in "A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” posits the concept of connectivism. Manifest in online personal learning networks (PLNs), connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and developing a network. The network metaphor facilitates the notion of "know-where", that is an understanding of


where to find knowledge when it is needed which, is an appendage to the commonly held understanding of “know-how" and "know-what" found in many traditional learning theories. Connectivist theory recognises that the world has changed and become more networked. Kop and Hill (2008) accept that connectivist theory plays “an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner" (para. 47). Teaching and learning Here it is worth noting that customarily within education technologies have been regarded as “tools” (Papert 1980) however, with the advent of online social spaces and technology‟s ability to blur the boundary of the classroom and alter the context of learning (Parry, 2008; Ebner et al., 2010), Goodfellow (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007) suggests that more accurately technologies should be viewed as “sites of practice” (p. 50), in acknowledgement that application and meaning making is shaped by social relations emanating from the wider social and institutional setting. Further, he cautions that identities within these sites must be taken account of, as they are likely to be contested. Twitter can be seen as part of the wider Web 2.0 phenomenon that encourages a shift in emphasis from that of teaching to that of learning. In the traditional metaphor of learning, as typified by the lecture hall note-taking scenario, learners are positioned as consumers of “pre-packaged content and inert information” (Lee et al., 2007, p. 126), however with the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter they become “student-producers engaged in knowledge creation processes” (Lee et al., 2007, p. 126). This prompts a change of identity for those in the learning environment; the learner‟s identity becomes that of a knowledge builder whilst the identity of the lecturer becomes akin to that of a critical friend or co-learner (Lim et al., 2010). Embracing Twitter practices means that within this new paradigm learners must accept their empowerment to construct learning and lecturers must become comfortable 18

with fluidity and uncertainty. This corresponds with Professor Rankin‟s (2009) sentiments when she says, “it‟s going to be messy” (4.50). Role of lecturer Against this background, the role of the lecturer would seem to become more social, transformed from that of a knowledge distributor more towards that of a facilitator of selfdirected learning or an orchestrator of process-oriented learning; often referred to as the transition from the “sage on the stage to guide on the side” (King, 1993, p. 30) Some reformers posit that the traditional lecture is an out-moded method of teaching not fit for education of 21st century (Clark, 2010). Be that as it may, it is appreciable that any uptake of Twitter is not simply a matter of using new tools; it is a matter of using them in a particular spirit (Selwyn, 2008), and this has profound implications for future practice within teaching and learning. Quality, ethics and privacy The abundance of information today and ease of access means that learners can now avail of multiple knowledge sources (Masie, 2008); hence, there is a shift away from singlesource knowledge such as that embodied in a learned “teacher”. By tradition, teachers are the authoritative sources of knowledge or are brokers for the authoritative sources of knowledge, accordingly concerns are raised over the reliability and expertise of microbloggers on Twitter and the level of quality and/or banality. Characteristically, the information produced is disorderly and often frenzied, raising questions of aimless browsing, free association and serendipity (Gritton, 2012), leading many to speculate about the quality and degree of learning overall. Higher education is largely a hierarchically arranged system that values the quality assurance of content (Weller and Dalziel, 2007). It achieves this quality assurance chiefly through a top-down process of review and formal assessment, in effect acting as a filter to 19

participation in the process. This is in marked contrast to Web 2.0 practices, which essentially remove all barriers to participation and then, via the attribution of metrics pertaining to frequency or popularity (i.e. links, followers and retweets) filter the quality and appropriateness of content, effectively “filtering on the way out” (Weinberger, 2007). Metrication is a customary feature of Web 2.0 technology and as such, means traditional peer review mechanisms that serve to maintain or enhance quality within higher education may become adulterated. Moreover, such activities create new social practices with the measurement of popularity conferring social distinction on individuals who gain prominence, thus creating what Goldhaber (cited in Goodfellow and Lea, 2007, p. 61) refers to as an “attention economy”. Weller and Dalziel (2007) posit that Web 2.0 approaches are inherently democratic, built around bottom-up principles. Embracing Twitter practices presents a number of ethical dilemmas to the higher education community. Saunders et al. (2009) say that the academic community is “hesitant to use the open web as an incubator for ideas and would rather rely on a tight circle of individuals” (p. 5). Moreover, within social networks, identity is a key component and to create a profile individuals have to share publicly some information about themselves. Self-disclosure of personal information within posts presents juxtaposition between work life and private life.

Disposition to adopt Twitter – the lecturer and the context
Hitherto it can be appreciated that any adoption of Twitter, or similar technology, is not simply a matter of using new tools, or operating in new sites of practice. It is as Selwyn (2008) counsels, a matter of using them in a particular spirit as there are profound implications for teaching and learning and for higher education‟s relation to knowledgemaking practices in a digital and networked society. Therefore, in order to appreciate how


lecturers make their choices and determine any possibilities for adoption, literature review now turns to the matter of disposition. Katz (1988) explains that dispositions are “very different […] from skills and knowledge; they can be thought of as habits of mind, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways" (p. 30), and continues that disposition can be defined not only as an attributed characteristic of an individual, but one that encapsulates the trend of ones actions in particular contexts (Katz, 1993). Bourdieu (1990) accounts for this dual aspect of disposition in his widely cited concept of “habitus”. The habitus appears in one sense as each individual's characteristic set of dispositions for action but also as the meeting point between the individual and society, disposition as a consequence is a contextual and dialectical process. Further, Bourdieu (1990) contends that essentially the habitus is not one of logic but rather one of practical reason or social knowledge accumulated through everyday experience. One‟s habitus is not merely a mental state as it incorporates the tacit embodiment of social knowhow and belief that subconsciously comes through in everything that one does and as such, this will be manifest in the way that lecturers are disposed towards adopting Twitter into their practice. Vanatta and Fordham (2004) investigated the concept of disposition to predict technology use amongst teachers. Their study included factors of teachers‟ self-efficacy, educational philosophy, openness to change, amount of technology training, years of teaching and willingness to participate in continuing professional development (CPD). Although this enquiry is mindful of the role that these factors play, it is nonetheless Bourdieu‟s interpretation emphasising the contextual, dialectical and not all together conscious aspects of disposition that supports this enquiry. Therefore, relative to the adoption of Twitter, lecturers accordingly engage in a bilateral evaluation and endorsement process, weighing up their own values and personal


proclivities towards Twitter together with wider cultural considerations and the particular culture found in their institution. So in light of this, and in order to understand how lecturers are disposed to the new practices that Twitter presents, or the new value proposition that it presents, it is necessary to determine something of the principles that guide lecturers in their practice as well as something of the cultural meanings pertaining to higher education. Lecturers’ philosophies Becker and Anderson‟s (1998) survey into teaching, learning and computer use investigated whether a lecturer‟s underlying educational philosophies (i.e. teacher-centred or student-centred and constructivist or traditionalist) indicates the way in which they will use technology. In analysis, Becker (2000) states that “where teachers‟ […] philosophies support a student-centred constructivist pedagogy that incorporates collaborative projects defined partly by student interest – computers are clearly becoming a valuable well-functioning instructional tool” (p. 2). This contrasts with the idea that teachers who believe in a more traditional transmission orientated approach mostly find applications of technology incompatible with their instructional goals (Cuban, 1986; Cuban 2000, cited in Becker, 2000). Constructivist-oriented pedagogy favours project-based or inquiry-based methods whilst traditional transmission pedagogy derives from a conventional theory of learning in which understanding is gained through direct instruction upon a topic or content, which is incidentally, largely in line with culturally normative beliefs about learning. Moreover, the perceived usefulness of a technology is a vital factor in determining its adoption, together with its perceived ease of use (Davis, 1989). Contextual factors Taking up the point regarding culture and learning, it is important to appreciate that by tradition, which can be regarded as having classical roots, higher education constitutes a set of social practices that serve as a medium for the cultural classification and the 22

legitimisation of knowledge (Delanty, 2001a; 2001b). Consequently, what constitutes legitimate practices in the matter of knowledge construction is an important point to address in relation to the adoption of Twitter practices into higher education. Cultural beliefs regarding knowledge and learning are deep-rooted. However, our conception of knowledge is changing. Gibbons et al. (1994) contend that a new model of knowledge characterised by the application of problem specific knowledge by a variety of knowledge producers (Mode 2) is replacing the traditional disciplinary-based knowledge of the academy (Mode 1). This not only has repercussions for the meaning and value of discipline-based knowledge specifically but also has wider consequences for an institution that operates at the intersection of knowledge and culture in a society that is changing rapidly. The historical university was designed to provide knowledge and afford professional elites to the state together with the preservation and reproduction of national cultural traditions (Delanty, 2001a). However, the diminishing power of the state and the arrival of globalisation and technological innovations in communication has brought the role and identity of the university into sharp focus (Delanty 2001a; 2001b). Higher education today has to take account of global and market forces, new technologies and competing demands. Conceivably, therefore, from an institution‟s perspective embracing Twitter practices presents a complex challenge to the culture and value system. Although agreement over the precise definition of the term culture is not exclusive, Peterson and Spencer (1991) present the concept as the “deeply embedded patterns of organisational behaviour and the shared values, assumptions, beliefs or ideologies that members have about their organisation or its work” (p. 142). Culture plays an important role in shaping people and the structures they create, or attempt to transform. Accordingly, a culture may envisage reactions to innovations and proposed changes to things that are important to the people working within that culture.


Although each institution will have its own unique culture, variously comprised of the six cultures identified in Bergquist and Pawal‟s (2008) study of the academy, it is in relation to the lately emergent “virtual culture”, concerning technology and new ways of working and new ways of thinking about the world and one‟s relationship to it that is of significance here; not dis-similar to Goodfellow‟s contention (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007) that technologies should be considered as sites of practice. Bergquist and Pawal say that in this new culture the roles of faculty become transformed, as it must be able to bring students to an understanding of how to gain on-going access to specific streams of learning […] both as coaches and co-learners with their students […] The virtual classroom has democratised the learning field. Any sense of power that faculty members have in this culture resides in their ability to link with their various knowledge bits, orient their students toward learning outcomes, and learn themselves (p. 163).

Situated amongst contested notions, disposition can be regarded as contextual and something that must be socially negotiated. Thus, it is possible to see what Sterne (2003) means when he says that technologies are “crystallisations of socially organised action” (p. 367). Moreover, although technologies may contribute in shaping practice, practice is always shaped by the sedimented history within it. Additionally, Selfe (1999) advocates that in order to foster awareness of our increasingly technologised world and the forces that are shaping higher education today, a critical technology literacies mentality is necessary for both individuals and institutions.

Twitter as an appropriate literacy practice for higher education
With its 140 characters Twitter technology engenders “literacy practices” that are digital. Here digital refers not just to digital devices but also to the “sociotechnical arrangements” that are comprised, amongst other things, of different actors and institutions. As Goodfellow and Jones (2011) allow, this “defines technology as rooted in social, political, economic and psycho-social dimensions of peoples‟ transactions with and through devices, 24

and allows us to talk in terms of the reciprocal shaping of publics, practices, identities and technical affordances rather than the one-way “impact” of technology on people (p. 1). In addition, the concept of literacy practices signifies an “ideological” approach to literacy extending the traditional, “autonomous” view to highlight that literacy “is not simply a technical and neutral skill; […as] it is always embedded in socially constructed epistemological principles. It is about knowledge: the ways in which people address reading and writing are themselves rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity, and being” (Street, 2003, p. 78). To progress the view of literacy as social practice within an academic context, Lea and Street (2006) contend that implicit within academic literacy practices are relationships of power, authority, identity and meaning making, which emphasise the nature of what counts as knowledge in any given institutional context. Further, they consider academic literacy practices not just in terms of their disciplinary or subject-based traits, but consider how other institutions (e.g. government, business etc.) are implicated in these literacy practices. Concerning literacy practices themselves, these comprise of occasions where either reading or writing is an integral part of communication with attention also being given to the conceptions people have of those occasions and the norms, values, beliefs in which those practices are situated. Within higher education, the different meanings that Twitter as a literacy practice invokes has been highlighted recently in the blog posts of some academics (Goodfellow, 2009, 2011; Conole, 2012). Goodfellow (2011) recounts “the great LiDU Twitter debate” whereby the incorporation of a live Twitter stream at a seminar caused the differing beliefs of participants towards such practices to become manifest. He elucidates that if twittering is seen as a literacy practice for this seminar, it is clear that operational and cultural dimensions are aligned for some participants but not for others. For one participant, […] there is no reason not to tweet at an academic seminar. For another […] it feels as if people are engaged in private phone conversations with others not present (para. 10).


Lea (2011) explains that literacy practices invoke different meanings for the different people involved; literacy practices embed ideologies and ways of viewing the world and as such can indicate competing and often colliding approaches to practice. With reference to Gee (1996), Street (2005) makes clear, “literacy, in this sense, is always contested both in its meanings and in its practices, hence particular versions of it are always “ideological”; that is, they are always rooted in a particular a world-view and a desire for that view of literacy to dominate and to marginalise others” (p. 418). Furthermore, what literacy practices are considered appropriate and count as valid or legitimate reflect different situated perspectives. The social practice view of literacy is inextricably bound up with the values and practices of a given situation. Therefore, within higher education, an institution whose primary function is to produce and validate knowledge, textual production and the practices that support it are of paramount importance (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007). Academic literacy practices are traditionally based on formal writing and are deeply embedded within the institution. As Albright et al. (2005) and Warschauer (2007) point out, both students and lecturers have largely been acculturated and socialised to value the types of literacy practices that they believe will contribute to academic success and to resist those they believe will not. Hence, the adoption of Twitter may not be seen as wholly appropriate by some in higher education. However, there are increasing numbers of students coming into higher education both confident and competent in using Web 2.0 and social networking technologies in their personal lives, with at least some of them looking for the opportunity to use some of these applications in their education and study. This appears to be in contrast to their “marked lack of enthusiasm” for the virtual learning environment [VLS] provided by their institution (Conole et al., 2006, p. 95). Yet there are some lecturers, heeding Prensky‟s (2001) call to action in relation to these so called “digital natives”, who are inclined to believe that students‟


enthusiasm for Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter could be harnessed and the practices that they enable be used for educational benefit (Mason and Rennie, 2008). However, for others there is a pejorative undertone associated with the notion of “digital natives”, which implies that immersion with digital technologies impairs students‟ ability to engage in serious academic study (Lea and Jones, 2011). Baggley (2010) recognises that not all teachers strive to embrace technology, and equally nor do all students. Tan and McWilliam (2008) have explored the tensions and opportunities for students of being “digital” and/or “diligent”, with diligent equating to adherence of traditional educational literacy practices. This amounts to much the same pressure that lecturers face when called to embrace 21st century digital literacy practices and utilise innovative learning opportunities to capitalise on emerging network technologies, whilst at the same time being compelled by various stakeholders to maintain high levels of traditional literacy in order to secure high academic achievement and qualifications. After all literacy is an important indicator of “cultural capital” and a significant gauge of cultural values. For that reason, it is fundamentally a site of cultural contestation (R.C.L.C.E., 2007).

Key findings of literature review
Review of the literature indicates that, with its microblogging capacity, Twitter constitutes a digital literacy practice. Being rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity and being, literacy practices embed ideologies and values that are inseparable from the context in which they are situated. Within higher education, the adoption of Twitter represents disruptive innovation as it permits the development of new practices; participatory new practices that profoundly alter the generation and dissemination of knowledge transforming the role of the lecturer from that of an authoritative source of knowledge to one more of colearner and influencer. Therefore, adoption of Twitter by lecturers is not simply a question of using new technology but more a question of their disposition towards the way in which it 27

may be deployed and, within the context of their practice in higher education, how appropriate this is considered to be. The concept of disposition signifies, not only the attributed characteristics of an individual but also indicates the trend of ones actions in particular contexts. Recognition of this dual aspect of disposition is found in Bourdieu‟s (1990) concept of “habitus”; in one sense, it is the individual's characteristic set of dispositions for action and in another, it suggests the encounter between the individual and society, with all society‟s attendant culture and values. Consequently, disposition is a contextual and dialectical process.

Grounds for enquiry – research questions
Although constitutive of disruptive change, it appears that there is meaningful scope for Twitter practices with higher education. In order to ascertain if these practices are likely to be adopted, this enquiry places lecturers as its central focus. The literacies framing is accordingly an investigative way to assess Twitter‟s perceived disruptive impact on practices and to see what it tells us about individual and institutional practice and what the implications might be for teaching and learning in a digital and networked society. In addition, disposition is regarded as contextual negotiation between the lecturer and wider society, the outcome of which will be manifest in the way in which they implement, or discount, Twitter for the purpose of their practice. It is upon this conundrum that the enquiry hopes to throw light. Therefore the primary question of this enquiry is:  What is the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices? In order to develop a holistic answer though, a series of conception questions that seek to reveal lecturers‟ disposition towards the disruptive affects, or anticipated affects, that any adoption of Twitter presents to practice is deemed necessary:  What is the disposition towards Twitter in general? 28

   

How would the adoption of Twitter affect the role of the lecturer? How would the adoption of Twitter affect teaching and learning? How would the adoption of Twitter affect engagement with knowledge? Are lecturers disposed to adopt Twitter for some aspects of their practice more than others?

How appropriate is Twitter in the context of higher education?

Chapter 3: Methodology
This chapter introduces the methodology of Husserlian descriptive phenomenology that underpins this enquiry together with discussion of its justification. It also outlines the methods that the enquiry employs to richly describe lecturers‟ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter practices. It is envisaged that such a methodology will help to illuminate what lies at the heart of lecturers‟ disposition, and it is with this goal in mind that the enquiry is designed. Accordingly, the chapter sets out the sample population and recruitment strategy, outlines the data collection and analysis methods and explains the strategies incorporated into the enquiry to afford a high degree of trustworthiness and rigor. Ethical considerations and limitations of the enquiry are also outlined.

Research framework – interpretivist and qualitative
A paradigm provides a conceptual framework for seeing and making sense of the social world. Kuhn (1970) explains that "it stands for the entire constellation of beliefs, values and techniques […] shared by the members of a community” (p. 175). Therefore, within the research process the paradigmatic stance that a researcher adopts will be reflected in the overall design of the research. It is important to articulate this paradigm as it


contributes to determining the research strategy and allows the researcher to identify their role in the process. Considering that the aim of this enquiry is to uncover something of lecturers‟ disposition, the locus of an interpretivist paradigm is accordingly adopted placing lecturers themselves at the centre of the action being investigated. An interpretivist outlook does not see the world as an objective reality but believes individuals construct the world, and each one perceives their own reality (Garfinkel, 1967; Becker, 1970). Qualitative research methodologies support the view that there is no single reality. Creswell (1994) provides the following qualitative outlook: “the researcher enters the informant‟s world and through on going interaction, seeks informants' perspectives and meanings” (p. 161). Qualitative methodologies give voice to those involved and makes enquires into issues that lie beneath the surface. Moreover, as Denzin and Lincoln (1994) note, qualitative research stresses the socially constructed nature of reality. Hence, a qualitative methodology is judged to be appropriate here because essentially at the heart of this enquiry is an amalgam of socially constructed affairs. Maxwell (2005) provides further congruence with the aims of this enquiry when he asserts that a qualitative approach is effective for answering questions deliberating: (a) the meanings attributed by participants to situations, events, behaviours and activities: (b) the influence of context on participants‟ views, actions and behaviours and (c) the process by which these actions, behaviours, situations and outcomes emerge. Research questions are an integral and driving feature of qualitative research as they provide an alternative to hypotheses. A cautious approach to theory or hypothesis is advocated because qualitative approaches indicate in effect that the research is of an open and emergent nature Maxwell (2005).


Creswell (1998) upholds that enquiry is a prominent aspect of effective qualitative research, which according to Denzin and Lincoln (1994) can follow a number of traditions, one of which being descriptive phenomenology.

Research strategy – descriptive phenomenology
The aim of this enquiry is to ascertain lecturers‟ disposition towards adoption of Twitter practices. Since the topic is relatively nascent, a descriptive approach is deemed appropriate as it can be used to describe or define current conditions and practices (Isaac and Michael, 1981). The term descriptive research refers to the type of research question, design and data analysis that will be applied to a given topic; descriptive statistics tell what is. According to Babbie (1995) descriptive research “is probably the best method available to the social scientist interested in collecting original data for describing a population too large to observe directly" (p. 257). It is designed to "describe, rather than explain a set of conditions, characteristics or attributes of people in a population based on measurement of a sample" (Alreck and Settle, 1985, p. 408). Borg and Gall (1989) say that descriptive research can describe a phenomenon that is often of interest to policy makers and educators. In order to understand the disposition of lecturers towards adopting Twitter practices, it is necessary to understand something of their practice, its context and the norms, values and beliefs upon which this is founded. Therefore, it is important to hear lecturers‟ voices and allow them to explain directly. Lester (1999) states that phenomenological strategies are based in a paradigm of personal knowledge and subjectivity, and emphasises the importance of personal perspective and interpretation. As such they are powerful for understanding subjective experience, gaining insights into people‟s motivations and actions (p. 1).

In order to understand such personal knowledge and subjectivity, phenomenological researchers strive for rich and complex descriptions of concrete experiences (Finlay, 2009). However, whilst sharing a belief in the appreciation of the lived experience, 31

phenomenological tradition is divergent upon how this should be conducted, most notably regarding the subjectivity of the researcher. As a result, Finlay (2009) believes that “researchers should be clear about which philosophical and/or research traditions they are following” (2009, p. 8). Husserlian phenomenoliogical methodolgies are concerned with the essence of consciousness and place emphasis on the description of the lived experience free of interpretation. Descriptive phenomenology expounded by Husserl (1962) advocates that the researcher must suspend, or bracket, their own beliefs, past experiences or knowledge in order to avoid influencing the research (Appendix I). Bracketing is fundamental to the strategy because it ensures trustworthy description of the phenomenon and facilitates phenomenolgical reduction. It is through phenomenological reduction that patterns of meaning and themes emerge. Its aim is to dislocate the phenomenon under investigation from what the reseracher already knows about it. In practice this means that the researcher comes to the research without any preconceived ideas (Streubert and Carpenter, 2010). It is on this point, of the researcher‟s prior knowledge, that phenomenological tradition diverges. Hermeneutic phenomenology considers that it is impossible to free the mind of prior knowledge and preconceptions (LeVasseur, 2003). Indeed, hermeneutic phenomenologists appreciate prior knowledge, so long as it is acknowledged beforehand and made explicit how it is to be used (Lopez and Willis, 2004). As regards to this enquiry, considering the embryonic nature of the phenomenon and the fact that the researcher (being a student/observer) has no in-depth or vested understanding of practice from the perspective of a lecturer, or indeed pertaining to the field of higher education in general, this enquiry is confident that it is able to conduct the phenomenological reduction necessary in order to deliver a faithful description and consequently takes a


Husserlian approach. However, it must be disclosed that the researcher has recently begun to use Twitter, investigating its application as part of their studies.

Research methods
Sample population Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants within this enquiry. Akin to case studies methodology, it is the deliberate selection of participants. Participants were identified based on their typicality and/or on their ability, as perceived by the researcher, to give particular insights into the phenomenon of the enquiry. In this instance, there was little benefit in seeking a random sample when a significant number of lecturers within a random sample may be largely unfamiliar with the discourse relating to Twitter within higher education and subsequently unwilling or unable to comment on the matter. Normally it would seem sensible to want to avoid sampling bias, in that the sample is not a good representation of the population, or that systemic under or over representation of some aspect is present however, purposive samples do not pretend to represent the wider population and therefore such strategy is “deliberately and unashamedly selective and biased” (Cohen et al., 2011, p. 157). Besides, in qualitative research such as this, the emphasis is on the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the phenomenon, the context and the individuals involved, that is, they only represent themselves and, nothing or nobody else. Therefore, as (Cohen et al., 2011) notes, it is perhaps unnecessary to talk about a “sample” and how representative this is, after all the purpose of this enquiry is to explore the dispositions of the participants within the confines of the enquiry and not necessarily to generalise. Thus, the research is given leave to simply represent itself. Nonetheless, if as a result, other interested parties find that any emerging themes resonate with them, then this is a bonus, and in this respect again is akin to case study research.


A consequence of the congruence between qualitative research and purposive sampling is that there are no definitive rules regarding the size of the sample. Therefore, it is generally guided by the principle of fitness for purpose in that it adequately answers the research question. It might therefore “be in single figures” (Marshall, 1996, p. 523). The large volume and richness of information generated and collected from participants accounts for the relatively small sample sizes found in qualitative research (Morse, 2000). In this enquiry, it is expected that data collection from five participant interviews is sufficient to generate “thick descriptions” (Geertz, 1973) but not so small as to render the data redundant. Recruiting participants Five lecturers from three higher education institutions (a university, an institute of technology and a college) were approached inviting them to take part in the research (Appendix II). All five consented. It was thought that the five identified would generate sufficient data to represent a range of dispositions in different institutional contexts whilst at the same time allowing any general themes and concepts to emerge. The selection criteria was simply that they were lecturers in an institution of higher education in the Republic of Ireland, the exact profiles of which being determined by the researcher. Here it is important to note that because of the researcher‟s position as a student within higher education, and as a consequence of having no great relationship to that field, the participants identified eminated from the researcher‟s personal contacts and from a narrow range of disciplines, which can largely be categorised as the humanities or social sciences, information technology and the digital arts (Appendix IV). Ethical considerations Since personal data was collected from participants, ethical issues were given due consideration. Punch (1994) summarises the main ethical issues arising in research as “harm, consent, privacy and confidentiality of data” (cited in Punch, 2005, p. 277). Punch also 34

emphasises that “ethical issues saturate all stages of the research process” (2005, p. 277). This enquiry takes account of important ethical considerations throughout, mindful of responsibilities to all participants. Informed consent, as defined by Diener and Crandall (1978) was obtained and in keeping with the principle acknowledged participants‟ right to freely withdraw from the enquiry if desirous (Appendix III). Furthermore, considering that assenting to participate constitutes for the participant an intrusion into their life, the right to privacy was observed and anonymity and confidentiality of data assured. Data collection A great deal of qualitative material comes from talking with people, so in order to gain as holistic a view as possible of the phenomenon under enquiry, and considering its complexity to boot, in-depth interviews (recorded) were considered the most sagacious instrument of data collection in this instance. In-depth interviews gather dialogical data that helps to “explain more fully, the richness and complexity of human behaviour” (Cohen et al., 2007, p. 141). It was hoped that through the instrument of an interview something may be revealed not only relating to the conscious decisions that lecturers make but something of the unconscious dimension of their decision making might be revealed as well. In order to be equitable and facilitate collection of more meaningful data, it was judged practical during each interview to play a video clip of the in-class Twitter experiment (Rankin, 2009). A semi-structured form of interview (Appendix VI) was endorsed for this enquiry because it allows the interviewer to focus on issues of particular importance to the research question and to probe and clarify comments made by the respondents (Clarke and Dawson, 1999), but as Woods (2006) advises if interviews are going to tap into the depths of reality of the situation and discover subjects' meanings and understandings, it is essential for the researcher to (1) develop empathy with interviewees and win their confidence (2) to be unobtrusive, in order not to impose one's own influence on the interviewee (para. 2). 35

A semi-structured interview permits that the exact questions asked to each participant may vary depending on their particular experiences, so to make the most of the interview, a precursory short self-report questionnaire was given to participants just before the interview commenced (Appendix V). The aim of which was to gather general information outlining their level of engagement and understanding concerning Twitter, and to guage their overall disposition towards it. This informed the structure of the interview, expediently helping to avoid assumptions, conjecture or misunderstanding. Questionnaires are not generally regarded as the most fitting method in qualitative research as questionnaires require individuals to respond to a prompt, thus it cannot be claimed that respondents are acting naturally (Woods, 2006). However, as the purpose here is to find out factual details, gain responses to definite categories and crucially not be evaluated statistically, a short questionnaire was considered appropriate. Piloting Oppenheim (1992) advocates conducting a pilot study, regarding the process as essential as it ensures greater reliability, validity and practicability of an enquiry. A pilot study can reveal deficiencies in the design of a proposed research instrument or procedure. In light of the researcher‟s inexperience conducting research interviews, this caveat was particularly fitting and duly observed. A pilot interview served to satisfy the researcher of their ability to conduct interviews according to Wood‟s (2006) counsel and to show that moderation of the interview schedule was not necessary. Data analysis Data analysis was achieved through a meaning condensation method (Kvale, 2009), and largely adhered to the guidelines for phenomenological analysis set out by Hycner (1985). It is important to note that within phenomenological research there is a reluctance to 36

focus too heavily on specific methodological steps. It is thought that doing so may lead to the reification of a process. As Keen (1975) explains, unlike other methodologies, phenomenology cannot be reduced to a „cookbook‟ set of instructions. It is more an approach, an attitude, an investigative posture with a certain set of goals ( p. 41). Giorgi et al. (1971, cited in Hycner, 1985) stress that research methods must be responsive to the phenomenon as any arbitrary imposition would deal an injustice to the integrity of the phenomenon itself. The meaning condensation process used is as follows (Appendix VII): 1. Transcription. 2. Forward the transcription to the participants to verify accuracy. 3. Undertake phenomenological reduction (suspension of premature judgement and theoretical constraints by researcher in order to be as true to the phenomenon as possible). 4. Listen to each interview to gain a holistic sense. 5. Delineate units of relevant meaning and eliminate units of irrelevant meaning. 6. Number list of delineated units of relevant meaning. 7. Cluster units of relevant meaning in relation to the concept questions of the enquiry. 8. Determine disposition within each cluster (positive/ negative or non-aligned) and determine any themes therein. 9. Summarise each individual interview. 10. Forward the summary and the document determining disposition relevant to the concept questions of the enquiry for the participants to verify accuracy. Hycner states that verification by participants provides an experiential “validity check” (p. 291). All five participants validated the transcripts and four validated their summary. The fifth participant did not respond to the later request.


Validity and reliability Validity means that research methods must collect or measure what they purport to collect or measure, and that an account accurately represents “those features of the phenomena that it is intended to describe, explain or theorise” (Hammersley, 1987, p. 69, cited in Winter, 2000, p. 1). It is impossible to measure abstract concepts such as disposition directly so indirect methods must suffice, however indirect methods always contain some degree of error and the more error, the more questionable the validity of the research. Validity of qualitative data is best viewed as a matter of degree rather than as an absolute condition, as due to the subjectivity of participants‟ opinions, attitudes, histories and perspectives a degree of bias is unavoidable. Maxwell (1992) argues that researchers using qualitative approaches would be well served by replacing the positivist concept of validity, which resonates with notions of “controllability” and/or “predictability” with that of “authenticity”. This subsequently places the emphasis on participants‟ accounts as opposed to upon that of data or methods. It is after all, the meaning that participants give to the data and the inferences drawn that are important, and was the reason why respondent validation was sought. Reliability is often regarded as an essential affiliate of validity, equating essentially with consistency, dependability and replicability. However, this view stems largely from its significance in matters of measurement, which does not fit with an interpretivist outlook; subsequently the term is contested when applied to qualitative research. Reliability as concomitant to replicability in qualitative research is problematic as qualitative approaches are premised on the singularity of the situation, so realistically an enquiry such as this cannot be replicated, which can be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest that to depict accurately the experiences of participants, “trustworthiness” of the research is required and favour using terms such as


“credibility”, “dependability”, “confirmability” and “transferability”. Consequently, the enquiry has sought to establish methodological rigor at every stage of the research and to make this visible (Appendices). To guard against the accusation that the enquiry‟s findings are simply the result of a single method and a single investigator's partialities, triangulation of data sources is employed to support the enquiry‟s construction (Denzin, 1978). The purpose of triangulation is to locate and reveal the understanding of the object under investigation from "different aspects of empirical reality" (Denzin, 1978, p. 28). To this end, through its purposive sample of participants across three different sites, the enquiry adopts Dervin‟s concept of “circling reality”, which is defined as “the necessity of obtaining a variety of perspectives in order to get a better, more stable view of „reality‟ based on a wide spectrum of observations from a wide base of points in time-space” (1983, para 7). However, such a comparison may not necessarily lead to consistency, but then sometimes it is helpful to study and to understand when and why there are differences. Limitations of the enquiry Although this study cannot be said to be generalisable to the wider population, its validity is strengthened if generalisability is understood as “comparability” and “transferability” (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). To this end detailed and in-depth descriptions are provided so that others can guage the typicality of the participants and the settings and thus judge the extent to which its findings are generalisable to another situation, thereby addressing the dual issues of comparability and transferability. Moreover, whilst there is nothing to suggest that the participants in this enquiry are not typical of lecturers across higher education. The selection of participants may have introduced a bias and the negotiation of access to a population sample may have introduced another. Fraenkel and Wallen (2000) state that "the researcher may not be correct in 39

estimating the representativeness of the sample or their expertise regarding the information needed" (p. 114).

Chapter 4: Presentation of findings
In this chapter, the enquiry‟s findings are presented. To expediently demonstrate the range of dispositions exhibited amongst the participants and the conceptual factors upon which they are founded, the findings are presented as précised vignettes of each interview. It is anticipated that such presentation will allow for a lucid and faithful rendering of each participant‟s viewpoint and for common and/or individual themes to emerge strongly. The vignettes describe how participants are inclined towards Twitter in general and how they perceive Twitter to be applicable or not for the purposes of their practice. The focus of presentation covers Twitter as part of a personal learning network (PLN), Twitter to progress classroom discussion and Twitter as a mechanism for learning support. This is advanced against any disposition (positive, negative or non-aligned) that the participant exhibits towards the practices that Twitter affords together with any possibilities for action they display in relation to adopting it or rejecting it into their practice. Disposition is presented as contextual, duly located within the culture of higher education and a particular institution.

Aidan - social science
Aidan does not use Twitter but says he sees it “second hand, through other forms of media”; what is more, he says that he has not seen anything on it that he would care to see. Referring to both the technological medium of Twitter and the messages therein, he declares,
“there's nothing that I've seen that has any special intrinsic value”.

About the open nature of Twitter he grants that this is positive as “public media is essential to democratic society” However, he pronounces that Twitter‟s “virtue is also its 40

problem” as it raises concerns pertaining to online safety and matters of quality. Compared to previous forms of open uncensored communication, Twitter it seems to Aidan is somewhat “vulgar” and people “undisciplined” in its use, “consuming” an endless feed of status updates in what he refers to as “the zone of constant gratification”. However, concerning social media generally, Aidan acknowledges, “the value of it is that it actually enables us to be to be with others in multiple new ways” and he allows, “we should trust each other to have it”, but he cautions, like most things there is “a good and a bad side”. Aidan sees that this technology is remarkable in many ways, elucidating of course this technology is fantastic […] and I'll tell you why it's fantastic, because the life of the mind has always been trapped in the life of the body, the human condition; and for the philosopher, what every academic is whatever they call themselves, it is really about thinking [...] you just want your mind to be connected with all your philosopher buddies all the time. When asked about developing a personal learning network (PLN) within Twitter, Aidan concedes, “it‟s only what we've done forever; when you‟re an academic you live in a networked world”; and duly recounts making international calls via a switchboard to network with colleagues overseas. He continues to add that with technology such as Twitter human behaviour is changing and for this, there is much to be concerned. Sophisticatedly designed alongside mobile devices, it appears to Aidan that this technology is possibly “habit-forming”. He observes, “it is being developed into an almost symbiotic thing”. “This stuff traps human beings” he emphatically declares, and contends, “it's not accidental when you‟re putting multi-million dollars into design and you‟ve got the best designers in the world making your technology”. Moreover, via mobile devices, he insists that the interests of the producers of technology have infiltrated education: we've lost control of the zone, of the teaching and learning zone; so there's a kind of piracy going on, you know the interest of the producers of this technology have entered and plundered and taken over the teaching and learning zone. 41

He continues, “I think it has fantastic potential but like all the technologies in the modern world it doesn't come out of space, it‟s driven by commerce, it's over individualised and not communal enough”, lamenting that “the technology is coming before the thought is applied to its use by pedagogues or social policy people, psychologists and so on when we really don't know what we‟re doing” attributing this to the fact that some people now have actually lost […] their own critical sense. They don't believe in the embeddedness of learning in an environment. […] Some people are so infatuated with the process […] because this is so intellectually seductive. Hence, Aidan proclaims, “as pedagogues we have to ensure that we keep this thing clean, we keep it virtuous, we keep it for the good, keep it social”. Students today it seems “are overloaded with information”. Consequently, one of Aidan‟s “worries” is that because information “comes with such a barrage” it means that there is very little time for students to do anything other than to treat all information superficially and equally. He says there is no time for them to take the critical distance the intellect needs and indeed the body needs to rest for holistic engagement as a human being with the experience. There is no space, and I think it's probably deliberate, there's no space for them to put the thing down and think about things. It all comes about too fast too readily. They are overloaded with information, overloaded with information that they are unable to critically evaluate and assess so everything gets treated equally, everything gets treated superficially there is no time to treat it any other way. The students therefore lose their critical judgements. Aidan believes it is important that space be allowed between the flow of information, for private reflective practices by the student and for discourse between the student and the tutor. Aidan declares that he wants to talk about the concept of the “stick in the sand” extolled by Socrates as being at the heart of teaching and learning: I really feel strongly about it. You can do a lot of stuff, you can use a lot of technology to promote, embellish, facilitate, support and develop that process but the damage is when people think that you can replace it.


He also talks about the importance of the relationship between the lecturer and the student, stressing the authority of the lecturer‟s knowledge, the interpersonal nature of the relationship and the boundaries therein: it's one of those things you learn when you're learning to be a pedagogue. It's about the authority of your knowledge, and the way you exercise that is through authority, through the authority of your teacher presence. It's actually your professorial status to use that old-fashioned idea. What‟s required is that the student just respects that. It‟s a mutual thing, you respect their learning […] and they respect that you have it too. And it means there are boundaries and there are moments where the student must defer. […] It‟s a subtle thing and the boundaries are hard when you‟re a teacher because you've got to make it invisible and part of learning as a student is to get the boundaries, so it's complex and it‟s very [emphasis] interpersonal. How learning happens Aidan maintains is complex and not easy to explain, occurring somehow in the dialogue between the lecturer and the student(s): it's very much about people; it's almost animal in a way if you know what I mean. It's very complex and I don't even know how it works, it works in the dialogue between the tutor and the students. Furthermore, he avows that the process of learning is dialectical, either between two people or amongst a group of people, so when asked to comment on the premise that Twitter is suited towards the self-directed learner, Aidan is unequivocal “the self-directed learner is a fantasy”, continuing that “the idea of this individual learner in control I think is a really unhealthy idea”. This he considers to have been borne out in the video (Rankin, 2009) but merely augmented by technology, “she [Prof. Rankin] is using Twitter to precisely facilitate that process”. He asserts, “those people in the class, that's perfect that's how it is they‟re not on a personal learning thing they‟re in a group”. This is important to Aidan and it pertains to how to replicate the “stick in the sand” within online environments whilst maintaining group interaction and the interpersonal dimension of communication. Aidan contends, “it has always been understood that distance is never the same as presence”. However, he can see that Twitter may be a useful tool when 43

considered in terms of blended learning. Still, he upholds that the main problem with Twitter, from a teaching and learning perspective, is that it does not appear to have “the range and depth to allow people to develop their thinking” being literally a “sound bite”. From the outset, Aidan admits that he has not heard anything about Twitter in higher education. However, he is familiar with the discourse pertaining to eLearning more generally and the drive to implement online methods within his institution. He advocates eLearning initiatives as a means of democratising education but against a tough economic backdrop, possible commercial and political motives give cause for concern. Aidan notes his president‟s enthusiasm but states, “he/she loves it for the reasons that aren't the ones I love it for”. Referring back to long established academic practices, he goes on to ask will we “surrender [all] this to have everybody online” continuing “if you open everything up to the flux it is fantastic but what do we lose?” Thus, he concludes, “this technology is very challenging”, “it's going to take a lot of very serious philosophy of education thinking” accepting that “all of this, as pedagogues, we would have to re-engage with it and build it into the process”. It is noteworthy that the role of a pedagogue (role being taken to mean “proper or customary function”) is a constant theme of Aidan‟s throughout. So, as to whether he might consider adopting Twitter, it would seem that this is dependent upon satisfactory philosophical assessment and careful “piloting” by pedagogues. He says, “I wouldn't want to just get it and use it. I would want there to be training within the college by someone who has really spent time thinking about the pedagogy of the uses of Twitter”.

Declan - religious education
When asked about his thoughts in general regarding Twitter, Declan straightaway expounds


until it became technology, the word twitter was used in an incredibly pejorative sense about a form of communication; as in that person is twittering on, they are not making any sense, there is no substance to what they are saying. Consequently, upon learning that the word is now being applied to a form of internet communication Declan admits to being “automatically and instantaneously negatively disposed towards it, because there‟s enough twittering going around between people without starting to put it on to machines”. Furthermore, when asked how he feels about social networking and posts on Twitter being public, he ardently replies, “how do I feel about something being available to everyone? I really cannot psychologically I really cannot understand why you would want to”. He goes on to explain that for him “communication, if it's real, is of a much more close intimate and purposeful nature rather than I‟m going to buy chips for my tea this evening”, which is the sort of banal comment with which he associates Twitter. He persists, why do people do that “is it a sense of ultimately wanting to be seen and recognised in a way that they haven‟t felt before. I absolutely find that very very strange”. Regarding Twitter for the purposes of higher education, Declan ventures that “as an educationalist to believe that you can put learning into little sound bites of 140 characters rather than developing ideas and really looking at arguments for and against over a longer period […] it's not helpful”. Not only does Declan discern the short 140 character “sound bite” aspect of Twitter but surmises that one might “get sucked in to that minutiae” of microblogging. Hence, he pronounces, “I'm really worried that this is mitigating against the idea of actually having to look at something in-depth and having to get into depth reasoning”. He then raises the notion of problematic knowledge saying “when you‟ve got people Twittering and they've got different points of views it's nearly always that knowledge is not unproblematic” adding that today when “we're awash” with information “how are we going to help people engage much more critically with the unending information”, typically “how


to deal with conflicting issues, conflicting statement of fact, conflicting stages of views” as opposed to seeing information as something that you just access. Therefore, Declan believes that Twitter, being constrained by lack of depth, would not be wholly appropriate for teaching and learning; however, he accepts that by taking advantage of any positive disposition towards the technology that students display, Twitter might feasibly be used to engage them and provide snapshots of learning. I suppose really tweeting is a very good way to get learners‟ opinions […]. It's a very good way of getting where people are at and it's a very good way of maybe getting initially […] throwing in […] challenging some of the initial assumptions. He also adds that Twitter may prove useful in terms of learning support, to communicate with students out on placement facilitating quick responses to issues that arise. However, for Declan this would have to be managed. As regards the use of Twitter in a direct classroom setting, in his case it would be inappropriate as it is not customary for Declan to work with large groups, “I work in small groups, in tutorials in a circle so I see everyone full on and ask them direct questions; many lessons I can go round every individual and ask them something”. To advocate Twitter in such a scenario would seem absurd. For Declan, the person and personal communication is of paramount importance; it was a constant theme throughout the interview. Therefore, the use of Twitter in general would be fundamentally challenging, as he says although people are Twittering and throwing out ideas at each other they‟re not actually engaging with each other on a personal level because they‟re just engaging with the words and a screen and these are imaginary people out there; and one of my biggest problems [emphasis] would be this increased individualisation of learning to the world out there rather than actively developing a sense of personal engagement, which is a sense of a community and a community of learning so that would be my major issue about it. Similarly, on the subject of how much he would trust information on Twitter, he replies, “I don't trust information, I only trust people”. 46

Twitter, Declan suggests could be part of an increased fascination with functionality and asserts that in order to decide the merits of the technology and whether to adopt it into practice you have to know what you are actually trying to achieve. He proclaims, “what I want to achieve in terms of my teaching, I don't need it”; a primary concern of religious education after all is how people relate to each other. Likewise, he continues you must know the values to which you put your skills, being aware at any given time about the values out of which you are acting. He makes allusion, “what values am I expressing or trying to live out by all of this and what values are people trying to impinge onto me?” The college, it appears, recognises that it needs to address the role of social media in education but it is not a priority at present. Declan feels “there's a fair amount of apprehension amongst the staff around developing it, particularly when I think many staff would feel that some of the students would actually be much more au-fait with it than they would be themselves”. So what of the possibility that Declan will consider using Twitter in his practice: the opportunities afforded by Twitter to students on placement is a possibility, but on the whole Declan is not inclined towards Twitter and feels that to research and develop its use would be a drain on time, which could potentially lead to more work and he feels he is over worked already.

Conor - film, photography and digital media
Twitter is largely “natural” for Conor. As he puts it, having been “blathering” online for over a decade tweeting is in many ways the “outcome of a long engagement with online activity”. Unsurprisingly, therefore he states that he is “very comfortable” networking with people that he has not met face to face and declares “No, I don't have a problem being public”, adjoining


I tend to think of the Internet generally as a very public space so if you go on there and communicate you should be comfortable communicating in a public space. I use the model of Times Square - don't do anything on the Internet that you wouldn't do in the middle of Times Square. Conor discloses that within Twitter he considers himself to have a personal learning network; in fact, he testifies to probably having “several over laying ones” as his interests are varied. Conor asserts that using Twitter in this way is valuable. He explains Twitter is “about ideas and it's about what's current” describing it as “the planet‟s take on world events as they go along”. He goes on to offer the following illustration: the Golden Globes are out so there will be the film world's response to that. It's instantly there among people I value and trust. To connect with that beat if you like, having a handle; I think it's very important. To me you are not isolated in a way. Thus, Conor upholds that Twitter is “the best source for ready access to current information”; nevertheless, he recognises at the same time that Twitter is inherently limited by people‟s attention and their activity level defines what is available. When asked what affect he thinks Twitter might have on how people engage with knowledge, after some thought he proffers I don't know it's not so clear. In a way, it's the lazy web. I‟ve found it to be great for celebrities who have 20 million followers but if you are like me I don't know I have 900 followers or something like that, sometimes it will produce a ready response and sometimes it won‟t produce any response if I just need to plough down a particular thing. So it's about the level of activity, if there's an awful lot of heat or activity around that particular area of interest well then the information is there but if it's something that's quiet and you want to read it or even if it's older, just not active or current, in a way it's harder to do that. Conor also observes, “the funny thing about Twitter is that it is an expression of self. It‟s not just comments about material, it‟s not just observances, it‟s about an individual”. He elaborates, “to express who you are through it takes a while to formulate”, and it takes time to find your voice within the 140 character constraints of Twitter explaining that “you can't necessarily be deep but you can be pithy”. Notwithstanding this, Conor asserts that Twitter expedites connection and interaction with the broader community and the blend of self-


expression, connection and interaction found in Twitter suits the “informality” found within his particular field. Conor is inclined to incorporate Twitter into his educational practice and induct students into a community of practice; however, it transpires that only a few students currently use Twitter. Conor remarks that in a way students are “a bit at sea” there; instead, “they‟re all on Facebook”. Therefore, as a means of supporting learning he has set up a Facebook group for his students, which is working well. However, he feels that this does not offer the same level of openness and engagement with outside sources that Twitter offers and in many ways this is a lost opportunity, “I would probably be happier with that on Twitter in that it would be something that‟s public rather than in a closed little group”. Conor already has some idea of the benefits that social media offers as some of his photography students are on Flickr and he can cite an instance where one student was able to solicit feedback from “professional photographers from all over the planet”. He says “for me that‟s a huge opportunity, if you have a student with a clear talent to have their work read and validated and encouraged by wider than the college curriculum” he adds, and “Twitter offers that too, completely”. Student engagement is of primary importance, therefore employing Twitter in a direct classroom setting akin to Professor Rankin‟s experiment (Rankin, 2009) appeals to Conor as it is trying to engage students and provide more opportunities for discursive interaction. In this process he believes quieter students might get to be heard but not only that, Conor detects that the agenda for learning might possibly emerge out of a more “collective” discourse, as opposed to what he describes as the traditional top down lecturer led “he who knows filling up the empty cups” scenario. He imagines you would just have to messily steer your way through how the discussion is within that, it would be something that I would be open to within my work but I can see an awful lot of lecturers having huge difficulty with it.


Although within Conor‟s institution it is uncertain how the use of Twitter is currently viewed, “I don't know the college‟s position on tweeting or if they have a policy” he proclaims. When asked how suited he thinks the institution is to a Twitter-like networked culture he muses “I think the college here, as a culture, hasn't talked it through” and notes that “hope might live in certain individuals but I don't know if the college is necessarily orienting itself that way” particularly as the Head of eLearning “would be pursuing an internal system [Moodle]”. Moreover, he says that when the topic of Twitter arises amongst colleagues “it‟s always dismissed”, they think that “people are tweeting about their lunch still; the mind-set hasn't really gone beyond that”. For it to go beyond that, Conor suggests there needs to be some “shining examples” of Twitter in pedagogic action, so to speak, and cites an instance of a lecturer in another institution that “tweets as a lecturer” and uses Twitter with his students. It is worth noting after all that Conor‟s identity on Twitter is not that of a lecturer but that of a filmmaker/photographer who lectures and he acknowledges that his students know him as this too. In order to adopt Twitter into his practice and realise any potential for in-class discussion or to help students develop PLNs, it seems to Conor that “it's really about the students themselves and whether I can get them to do it” but he wonders “how to get my students up to that level, I don't know how to get that momentum in there”.

Erin – information technology
Initially Erin had misgivings about Twitter, correlating it with Facebook, which she does not use. Nonetheless, she was persuaded by a colleague to explore using it in her practice. Her colleague, who had begun to use Twitter, informed her “it‟s a great way to network with people […]; you can connect with people all over”. So “very lukewarm originally” and after forming a strategy of “demarcation” between her personal and professional life, Erin gave Twitter a try. She now avows to finding substantial value there, 50

“what I have gotten back has just been so much. I have definitely made friendships just tweeting in that way”. Twitter, she continues “is social networking, it‟s connecting with other people […] I like it for engaging in discussions with people”. Erin upholds that “Twitter‟s 140 characters is such strength”; it allows you in a short space of time to get a snapshot of information and what is happening. With such an abundance of information though, Erin acknowledges that you just have to “dip in and out”. Nonetheless, she feels that Twitter affords her increased access to information, saying, “I feel that I see more academic papers, presentations, videos about the kind of work I'm interested in because I'm on Twitter”. Then when asked how much she trusts the information, Erin replies just as much or as little as I trust information anywhere else. There's nothing different about it being on Twitter. I select the people that I follow, so that would give it another element of trust.

Yet, it is not just access to information that Erin finds so potent, but in terms of engaging with knowledge it is also the relationship with the authors, the writers, the academics and the students. That is certainly very powerful because that breaks down barriers. Then you co-create knowledge because you build on other people's ideas; have conversations with them online, and then off-line.

Erin attributes the discovery of such a wealth of resources, information and connections to having developed a personal learning network (PLN) within Twitter. Consequently, a Twitter enabled PLN in which it is possible to make connections, develop relationships and have conversations with the intention of erudition is something that Erin finds “very powerful”, certainly it was a major theme throughout the interview. Yet, she recognises that developing a PLN takes time, as “you have to build your network and learn the interaction style”. For Erin engaging in Twitter has not only benefitted her practice with the development of her PLN, but she affirms that it has also given her “confidence to try new 51

things”. It has spurred her on to start blogging, thus adding an element of reflection to her practice. Accordingly, she feels that the use of Twitter is “absolutely” appropriate for the purposes of higher education and uses it not only to develop her own PLN but also in her teaching practice to support learning and to help students develop PLNs of their own. The primary task of her practice she believes is to create “independent learners” who are able to take responsibility for their own learning and subsequently participate in a community of practice. Crucial to this is the development of a personal learning network, and most certainly Twitter is one of the tools that can facilitate this “it‟s all about creating independent learners; I say that they have to start creating their own personal learning network”. Erin explains her rationale: this whole discrete nature of higher education: the lecturer gives all the resources for that module and that gets just wiped out and the student goes on to the next thing [module]. It's not really a good model for learning, so I really try and encourage the students to take responsibility for their own learning; to save the links and make relationships with people […] Their network on Twitter will grow and grow with them when they go. Erin believes that the creation of a PLN is vital because together with the arrival of open education resources [OERs], badges and massive open online courses [MOOCs] she declares, “that‟s the future of education”, reasoning all of those boundaries are blurring between formal and informal, and accredited and non-accredited […] I don't think we can defend the boundaries anymore because they‟re just eroding. The university is not going to exist as it is now in 10 or 20 years […] so I think we need to prepare students for learning that way now. Students are therefore encouraged to create their own PLNs and to make connections. Testament to the benefits of learning this way, Erin cites an occasion when the author of a class reading joined in a student‟s conversation; illustrating also how the boundaries between the institution and the outside world are „blurring‟. However, to enable this dynamic, Erin draws attention to the role of the lecturer “it‟s that mind-set” she says “seeing yourself as a 52

learner, presenting yourself to your students as a learner”, she continues “I'm a learner as well – there aren't students who are learning and lectures who are done with learning – we are all learners”, signalling another take within the „blurring of the boundaries‟ theme. Erin declares that a Twitter hashtag is effective for supporting learning, facilitating timely updates and the sharing of resources. Although she acknowledges that students who are following a wholly online programme already often have a plethora of communication channels so adding Twitter as one more might just be too much. In this case, Twitter can only be offered as an optional extra; observing instead that with in-class students “it‟s more of an asset because it adds something”, referring here to the advantages it affords beyond a few hours of class contact time each week. She reports that some students “find it very useful” (Appendix VIII). Though, Erin recognises that not all students are inclined towards Twitter, divulging there are a good number of them who are locked down. They don't want to go on Twitter, they don't want to go on Google+; they have gotten this whole message that it can be bad to reveal yourself so they‟re walling themselves off online. She further recognises that although dubbed „digital natives‟, this may be so for students in relation to their “enthusiasm” for technology and social networking but not necessarily so in relation to their aptitudes and abilities. Erin notes, “they often know very little about just using resources critically and thinking about their digital footprint and their online identity, their privacy, all of those things” elaborating “all these notions of digital literacy are so important. It's a whole other realm of understanding”. All-in-all, Erin considers Twitter to be an “entirely appropriate” digital literacy practice for the purposes of higher education as “it makes it possible to engage with and be exposed to much more of everything: much more information, opinions, new research, and so on”. She maintains, “those wonderful things that happen in academic discourse, they can happen online in a very real way”. Consequently, she encourages colleagues to try it, yet 53

concedes, “people just don't know what Twitter is”. In order to address this she has sent a paper around her department and now, together with a few like-minded colleagues, is going to create some resources “to communicate in a better way about the possibilities”. It must be remembered that Twitter represents part of a new and very different culture, and Erin concedes that the university “is still a very traditional culture” and one that is “slow to change”. Consequently, any embrace of Twitter she grants “is going to be a process”. Over time though she believes these cultures will “merge and blend more”, but due to the current economic climate Erin acknowledges “it's a difficult environment to try and encourage people to try something new, to start changing a culture; some people are maybe not so motivated, a bit defensive”.

Brendan - politics and social policy
For Brendan the arrival of Twitter is both a source of intrigue and a cause for some concern. On the one hand, Twitter would seem to quicken the dissemination of information opening up new and exciting possibilities for teaching and learning; whilst on the other it appears to excite amongst its users “grand scale narcissism”, “seduce” conduct that is “selfcongratulatory” as well as behaviour that might generally be regarded as “odd”. Initially, Brendan had misgivings regarding Twitter however, he was persuaded by an associate to consider using it for professional purposes. Thus, having signed up he testifies: yes of course there was evidence of narcissism right across the Twitter platform but what intrigued me was the spontaneousness and accelerated diffusion and dissemination of information; that I could be engaging with history making even though I was sitting in my office in Fintanford or on a beach in Ballyoisin or whatever. It intrigued me that I could start to contribute ideas, and then I began to realise about its teaching and learning pedagogical properties, you know I could actually have an instantaneous communication space with my students. Brendan argues, “we have to move beyond the preserve that information is private and that it is in some sense hoarded”. He says, “I think it‟s about a much wider 54

dissemination”. However with its feature of „following‟, the use of Twitter to accomplish this Brendan suggests may have “another profoundly interesting outcome” namely on how we engage with knowledge. He muses “it may just reinforce our own predilections, our own interests, our own bias and our own prejudices,” explaining I‟m attracted to following certain people and reading certain tweets because it reinforces how I feel about myself. I‟d be worried that you could engage in a much greater narrowing of one‟s own information access because basically you‟re corralling your information sources. Consequently, Brendan contends that the use of Twitter “has all the possibility of becoming something that negates our wider consumption of disparate knowledge”, adding that the use of Twitter, with its combined rapidity and brevity of content, may contribute to us “becoming desensitised to lengthy expose and lengthy treatises that links to the interrogation of knowledge”. Brendan sounds another note of caution, this time vis-à-vis social networking and trustworthiness within Twitter, proclaiming, “you can't always be absolutely certain about the authenticity and veracity of information about people”, continuing “it‟s up to you to verify the work that you‟re reading”. The open public nature of Twitter he counsels means, “people have to be very careful in what they say”, counselling further that the law of libel still applies in cyber-space. In relation to his own position on the matter, Brendan discloses, “I feel conflicted on this. I set my own access settings as private”. Currently, Brendan‟s use of Twitter is “conflated” between personal and educational purposes. This constitutes a „blurring of the boundaries‟ between his personal and professional life. However, this will be resolved shortly with the addition of another account. In an attempt to engage students and raise levels of reading, Brendan has recently encouraged students to sign up to Twitter and follow him. To date, this has had mixed results with some students declaring “delight” and avowing that “it has really enhanced their learning”, whilst others Brendan reports prefer not to engage in this method at all. Upon this 55

he muses, “not enough staff are engaging with it so students don‟t think it‟s absolutely necessary”. Using Twitter in this way can „blur the boundaries‟ between the institution and the outside world, as evidenced when some of his students arranged to interview an outside source through connections made on Twitter: it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed […]. They just found it all emancipating. Furthermore, Brendan sees that together with his students, Twitter has the potential to develop into a “full learning network”, in that his own learning also becomes “enhanced” as well: I recognise that to become a true fully-fledged functioning network it has to become reciprocal and I have to start hearing what they've got to say, where their research is leading them what sort of links they can bring to my attention.

In contrast, Twitter as a pedagogical device within a direct classroom or lecture theatre setting gives Brendan cause for concern. Whilst “not dismissing it”, he imagines that it would be “quite disruptive to the learning experience”. It appears to encourage discussion, especially for the quieter students, yet it is not apparent how it helps or supports students to speak confidently in public, which is essential in the discipline of politics; as he says, “from the discipline that I come from it‟s about communication, it‟s about face to face, it‟s about developing the skills of oracy”. Therefore, Brendan believes that Twitter in this scenario “would degrade the deeper learning experience” and that he himself might just feel “a little bit uncomfortable with it”. He acknowledges the pros and cons that tweeting presents, and recognises the value of inserting a URL, but overall he thinks that it “reduces the richness of communication and the nuances of that process”. Still, he accepts that social media is a medium with which young people “seem to feel the most comfortable”, as is their attachment 56

to mobile phones or personal devices, the use of which in the classroom Brendan has become indifferent to. Overall, advocacy of Twitter for higher education and the reasons that lie behind it are unclear to Brendan, and he fears that any embrace of the technology on the part of his institution may be based more on economic grounds rather than on pedagogical ones; he asks “who is championing it and why; what are their motives”. Within the professions and disciplines there are some esteemed advocates of Twitter (Mollett et al., 2011), thus providing some degree of validation. Brendan illustrates this when he says: I respect Dunleavy quite a lot because he's a political scientist and I am and he's a lot older than me and if he‟s been convinced of the merit and virtue of Twitter that‟s reassuring. However, Brendan‟s Head of Department is not an advocate, considering it to promote “obsessive” behaviour, so Brendan sees the question as one of leadership asking, “who will lead it out?” Moreover, Brendan detects that within conventional higher education providers “there is an antipathy towards social media”, which he believes in many ways is probably based on the “deep seated rootedness that people have to conventional pedagogy chalk and talk”. He remarks, within his institution “there's probably an active anti-technology and pedagogy culture that permeates the building” and “it‟s almost heretical to suggest that you use stuff like Twitter”. He continues to say that the wider societal (mis)understanding of Twitter, as a “fad” or as a “type of fetish, where some people are externalising their own lack of real time connectivity with human beings in the cyber world”, needs to be “challenged and debunked” if Twitter is to “win the hearts and minds of academics” and be accepted into practice. Moreover, as Brendan points out, it also needs to be established if traditional pedagogy is no longer „fit for purpose‟ before embracing too hastily the innovation of Twitter, deliberating


I can see with Twitter it‟s initiating a new culture, a new way of learning, and I'm not resisting it but I think it needs to be tempered with a little bit of iron in it. What about the conventional ways, are we absolutely certain they have failed and they‟re no longer as productive as the substitute Twitter. I'm not sure that we have actually come to that conclusion yet. Brendan intends to try-out Twitter more extensively in his practice and is encouraging his colleagues to do likewise. “I downloaded the LSE report. I read that and I'm now going to e-mail that to all my colleagues, so in a bizarre way I'm becoming a little bit of a change agent myself or an advocate, even if I‟m a conflicted one”. Understandably, Brendan is at odds on the matter because the full range and merits of Twitter‟s pedagogical properties are not established. He finishes I'm conflicted about its full merits. If you really want to expand its application rather than just being a repository or a referral system for learning then you would have to have a much bigger discussion, a bigger debate about the inherent merits and the demerits of it.

Chapter 5: Discussion of findings
In this chapter, the varied findings established with the participants are discussed in terms of contextual disposition and bearing upon the research question(s). Firstly, in relation to the individual with their distinctive facets of disposition and concomitant orientation towards the disruptive affects, or anticipated affects, that adoption of Twitter presents to practice, continuing in terms of the cultural and institutional context that validates or invalidates any adoption of Twitter and regulates any possibility for action on the part of the individual. Findings, where appropriate are compared, contrasted and made relevant to the literature. Within this chapter, it is prudent to keep in mind that findings are only pertinent to the dispositions displayed by a small number of lecturers and discussion therefore precedes upon the premise that these findings are not necessarily generalisable.


The lecturer – proclivities, philosophies and practice
What is the disposition towards Twitter in general? Firstly, considering the variation of dispositional facets amongst participants, it seems only right to acknowledge at the outset that cultural conditioning and personal proclivities and/or educational philosophies place constraints on what is either “thinkable” or “unthinkable” for lecturers with a particular focus of praxis, a particular philosophy or indeed located in a particular institution. It is for these reasons that differences in the general disposition of participants towards Twitter are particularly striking, most notably between one, largely an online habitué with an affinity for social networking and another who psychologically cannot understand the desire for human beings to communicate in such a way; this is in addition to a seeming divergence between participants from traditional disciplines and those with a professional orientation. Twitter suffers a frivolous image, a point upon which all participants agreed, though those that have adopted it countenance that it takes time to understand Twitter‟s capabilities and to realise its potential. Nonetheless, individual lecturers must in the first instance want to use Twitter to achieve some purpose and furthermore be comfortable within themselves that such usage sits comfortably with their beliefs and values. Within the enquiry, adoption of Twitter for the purposes of higher education and lecturers‟ disposition towards it intimates Becker‟s (2000) observation that “the way in which a teacher uses a computer gives an indication of their underlying philosophy” (p. 9); philosophy being a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs. A number of philosophies were expressed regarding some of the objectives of practice, namely the creation of independent learners, the development of individual voice and the development of a sense of a personal engagement in a community. Appreciably, it is this concept of the individual that appears to reveal something of disposition towards Twitter; participants ill-


disposed to Twitter were concerned that the technology was “over individualised and not communal enough” being symptomatic of the "increased individualisation of learning”. How would the adoption of Twitter affect the role of the lecturer and the teaching and learning? Within the enquiry, Twitter is posited as a disruptive technology; it being expected that the determination of disruptive affects, or anticipated affects, upon the role of the lecturer, the teaching and learning and engagement with knowledge would expedite correlation of participants‟ disposition towards its adoption. Evidence emerges to indicate that with the adoption of Twitter knowledge-making practices and a number of germane boundaries within higher education are subject to change. Consequently, the theme of „blurring the boundaries‟ greatly underscores much of what is discussed here. The enquiry establishes that the traditional boundary between lecturer and learner is altered somewhat with the adoption of Twitter, because in order to take account of new technology, ascertain pedagogic affordances, develop effective practice and introduce learners to any benefits, the lecturer must also become a learner. This is consistent with Conole and Alevizou‟s (2010) assessment, noting that Web 2.0 tools do not permit the lecturer the same level of control as would traditionally be expected. Therefore, in order to work in new spaces such as personal learning networks and induct and support their learners, lecturers must adjust their thinking accordingly; a participant within this enquiry that has adopted Twitter endorses this sentiment. A further participant surmises that the direct use of Twitter in the classroom may have the effect of equalising the power dynamic with the lecturer steering “messy” discussions and allowing a more “collective” learning agenda to evolve. This contrasts with the more traditional view also offered in this enquiry, which sees the relationship as based upon the authority of the lecturer‟s knowledge, permitting the


lecturer to claim “professorial status”, or exert “teacher presence” making it incumbent upon the student to recognise and respect the boundaries that this entails. However, substantiating Masie‟s (2008) claim that technology is facilitating a shift away from single-source knowledge such as that embodied in a learned “teacher” some participants were able to cite instances where, via Twitter and other social networking applications, authoritative external sources became available to their students, thus facilitating participation in a wider community of practice (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009) and effectively blurring the boundary between the institution and the outside world (Traxler, 2010). Within the enquiry, adopters of Twitter were convincing in their endorsement of Twitter as the “perfect” tool for establishing a PLN though it was also noted by one participant that the concept of a PLN is not exactly new as networking has always been part of the academic‟s function. Indeed, Digenti‟s (1999) definition refers to the phenomenon of networking pre Twitter. However, as evidenced in this enquiry, lecturers are now beginning to assist students to develop PLNs of their own and induct them into communities of practice with such moves implicating Web 2.0 affordances and connectivist or Learning 2.0 pedagogies (Siemens, 2005; Downes, 2005). Siemens (2010) makes distinct that in this application the lecturer shapes networks and assumes the role of influencer. Based on reciprocity between lecturer and students one participant anticipates the realisation of a “full learning network” within their practice; this is redolent of the paradigmatic shift believed to be underway, switching emphasis from teaching to learning to create a more autonomous learner (Lim et al., 2010; Kop and Hill, 2008) which, incidentally blurs the boundaries between both teaching and learning and teacher and learner. Throughout this enquiry, all participants heralded discussion, or conversation, as consummate within the learning process. Technologies such as Twitter are thought to accentuate the role of dialogue (Laurillard, 2005; Sarker et al., 2005) however; variance


arises as to the faithfulness of computer-mediated conversation and accordingly seems to influence disposition. The high value placed on face to face communication was asserted by the none and “conflicted” adopters within the enquiry and the importance given to speaking confidently in public stressed; after all it is of paramount importance in some disciplines and Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) caution “Twitter is not for everyone, different disciplines might have very different experiences when using it [Twitter] for instructional purposes” (para. 38). In a direct classroom setting the aim of Twitter is to make learning more interactive and increase student participation in discussion. However, amongst the participants claims as to Twitter‟s ability to promote in-class discussion was a moot point and one upon which they were somewhat perturbed, questioning matters of quality and the requirement of technology to intervene in the first instance. In contrast, all participants accept that Twitter is a plausible option for supporting learning beyond class contact time, allowing students to gain clarification on content or assignments and faculty to alert students to new resources or administrative matters. Evidence was also provided to the enquiry of student endorsement (Appendix VIII), but it was also revealed that adoption or approval of Twitter amongst students is not universal. How would the adoption of Twitter affect engagement with knowledge? Within the enquiry, the extent of Twitter‟s 140 character limitation was deliberated in terms of its ability to rapidly disseminate ideas and information, its capacity to facilitate deep learning and its ability to facilitate participation in online communities. For that reason, it is important to differentiate here between knowledge and information: information is content, however when information affects the answering of a question, the solving of a problem, or the accomplishment of a goal then it becomes knowledge (Warlick, 2006). Using the term “knowledge-in-use”, Littlejohn et al. (2012, p. 5) observe a blurring of the boundaries between information and communication; such ambiguity may account for the concern felt by


one participant as to Twitter‟s full potential; is it a “repository” for information or as some avow a communication channel that can be harnessed for knowledge creation. Even so, Twitter was espoused by some as a tremendous source of current information, but seeing as its content is defined by people‟s attention this inherently limits what is available and as such gives some participants cause for concern, having implications for access and engagement with less popular topics or possibly more stable knowledge, like historical or cultural knowledge for instance. Knowing where to find information when it is needed is of elevated importance in network applications, consequently the traditional boundaries of disciplinary knowledge seem less amenable to Web 2.0
practices (Conole and Alevizou, 2010), conceivably accounting for the disapproving or conflicted dispositions of some within this enquiry. What is more, concerns were also mooted about the propensity of Twitter to narrow access to information sources and negate engagement with disparate or problematic knowledge, prompting concerns amongst some as to Twitter‟s ability to fulfil the deeper, more critical aims of higher education. This concurs with the work of Beetham et al. (2009) who identify that so far there has been a lack of success in developing students‟ capacities to learn deeply in such technology-rich environments. This is in addition to concerns expressed by all participants relating to the overabundance of information today and deliberations as to how education is to deal with this. With around 340 million tweets per day (Twitter, 2012) Twitter broadcasts and distributes information with remarkable rapidity and voluminosity. Twitter users remark that it is necessary to dip in and out of the Twitter stream in order to assuage the effects of information overload. However, one Twitter abstinent asks if it is possible to get the necessary time and distance that the intellect and the body requires for critical engagement


with information, proffering that it is not and as a consequence all information becomes treated equally. Participants inclined towards Twitter spoke of the importance, or of their desire, to induct learners into an appropriate community of practice. Such a move emphasises a more participatory epistemology of practice as opposed to an epistemology of possession (Cook and Brown, 1999). Notably, participants largely antagonistic or conflicted towards Twitter hailed from disciplinary practices rather than practices more aligned to the professions. Are lecturers disposed to adopt Twitter for some aspects of their practice more than others? Hitherto, discussion of findings indicates that Twitter is recognised as a feasible technology to support learning and, allowing for personal proclivities is largely accepted as such. However, this is in contrast to its ability to facilitate a PLN and/or in-class discussion, which is keenly contested amongst the participants with explanation for such dispute seemingly lying deep within personal values and beliefs, educational philosophies and orientation towards knowledge-making practices.

The context - appropriateness, negotiation and validation
It is judicious at this point to recapitulate Bourdieu‟s explanation of contextual disposition with its allusion of habitus, appearing in one sense as each individual's characteristic set of dispositions for action and likewise as the individual‟s meeting point with society and its institutions. It is the habitus that helps individuals determine which choices to make and assess what possibilities there are for action. These cultural and institutional aspects that signal appropriateness and the likelihood of approval are now discussed. How appropriate is Twitter in the context of higher education? In this enquiry student engagement, raising standards and equipping students with 21st century digital literacies were all cited by participants as reasons to embrace, or at least 64

consider, Twitter as a suitable practice; countered by concerns over quality, safety, criticality and outside forces driving technology adoption. At this point, it is worthwhile to note that, notwithstanding one notable exception, within the classroom the use of Twitter synergised with mobile technology does not appear to faze participants. It would seem that they accept mobile devices are now part of everyday life. However, whilst learners generally display familiarity with mobile technology and can demonstrate competence in digital skills, it was remarked that “they know very little about using resources critically”, reflecting discernment similar to that of Sharpe (cited in Littlejohn et al. 2011, p. 6) who notes that “learners can be extremely confident about their Internet use while lacking evaluative and critical capabilities and research skills of any sophistication”. Calls to address the element of critical thinking skills in relation to digital technologies was widely held to be of growing importance amongst the participants; Fieldhouse and Nicholas (2008) aver that digital literacy requires students to have critical thinking skills for “determining how credible information is and to contextualise, analyse, and synthesise what is found online” (p. 57). However as voiced by one participant in this enquiry, the very technology that is deployed affects the ways in which we are able to inquire into things, communicate with each other and subsequently the type of knowledge we can acquire. Pertinent to both students and lecturers, this resonates with the call by Goodfellow and Lea (2007) and others (Selfe, 1999; Khan and Kellner, 2005) that critical technology literacy is required in order to become aware of one‟s digital environment and the influence of technology in society. Concerning Twitter, such an approach would help answer the question raised in this enquiry “who is championing it and why; what are their motives”. Be that as it may, it appears from accounts offered here that, contrary to participants‟ initial suppositions, the depiction of students as „digital natives‟ Prensky (2001) obscures


many nuances and contradictions in their experience of and their stance towards technology (Margaryan and Littlejohn 2008; Luckin et al, 2009): student adoption of Twitter was discovered not to be as widespread as anticipated nor endorsement of social media as extensive amongst students either. Observation is made within this study that students are “all at sea” on Twitter, which correlates with the findings of Cranmer (2006) and Facer and Selwyn (2010) highlighting the difficulties of translating practices from social contexts into formal learning. Consequently, it appears that digital literacy practices engendered by these new technologies are influenced by context, having to be socially negotiated and validated, and not just between lecturers and students but amongst lecturers as well. One participant identifies the cultural aspect pertaining to the validation of Twitter pronouncing that “not enough staff are engaging with it so students don't think it's absolutely critical”, which is consistent with Lea and Jones‟ (2011) finding that validation from lecturers is a key factor in students‟ access and use of these technologies. This cuts both ways as the aforementioned participant similarly sought validation from his peers whilst another lamented the dearth of “shining examples”. Possibilities for action That being said, individuals with their distinctive facets of disposition and corollary inclination for action still have to take account of cultural concerns and the specific culture of their institutional setting. Cultural beliefs regarding knowledge and what constitutes legitimate practices in its construction are, as Lord Puttnam (2011) has noted, incredibly deep-rooted. Within the enquiry, the traditional nature of higher education is recognised along with its measured approach to change. One participant stated that possibly the main obstacle to the adoption of Twitter practices is the institution‟s affinity with conventional “chalk and talk” pedagogy, which accords with the assertion by Bradwell (2009) that 66

constructivist teaching is still not the norm. There is no evidence to suggest that adoption of Twitter, or other social Web 2.0 affordances, are being promoted currently as part of any institutional policy or initiative. However, concurring with Weller and Dalziel‟s (2007) contention that Web 2.0 approaches such as Twitter are characteristically built around bottom-up principles, it was noticeable from participants within this enquiry that any moves towards incorporation of Twitter or other social media initiatives were precisely that, being trialled or championed by individual lecturers themselves.

Overall findings
What is the disposition of lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices? In answer to the enquiry‟s central question it appears that within the complex context of higher education, lecturers‟ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter, analogous to Bourdieu‟s “habitus”, is comprised of two strands. On the one hand, it consists of their personal proclivities and educational philosophies as well as, relative to their practice, orientation towards the effects of Twitter. Then on the other hand, given that the attitudes of fellow lecturers and students are taken into account when determining validity, lecturers‟ disposition reflects wider societal influences as they evaluate the possibilities that exist for action within their specific institution. Thus, it would seem from the accounts within this enquiry that lecturers are disposed to adopt Twitter where a high degree of congruence amongst these factors occurs and similarly to spurn such adoption where they do not.

Chapter 6: Issues and implications of findings
Considering the aim of this enquiry is to present a descriptive interpretation of lecturers‟ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter practices and that only a small sample of lecturers were examined, it is acknowledged that to offer conclusions per se may not be reflective of the wider picture. Therefore, this short chapter will highlight some key findings 67

of the enquiry to raise a number of issues and implications that have emerged, the central themes of which are disruption to practice and the advent of a new value proposition that Twitter represents, lecturers‟ disposition as action or positioning upon the matter and, how Twitter practices are entering higher education. Suggestions are also made where it is thought that further research needs to be carried out.

Disruption to practice – a new value proposition
It has been established that Twitter is a disruptive technology; disruptive not in itself but rather because of the way in which it may be innovatively deployed. Maddux and Johnson (2005) explain this by differentiating Type I technologies, such as the institutional virtual learning environments [VLEs], which replicates existing practice and essentially supports passive instructional models, as opposed to Type II technologies such as Twitter that allows students and lecturers to do things they could not have done previously, such as develop a personal learning network [PLN]: one technology maintains existing relationships whereas the other changes the relationship between faculty, students and knowledge in fundamental ways. Disruption is a function typically not of the technology itself but rather of its application and ensuing impact upon commodities or services; it should therefore more accurately be regarded as disruptive innovation (Christensen and Raynor, 2003). Disruptive innovations help to “change the value proposition” (Christensen et al., 2004, p. 2) in relation to particular commodities. In terms of knowledge as a commodity, it is the teaching pedagogies that Twitter enables and the effect upon knowledge production and dissemination that gives Twitter its disruptive effect. Importantly, since values are integral to the criteria that individuals use to make decisions this means that the particular values embedded in the personal proclivities and educational philosophies of lecturers may dispose them perfectly well for the traditional value proposition found within higher education but utterly incapable


of operating within the new value proposition, or culture of learning, that Twitter and similar technologies enable. What is more, this new value proposition relative to learners entreats them to develop PLNs of their own and to construct knowledge themselves; however, in this scenario learners must be both willing and able to embrace such empowerment (Lim et al., 2010). Therefore, considering that this enquiry has indirectly found Twitter usage and endorsement amongst learners to be at variance, and allowing that cultural beliefs pertaining to learning and what it means to be a student must similarly run deep, it seems that research into learners‟ viewpoint(s) regarding such a proposition is correspondingly required.

Disposition as action or positioning
The notion of disposition inherently suggests action or positioning, to be for or against something, and can thus signal division or polarity upon a subject. In relation to the adoption of Twitter it would seem that personal proclivities, educational philosophies and the type of knowledge production required for practice is of utmost importance amongst lecturers in determining their disposition towards it. And Twitter, like other Web 2.0 technologies, being inherently participatory and amenable to process-oriented knowledge and an epistemology of practice speaks largely to learner centred philosophies, constructivist pedagogies and an epistemology of practice thus leaving lecturers with more traditional educational philosophies and/or from disciplines concerned with a body of knowledge and an epistemology of possession possibly ill-disposed or conflicted as to its adoption. Here it must be noted that within academic contexts the discourse pertaining to literacy, of which Twitter is a new digital literacy, has historically been framed in the language of deficit (Lea and Street, 2006) and so the discourse relating to the adoption of Twitter is unlikely to be any different. Therefore, suggestive of much further research, the question going forward is how will this division of disposition, indicative of competing and 69

colliding approaches to practice and with implications for knowledge production and the role and function of the lecturer be dealt with within higher education as it negotiates the coming together of digital and academic practices with their differing cultures. As remarked earlier, “institutions aren‟t anything other than diverse” so this will be crucial if higher education is to “embrace its own interdisciplinarity” (Beetham et al., 2009, p. 74) and recognise the strengths relative to each particular discipline, each with its distinct purpose, and ultimately distinct disposition towards the adoption of Twitter practices as a means of achieving that purpose.

How Twitter is entering higher education
As has been identified within this enquiry, and signalling a „bottom-up” approach, Twitter practices are already beginning to be adopted by some lecturers within higher education with others being similarly disposed. Yet, a New Literacy Studies perspective, which is implicitly critical prompts consideration of the reasons for this and to question why there is a lack of “top-down” policy or guidance within higher education on the matter of Twitter and other social media as well as apparently scant interest in opening up wider debate on the subject. So considering the not insubstantial blurring of the boundaries relating to important aspects of knowledge production and dissemination, it would seem that a question worthy of further investigation is, why are lecturers in this instance privy to such jurisdiction and control and in whose interests is it that this should be so.


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CoPs CPD IM LMS LSE MOOC OER PLN PRN SMS URL VLE communities of practice continuing professional development instant messaging learning management system London School of Economics massive open online course open education resource personal learning network personal research network short message service unique resource locator virtual learning environment

Back-channel Badge amplified by Twitter, the feedback listeners share without interrupting the speaker an alternative accreditation/credentialing system that enables learners to earn badges wherever they're learning across the web the term normally refers to combining Internet-based distance learning with face-toface tuition a blend of the terms web and log to denote a type of website updated with new content from time to time; often maintained by an individual to include commentary or descriptions of events

Blended learning



Communities of Practice

groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly an emerging learning theory, formulated by George Siemens. "Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and selforganization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing" Siemens (2004) a set of assumptions about the nature of human learning that guide constructivist learning theories and teaching methods of education. Constructivism values developmentally appropriate teachersupported learning that is initiated and directed by the student. The theory of constructivism suggests that learners construct knowledge a person who was born during or after the general introduction of digital technology, and through interacting with digital technology from an early age, is thought to have a greater understanding of its concepts. The term was coined by Marc Prensky (2001) consists of all forms of electronically supported teaching and learning one of the most popular social networking sites that allows users to their personal profiles with other users in order to stay connected (more than 800 million active users- May 2012). an image and video hosting website and online community a tag embedded in a message posted on the Twitter microblogging service, consisting of 85



Digital native

eLearning Facebook

Flickr Hashtag

an identifying word or acronym within the message prefixed with a hash sign. Used to track and make easily findable topics, communities, live events, or breaking news; they facilitate “on-the-fly” collaboration Instant messaging Learning 2.0 Massive Online Open Course the exchange of typed messages between computer users in real time via the Internet pertains to the integration of social Web 2.0 technologies to support teaching and learning an online course with the option of free and open registration, a publicly shared curriculum, and open-ended outcomes. MOOCs integrate social networking, accessible online resources, and are facilitated by leading practitioners in the field of study. Most significantly, MOOCs build on the engagement of learners who self-organize their participation according to learning goals, prior knowledge and skills, and common interests a broadcast medium in the form of blogging differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregate file size, allowing users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences or phrases, individual images or hyperlinks related to e-learning and distance education, with a distinct focus on learning across contexts and learning with mobile devices abbreviation for Modular Object-Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment. It is a free and open-source e-learning software platform, also known as a Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) technology developed for use within multiple operating systems learning materials that are freely available for use, remixing and redistribution the term is generally allied today with social networking technology to denote online or virtual relationships between individuals 86

Microblogging Microblog



Multi-platform Open education resource Personal learning network

where the goal is enhancement of mutual learning Process-oriented learning Smartphone the development of skills for acquiring, applying, and generating knowledge a high-end mobile phone with more advanced computing ability and connectivity than a traditional mobile phone, typically combining the functions of portable media players, digital cameras, video cameras, and GPS navigation units. Also typically includes high-resolution touchscreens and web browsers that can access via Wi-Fi and mobile broadband to display web pages interactive forms of media that allow users to interact with and publish to each other, generally by means of the Internet comprised of various independent actors who develop relatively loose relationships between each other to pursue some common goals, more recently the term is conflated with the use social Web 2.0 technologies the same message sent indiscriminately to large numbers of recipients on the Internet a post or status update on the microblogging service Twitter a multi-platform Web 2.0, part microblogging tool, part social networking tool an umbrella term for internet applications built around the appropriation and sharing of content offering greater opportunities for creation, collaboration and communication. The term “social media” is often used to describe Web 2.0 tools and services a web site developed collaboratively by a community of users, allowing any user to add and edit content a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopaedia project supported by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation

Social media

Social network

Spam Tweet Twitter

Web 2.0




Appendix I – Researcher’s prior assumptions
Streubert and Carpenter (2010) emphasise that it is vital for the researcher to identify at the outset any assumptions, preconceptions or biases that they may have towards the phenomenon under study. Through identifying and bracketing these assumptions etc., it is possible to engage with the phenomenon without prejudice and impart faithfully the participants‟ perspective. In this case, the researcher believes that they do not hold any biases in relation to the phenomenon, but feels that it is worth explaining more fully how they came to be interested in the phenomenon in the first instance. As a student in higher education investigating the affordances of Web 2.0 technology in general and Twitter in particular, the researcher was aware of developments to establish the credentials of Twitter as both a tool for professional development and as a pedagogical device. However, the researcher started to notice amongst some lecturers reactions ranging from indignant to indifferent to such a prospect, which was in contrast to the degree of enthusiastic endorsement that Twitter was receiving in other quarters and amongst some lecturers. With a professional background in adult and young adult literacy and with an interest in literacy as social practice, the researcher came to imagine that for some lecturers Twitter invokes reactions similar to those stereotypical of teenage boys in classrooms relative to pens. Neither wants to use the technology (Twitter/pen) because it does not identify them as who they are, what they stand for or who they want to be. Consequently, the enquiry came to combine lecturers‟ disposition and literacy as social practice when considering the adoption of Twitter into higher education.


Appendix II – Recruitment email

Hello XXXX I am a Masters student on the M.A. Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change programme in St. Angela's College, Sligo, and am interested in the use of Twitter for the purposes of higher education. I am a literacies practitioner, so my interest in Twitter stems from a literacies perspective and the new digital literacy practices that Twitter enables. I am contacting you to politely inquire if you would be willing to participate in my research. My aim is to get the views of a wide range of higher education lecturers based on their different disciplines, institutions and experiences; I believe that you can provide a valuable contribution. At a time of your choosing, I would like to meet you to talk about the topic. The interview should take approximately one hour. You may like to note that my research has received ethical approval and that no material relating to the interview will be accessible to anyone other than myself. It is my intention, with your agreement, to record the interview. You are free to read and comment on its transcript if you wish. In reporting the work, I will ensure that individuals and institutions remain anonymous. I would sincerely appreciate your input into this developing research area, but please do not feel under any obligation to participate. If you are happy to participate, upon your reply I will forward you a copy of the consent form and arrange the logistics of conducting the interview, or if you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you for your attention. I look forward to hearing from you shortly. Kind regards Helen Crump M.A. Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change St. Angela's College Lough Gill Sligo


Appendix III – Participant consent
This document is to obtain your permission to participate in the research project called “To tweet or not to tweet: a qualitative enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter microblogging practices” (working title). For this research, you are being asked to take part in a 1-hour in-depth interview. In which I will be asking you to express your personal opinion and disposition towards using Twitter as it relates to your professional practice within higher education. The interview is semi-structured, meaning that the exact questions asked to each participant will vary, depending on each participant‟s unique disposition towards Twitter microblogging practices. I do not anticipate there will be any risks or discomfort from your participation in this study. Your participation in the study is voluntary and you may choose to withdraw at any time for any reason. All information you supply during the research will be held in confidence. The interview will be recorded and then transcribed. Upon transcription, I will send you a copy to ensure that it accurately represents our interview. Any comments you have will be taken into account in the analysis. The interviews and transcripts will be stored safely, and I will be the only one who accesses your information. Your data will also be stored on a separate hard drive as a backup. All personally identifiable information, including names, institutional affiliation, or other information that may otherwise identify you will be removed from the final research report. You will be given a pseudonym during the transcription process, and this will be used to identify participants in the final report. Therefore, if the research is made publically available your name will not appear. If you have questions about the research in general or about your role in the study, please feel free to contact me by phone: XXX XXXXXXX or by email: This research has been reviewed and approved by the St. Angela‟s College Ethics Committee in line with The Irish Psychological Society of Ireland code of research ethics. Participant’s Consent: I _____________________________ consent to participate in “To tweet or not to tweet: a qualitative enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter microblogging practices” (working title) conducted by Helen Crump of St. Angela‟s College, Sligo. I have understood the nature of this project and wish to participate. My signature below indicates my consent. Participant‟s name: ________________________________________ Signature: _______________________________________________ Date: ______________ Researcher‟s name: ________________________________________ Signature: ________________________________________________ Date: _____________ 90

Appendix IV – Participant information

Participants’ information Pseudonym Aidan P1 Brendan P2 Erin P3 Conor P4 Declan P5

Professional information Discipline Social Science
No. of years in higher education No. of years current institution

Politics & Social Policy 19 8

Information Technology 23 7

25 9

Film, Photography & Digital Media 12 9

Religious Education 18.5 16.5

Interview information Interview Date Interview Duration 16th Dec 2011 105 mins 09th Jan 2012 57 mins 13th Jan 2012 55 mins 16th Jan 2012 60 mins 23rd Jan 2012 55 mins

Twitter information Twitter Account Use Twitter for personal use Use Twitter for professional use How long on Twitter since Privacy settings No N/A Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No N/A








approx. 1 year only viewable to approved followers post updates on a regular basis

approx. 3 years _

4 years



viewable to the public post updates on a regular basis


Twitter usage





Appendix V – Interview schedule (part A)

1. Personal information:
1.1. Name: ___________________________________________________________

2. Twitter information:
2.1. Do you have a Twitter account? ( ) yes ( ) no

If no, please go to section 3. If yes, please continue with section 2. 2.2. For what purpose(s) do you use Twitter? ( ) for personal use ( ) for professional use ( ) both

2.3. What is the privacy setting of your Twitter account? ( ) viewable to the public ( ) only viewable to approved followers

2.4. How long have you been a registered user of Twitter? __________________________ 2.5. How would you categorise your Twitter use? ( ) post updates on a regular basis ( ) follow others but rarely post

( ) other: please state: _________________________________________________

3. Professional information:
3.1. What is your professional or disciplinary area of specialism? _____________________ 3.2. Number of years employed in current institution of higher education: _______________ 3.3. Number of years employed in higher education altogether: _______________________ 3.4. As part of your current role in higher education, are you engaged in: teaching and learning in the classroom teaching and learning online research activities to promote wider engagement of the institution 92 ( ) yes ( ) yes ( ) yes ( ) yes ( ) no ( ) no ( ) no ( ) no

3.5. Expressed approximately in percentage terms, how is your role divided up? teaching and learning in the classroom________________________________________% teaching and learning online_________________________________________________% research_________________________________________________________________% activities to promote wider engagement of the institution___________________________%


Appendix VI – Interview schedule (part B)

4. Twitter in general
Can you tell me what your thoughts are in general regarding Twitter?  How do you feel about the fact that posts on Twitter are public and anyone on the web can read them?  How do you feel about networking on the web with people that you have not met f2f?

5. Twitter within higher education
It is being suggested that Twitter can be used for the purposes of higher education; can you tell me what you have heard about this and how appropriate you think Twitter is?  It is said that Twitter blurs the boundaries between the institution and the outside world. What are your thoughts on this?  What affect do you think using Twitter has on how people engage with knowledge?  How much would you trust the information posted on Twitter?

6. Twitter as part of a Personal Learning – PLN
PLNs can be thought of as “personal web-based environments that explicitly support one’s professional and learning activities within a network”. Do you consider yourself to have a PLN on Twitter?  Yes: Why did you develop a PLN on Twitter? What value do you gain from it?  No: Why have you not engaged in developing a PLN? Why do you think some lecturers develop a PLN on Twitter?  How do you feel about helping students to develop PLNs of their own and inducting them into a professional community of practice?

7. a. Twitter to support a formal course of study f2f
Show Twitter Experiment Video:

 How do you think using Twitter in this way would affect the role of the lecturer?  How do you think using Twitter in this way would affect the learning?


 It is said that Twitter blurs the boundaries between formal and informal learning and that it is useful for self-directed learning. How appropriate do you think this is in higher education?  What do you think about students using their mobile phones or other personal devices to access a class hashtag on Twitter, both in class and out of class?

7. b. Twitter to support a formal course of study - online
Show Twitter Experiment Video:

 In what ways do you think using Twitter to support an online course might be different?  How do you think using Twitter to support an online course affects the role of the lecturer?  How do you think using Twitter to support an online course affects the learning?  It is said that Twitter blurs the boundaries between formal and informal learning and that it is useful for self-directed learning. How appropriate do you think this is in higher education?  What do you think about students using their mobile phones or other personal devices to access a class hashtag on Twitter? 8. Twitter in relation to digital natives & new digital literacy Today’s students are often referred to as “digital natives” in that they are comfortable with using technology. Some people advocate that education needs to harness this aptitude and enthusiasm and introduce technology such as Twitter into teaching and learning. How do you feel about this?  In what ways do you think Twitter, as a new digital literacy,affects academic study?

 To what extent do you think Twitter, as a new digital literacy, is appropriate for the
professional practice of lecturers?

9. HE and institutional culture
To what extent do you think your institution values, or is suited to, the networked virtual culture found in Twitter, as opposed to the more traditional academic culture?  Generally, in the staff room or at meetings, if the topic of Twitter comes up to what extent would it be discussed favourably/ unfavourably?  How are you encouraged/ discouraged by colleagues and/or management to incorporate Twitter into your practice?


 Within this institutional setting, what do you see as the main obstacles for the adoption of
Twitter practices?

10. Individual practice
Into which aspects of your professional practice might you consider adopting/further adopting Twitter? Why?  Yes: What do you consider are the main reasons to adopt Twitter into your practice? What do you think would be gained with the adoption of Twitter into your practice?  No: What do you consider are the main reasons not to adopt Twitter into your practice? What do you think would be lost if you adopted Twitter into your practice?  Can you tell me if there are any ways that you use/would consider using Twitter for professional purposes that we have not discussed?

11. Final question
 Is there anything else that you want to say about this topic that I have not asked you?  Is there anything else that you want to ask me?


Appendix VII _ Process of data analysis exemplar
Meaning condensation method of data analysis adapted from Hycner‟s guidelines for phenomenological analysis (1985). 1. Transcription. 2. Forward the transcription to the participants to verify accuracy. 3. Undertake phenomenological reduction (suspension of any premature judgement and theoretical constraints by researcher so as to be as true to the phenomenon as possible). 4. Listen to each interview to gain a holistic sense. 5. Delineate units of relevant meaning and eliminate units of irrelevant meaning. INT = interviewer (researcher) = unit of relevant meaning P2 = participant 2 = unit of irrelevant meaning

INT: That makes me move on. Why did you develop a PLN on Twitter and what value do you gain from it? P2: I developed it because I don't think my students read enough in general I suppose it was also about sharing stuff that I read in an accessible way and I suppose maybe I was scared that by not doing this I would disadvantage my students because I am aware of what is happening elsewhere and I just felt that I would be short changing them if I did not engage with the new social media you know I think they benefit as well now when we deal with this little issue with the blurring of the boundaries that we discussed earlier I think it will become a full learning network as in my learning will be enhanced as well right because at the moment I am not following them for the reasons I articulated earlier at the beginning ideally I would like to start following them but within that xxxxx xxxxx policy studies specific learning network so there is a little grey area for me at the moment I recognise that to become a true fully fledged functioning network I have to… it has to become reciprocal and I have to start hearing what they've got to say where their research is leading them what sort of links that they can bring to my attention INT: OK so that really is my next question. How do you feel about helping students to develop PLNs of their own and inducting them into a professional community of practice? P2: I think that it's absolutely essential in the last semester I taught maybe 200 students and one group in particular were very had issues around IT literacy let‟s put it that way and part of me I wanted to address that because nobody else was and I was one of the only lectures they had that was even 97

using Moodle and I really really encouraged them to set up Twitter accounts from the very outset and I know that only around 30% of them did even though I said look this is a prerequisite of learning this module Here's how you do it ddd yet only 30% of them signed up to follow me and of that I would say nearly 80% never once tweeted themselves and that's frightening now of other 20% who do actively tweet themselves I know for a fact from talking to them because I have followed it through that they are absolutely delighted with it they love it quite a few of them said that it really enhanced their learning for all the reasons we discussed earlier about the possibility of you know reducing your world view to your own preferences it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed and one group in particular ended up interviewing the Minister for xxxxxxxx husband who happens to be a professor of psychology child psychology and he gave them his mobile phone number landline number all through Twitter to contact him so they just found it all in emancipating

6. Number list of delineated units of relevant meaning. 61. I developed it because I don't think my students read enough in general 62. it was also about sharing stuff that I read in an accessible way 63. and I suppose maybe I was scared that by not doing this I would disadvantage my students because I am aware of what is happening elsewhere and I just felt that I would be short changing them if I did not engage with the new social media 64. you know I think they benefit as well 65. now when we deal with this little issue with the blurring of the boundaries that we discussed earlier I think it will become a full learning network as in my learning will be enhanced as well 66. so there is a little grey area for me at the moment [blurring prof/personal] 67. I recognise that to become a true fully fledged functioning network I have to… it has to become reciprocal and I have to start hearing what they've got to say where their research is leading them what sort of links that they can bring to my attention 68. I think that it's absolutely essential 69. [last semester] I really really encouraged them to set up Twitter accounts


70. I know that only around 30% of them did even though I said look this is a prerequisite of learning this module… yet only 30% of them signed up to follow me and of that I would say nearly 80% never once tweeted themselves and that's frightening 71. now of other 20% who do actively tweet themselves I know for a fact from talking to them because I have followed it through that they are absolutely delighted with it they love it quite a few of them said that it really enhanced their learning for all the reasons we discussed earlier about the possibility of you know reducing your world view to your own preferences it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed 71a. it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed 72. one group in particular ended up interviewing the Minister for xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx husband who happens to be a professor of psychology child psychology and he gave them his mobile phone number landline number all through Twitter to contact him so they just found it all in emancipating

7. Cluster units of relevant meaning in relation to the concept questions of the enquiry. 8. Determine disposition within each cluster (positive/ negative or non-aligned) and determine any themes therein. PLN with the students – Positive Aspects [in general] 8. and then I began to realise about its teaching and learning pedagogical properties that you know I could actually have an instantaneous communication space with my students 65. now when we deal with this little issue with the blurring of the boundaries that we discussed earlier I think it will become a full learning network as in my learning will be enhanced as well 67. I recognise that to become a true fully fledged functioning network I have to… it has to become reciprocal and I have to start hearing what they've got to say where their research is leading them what sort of links that they can bring to my attention


75. so yes they have used it as learning networks but I think that there's an awful lot more that can be done with it from the student perspective [student engagement] 71. now of other 20% who do actively tweet themselves I know for a fact from talking to them because I have followed it through that they are absolutely delighted with it they love it quite a few of them said that it really enhanced their learning for all the reasons we discussed earlier about the possibility of you know reducing your world view to your own preferences it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed 72. one group in particular ended up interviewing the Minister for xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx husband who happens to be a professor of psychology child psychology and he gave them his mobile phone number landline number all through Twitter to contact him so they just found it all in emancipating [blurring of the boundaries – institution/outside world] 71a. it actually was very beneficial because it streamlined the information they wanted and it brought them into contact with people directly in ways in which they never would have accessed 72. one group in particular ended up interviewing the Minister for xxxxxxxx xxxxxxxx husband who happens to be a professor of psychology child psychology and he gave them his mobile phone number landline number all through Twitter to contact him so they just found it all in emancipating PLN with the students – Negative Aspects [student engagement] 70. I know that only around 30% of them did even though I said look this is a prerequisite of learning this module… yet only 30% of them signed up to follow me and of that I would say nearly 80% never once tweeted themselves and that's frightening 73. why did they refuse in the main to really engage with this and they are all 20 something


PLN in General – Non-aligned aspects [blurring of boundaries – institution/outside world] 39. Yes I can see that can happen [blurs boundaries institution/outside world] [narrowing of access to variety of information/information sources] 48a. but it may also have another profoundly interesting outcome in that it just reinforces our own predilections our own interests our own bias and our own prejudices you know I read the Guardian I read the Irish Times because it reinforces my worldview and hence I follow X Y and Z because it does the same thing and the same cyberspace sort of implication for my own social construction that‟s why am I attracted to following certain people and reading certain tweets because it reinforces how I feel about myself 49. I‟d be worried about that you could engage in a much greater narrowing of one‟s own information access 50. because you are following basically corralling your information sources 51. I'm not suggesting that that is necessarily wrong or problematical I believe it has all the possibility of becoming something that negates our wider consumption of disparate knowledge 53. you've got to be aware in the back of your mind this could be where a totalitarian a very narrow monopoly of opinion

9. Summarise each individual interview. 10. Forward the summary and the document determining disposition relevant to the concept questions of the enquiry for the participants to verify accuracy.


Appendix VIII – Student endorsement
In part-clarification of meaning of the interview, participant 3 submitted the following quote from a student: P3: For the sake of completeness, what I was referring to here was the advantage of continuing communication and sharing with students throughout the week, i.e. not limiting our contact to only one/two hours per week. The students enjoy this as well... here is a comment from one of my students (contributed on Google+): If a student is working on an assignment and they don‟t understand something, who better to ask then to ask the lecturer who set the assignment! Twitter allows this question to be posted instantly, the lecturer or indeed another student would be very prompt in their response. Twitter allows lecturers to instantly share their ideas or websites or posts that they have just discovered themselves with students, instead of having to wait until the next lecture. It can also allow people who are not in the class to engage in the classroom discussion, possibly including sources they know about or their opinion on a topic. Twitter lets the classroom open up and engage to a world full of people with experience and knowledge.


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