Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Twitter Will Revolutionise Academic Research and Teaching

Monday 12 September 2011

Social media is becoming increasingly important in teaching and research work but tutors must remember, it's a conversation not a lecture, says Ernesto Priego

In chapter two of Christian Vandendorpe's From Papyrus to Hypertext titled: In the beginning was the ear, Vandendorpe says it took millenia "for literature to free itself from primary orality, albeit not completely". In the beginning all reading was done out loud, and it was not until the 12th century that books were created for silent reading. Orthographic signs and the separation between words had appeared around the 7th century, but did not become common until the 9th century amongst the learned communities of monks. Walter J Ong, in his classic study of writing and orality, Orality and Literacy defines as the "technologizing of the word" the process of developing a new relationship between language and thought.

Something similar is happening today in academia. Just like Augustine marveled, in the year 400, at the sight of Ambrose reading in silence, many members of academia marvel (or react with rejection) at the rapid changes in the production and dissemination of scholarly work and interaction between academics and those "outside" academic institutions. Thousands of scholars and higher education institutions are participating in social media (such as Twitter), as an important aspect of their research and teaching work.

There is still considerable resistance to embracing social media tools for educational purposes, but if you are reading this article you are probably willing to consider their positive effects. [snip].

Mobile phones and tablets enable the user in producing content, and to publish and disseminate it online. The microblogging platform Twitter is purposefully designed to exchange information and to facilitate reciprocal communication and attribution, [snip].

This is the key question where "the ear", our ability to listen and to place ourselves in a particular context at a particular time, comes to the fore. In traditional scholarly communications, academics produced a document ... . [snip]. Today, more and more academics are creating content and posting it online. [snip]. Therefore, the 21st century scholar has the tools not only to publish and disseminate, but also to facilitate the development of specialised audiences, and therefore of what is called "impact": people read, and in turn write about your work, which is in turn read by others.


"It's a conversation, not a lecture," is a well-known trope that is useful to remember in the scholarly web. This does not mean we should spend every waking hour chatting to strangers on social networks; it means that social media is not a uni-directional broadcasting tool. Those who "follow" us online are likely to be our students, colleagues, employers. They are not a passive audience.


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