This study draws on the responses of seven higher education professionals working in various teaching and teaching support roles in higher education. Individual case studies illustrated participants’ use of Twitter for professional learning. Cross-case analysis was used to highlight similarities and differences among cases. Application of the Visitor and Resident typology (White & Le Cornu, 2011) to the cases highlighted a spectrum of participation on Twitter (O’Keeffe, 2016).
Findings demonstrated that activities of participants on Twitter were beneficial for professional knowledge and practices. However despite advocating social learning, some participants did not use Twitter for social networking. A number of inhibiting factors regarding their use of Twitter were revealed. Participants, considered Visitors (White & Le Cornu, 2011) chose not to engage or pursue conversations on Twitter, thus preventing networking with other professional tweeters. On the other hand, Resident participants, engaged in social conversations, voiced opinions on academic matters and used Twitter to provoke and prompt responses about various academic topics.
This study uncovered diverse modes of participation on Twitter while uncovering reasons for these modes of participation, thus presenting new contributions to the emerging literature base in this area. Although all participants of this study advocated the use of Twitter for professional learning, the data showed that participants did not use Twitter the same way. Different approaches were taken, with some participants choosing a passive approach, following other tweeters and reading information, while other participants engaged more readily in social networking activities on Twitter. Consequently this study calls into question the widely accepted notion that Twitter inherently enables social learning and thus enables professional learning (Hart, 2015).
Wenger (1998) proposes that learning occurs in relationships between people and that mutually negotiated activities contribute to identity construction. However, in this study, Visitor participants peripherally participated on Twitter choosing not to establish presence and network with other professionals, thus participants excluded themselves from Twitter activities and discussions “creating an identity of non- participation that progressively marginalised them” (Wenger, 1998, p. 203). This presentation will highlight the political, affective and social barriers that prevented social presence and participation in open online spaces such as Twitter thus raising questions about the inclusive and truly social nature of public online spaces.
Hart, J. (2015). Twitter for Learning: The Past, Present and Future. Retrieved from Learning in the Social Workplace: http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/blog/2015/03/31/twitter-for-learning-the- past- present-and-future/
O’ Keeffe, M. (2016) Exploring higher education professionals’ use of Twitter for learning. Irish Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning. 2(1). http://journal.ilta.ie/index.php/telji/article/view/11/20
Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
White, D., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9). http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3171/3049