Good CoP, Bad Cop? Twitter for Communities of Practice

Below is an abstract that has been submitted by Dr Bex Lewis and Dr David Rush for the Fifth International Learning Conference 2010, University of Hertfordshire. We won’t know until 22nd February whether we’ve been accepted or not, but I find even the process of thinking where we’re going fascinating.

“In developing both inter- and intra- communities of practice there is a range of recently developed social media tools that are candidates to be used as the means of facilitating communication. One of these is Twitter, one of the largest social media platforms. Despite an average user age of 25-54, it has a growing number of younger users and, with rising Smartphone ownership, increasing functionality.

Twitter has provided new means of communication with students for purposes such as polling, question setting and passing administrative information.  But as yet these have been peripheral activities in course delivery. Difficulties encountered include not all students wanting to use Twitter or seeing Twitter as an adjunct to their social life, rather than a part of formal education, and an association with a culture of celebrity.

Blended Learning enthusiasts face two related tasks in developing communities of practice.  Internally they must support and encourage academics from across the institution, in many disciplines, requiring multiple approaches to e-learning.  Externally they need to connect with blended learning enthusiasts in other institutions.

One of Twitter’s key capabilities is relationship building, and we have started our use of Twitter concentrating on building external links.  The presentation will report on how this can be done and give ways of estimating the effectiveness of Twitter in the HE context.  Topics to be addressed include building an academic identity, developing a research network, the nature of tweets and use of crowdsourcing.

Results from a later development to introduce Twitter to enhance an existing internal community of practice  will also be discussed.  This experience shows what Twitter has to offer alongside other social media.  It also facilitates the identification of additional capabilities of communication tools such as Twitter that might be added to increase their utility in HE.”

6 Keywords: Twitter, Communities of Practice, Informal Learning, Social Media, Communication, Interdisciplinary

Conference Theme

The importance of developing a community to support learning is a well established idea. The virtual and physical learning spaces we build, as well as the ways in which we engage our students, are increasingly being influenced by our desire to create and support a learning community. The Fifth International Blended Learning Conference aims to explore the notion of community in its variety of forms. You are invited to submit proposals / abstracts relating to community. Suggested themes include:

  • Developing blended learning communities to support and enhance different aspects of the curriculum, e.g. employability, internationalisation, lifelong learning, learning that lasts, research informed teaching, student support and pastoral care, study skills and personal development, the student experience and the student voice
  • Developing a community of blended learning practitioners
  • Extending the blended learning community Within and across disciplinary groups For pre-university entrants With Alumni
  • Theoretical perspectives on blended learning communities

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