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1 Microblogs

Steven Moores, Memorial University of Newfoundland

2 Definitions and background

In 2007, a new form of blogging was introduced, known as microblogging (Ebner, Lienhardt, Rohs, & Meyer, 2010). It is an online blogging tool that allows a short statement to be published on the user’s profile page (Kieslinger, Ebner, & Wiesenhofer, 2011). Users are able to connect with people in a world-wide network (Luo & Gao, 2012). Microblogs are available to be written or viewed through web interfaces, mobile phones with special applications, short message service (SMS) or even instant messaging tools (Ebner et al., 2010). The short updates or posts made by contributors appear on a website in reverse chronological order (Pauschenwein & Sfiri, 2010). Ebner et al. observed 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. 92).

There are a variety of microblogging platforms, including Tumblr, Jaiku, Qaiku, and Yammer, which afford individuals with communication and information-sharing features (Luo & Gao, 2012; Thoms, 2012). Twitter, designed in 2006, is the most popular of these platforms; the only requirement for setting up a free account is a valid e-mail address (Johnson, 2011; Junco, Elavsky, & Heiberger, 2013; Luo & Gao, 2012; Thoms, 2012). Twitter posts, called tweets, are directly visible to a user’s followers (Lewis & Rush, 2013). Though not designed for building communities, the #hashtag and @ symbol have allowed for the creation of online networks and communities (Lewis & Rush, 2013).

3 Affordances

Microblogging offers a direct communication channel between presenter and audience through which students can express their ideas, opinions, and research (Gerstein, 2011; Hsu & Ching, 2012). A communication tool such as Twitter, by providing an outlet to all students, encourages participation from those who otherwise may not actively participate in class (Andrade, Castro, & Ferreria, 2012; Gao, Luo, & Zhang, 2012). Microblogging provides the opportunity for student engagement, as students relate to the subject matter in a manner which they do not find embarrassing (Brescia & Miller, 2007). As well, Junco et al., in a 2013 study, found that when students were given the choice of using Twitter, those who chose to use it achieved higher grades than those students who did not.

Microblogging encourages immediate participation from the audience to “ask questions, have discussions and share resources” (Gao et al., 2012, p. 789). Microblogging allows users to be virtually present and involved in a community without time and space restrictions (Ebner et al., 2010). Since Twitter is accessible via mobile phones, tweets can be sent as soon as the thought occurs (Wright, 2010). The integration of Twitter creates multidirectional communication which significantly increases the interaction among students and between teacher and student (Andrade et al., 2012; Chen & Chen, 2012). As a form of computer-mediated communication, microblogging allows more frequent student-teacher interaction outside of the classroom (Johnson, 2011). It has the potential to link in-school and out-of-school literacies by extending beyond prescribed class times and increasing time on task (Gao et al., 2012; Hutchison & Wang 2012).

Microblogging also allows students to connect with professionals in a larger community (Lewis & Rush, 2013; Thoms, 2012). By communication with members and groups, students can create personal learning environments (Holotescu & Grosseck, 2011). Microblogging promotes deliberate conversational learning (Wright, 2010). Because of its personal nature, students are able to reflect on what they are learning, and share personal views and opinions (Brescia & Miller, 2007; Holotescu & Grosseck, 2011). These personal views and opinions may be expanded with the ability to share pictures and attach links, thereby allaying the character restrictions and developing a productive learning experience (Johnson, 2011; Lewis & Rush, 2013).

Microblogging, because of its asynchronous nature, encourages learning beyond the classroom (Hutchison & Wang, 2012). Microblogging consistently enhances social presence, builds a strong learning community and largely reduces the sense of isolation among student groups (Gao et al., 2012). By allowing continuous and transparent communication between students and teachers, microblogging encourages process-oriented learning (Ebner et al., 2010). The use of microblogging, by allowing students to be part of someone else’s process through reading, commenting, and discussion, builds informal learning (Badge, Johnson, Moseley, & Cann, 2011). Informal communication through microblogging can engender peer support, collaboration and innovation (Badge et al., 2011).

4 Constraints

Microblogging allows users to publish updates of usually no more than 140-characters (Kieslinger et al., 2011). This 140-character limit communication feature poses a challenge to learners because it requires the ability to express oneself succinctly (Thoms, 2012; Wright, 2010). It does not allow for expression of complex thoughts (Ebner et al., 2010). The character limit may also pose a restriction for certain activities, especially those which demand deeper reflection or complexity (Gao et al., 2012). Some students may be unable to make and support a well-developed argument in one post (Hsu & Ching, 2012). If students engage in conversations with their peers, they also need to include a @username or #hashtag so tweets can be directed, which further reduces the content posting quota because the keyword counts toward the character limit per tweet on Twitter (Hsu & Ching, 2012). Also, a focus on private conversation may leave students with the inability to distinguish between educational and private use (Ebner et al., 2010).

Secondly, there seems to be weak relationships developed between tweeting and learning and tweeting and social interaction (Thoms, 2012). The lack of physical contact in online education can create the feeling of being alone (Pauschenwein & Sfiri, 2010). This disconnect is especially true when students send a post, not knowing whether anyone will respond, or even read it (Ebner et al., 2010). Twitter cannot always facilitate understanding or showcase comprehension (Thoms, 2012). Tweets are sometimes too short-lived to create any meaningful reflection and an overload of Tweets can create distraction (Guo, Zhang, Zhai, 2011; Luo & Gao, 2012). When discussing multiple topics the tweets may be disorganized and hard to follow (Luo & Gao, 2012). In addition, some students may feel it does not benefit them to read posts with less useful information (Guo et al., 2011). Use of microblogging, while not intended to replace personal contact, at times may also reduce the actual oral contributions from students during class time, as they prefer the online method of communication (Badge et al., 2011; Elavsky, Mislan, & Elavsky, 2011). As well, the majority of students remain “lurkers” (Gao et al., 2012). The online posts do not account for these “lurkers” who are clearly aware of the microblogging, but do not actively contribute to it (Elavsky et al., 2011). Therefore, specifications for evaluating students’ participation in microblogging need to be developed, and microblogs should be paired with other collaborative technologies (Gao et al., 2012).

Finally, for various reasons, not all students have access to a mobile device, therefore making it difficult for all students to participate in microblogging activities (Elavsky et al., 2011; Hsu & Ching, 2012). In this situation, alternate student activities would have to be implemented to ensure equal opportunity (Hsu & Ching, 2012).

5 Links

Effective Ways to Use Twitter in the classroom

Microblogging for Learning (12:30 video)

Twitter in Plain English (2:25 video)

Twitter for Teachers (4:31 video)

Using Microblogging Platforms for Educational Purposes

6 Works Cited

Andrade, A., Castro, C., & Ferreria, S. A. (2012). Cognitive communication 2.0 in higher education: To tweet or not to tweet? The Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(3), 293-305. Retrieved from: http://www.eric.ed.gov/PDFS/EJ985431.pdf

Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A., & Cann, A. (2011). Observing emerging student networks on a microblogging service. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 7(1). Retrieved from: http://jolt.merlot.org/vol7no1/cann_0311.htm

Brescia, W., & Miller, M. (2007). What’s it worth? The perceived benefits of instructional blogging. Electronic Journal for the Integration of Technology in Education, 5(5), 44-52. Retrieved from: http://ejite.isu.edu/Volume5/Brescia.pdf

Chen, L., & Chen, T. (2012). Use of Twitter for formative evaluation: Reflections on trainer and trainees’ experiences. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(2), E49-E52. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01251.x

Ebner, M., Lienhardt, C., Rohs, M., & Meyer, I. (2010). Microblogs in higher education: A chance to facilitate informal and process-oriented learning? Computers & Education, 55, 92-100. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2009.12.006

Elavsky, C. M., Mislan, C., & Elavsky, S. (2011). When talking less is more: Exploring outcomes of Twitter usage in the large-lecture hall. Learning, Media, and Technology, 36(3), 215-233. doi:10.1080/17439884.2010.549828

Gao, F., Luo, T., & Zhang, K. (2012). Tweeting for learning: A critical analysis of research on microblogging in education published in 2008-2011. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43(5), 783-801. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01357.x

Gerstein, J. (2011). The use of Twitter for professional growth and development. International Journal on E-Learning, 10(3), 273-276. Retrieved from: http://www.editlib.org/p/33110/

Guo, S., Zhang, G., & Zhai, R. (2011). Integrating readability index into Twitter search engine. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), E103-E105. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01206.x

Holotescu, C., & Grosseck, G. (2011). M3-learning - Exploring mobile multimedia microblogging learning. World Journal on Educational Technology, 4(1), 168-176. Retrieved from: http://www.world-education-center.org/index.php/wjet/article/view/248/pdf_67

Hsu, Y., & Ching, Y. (2012). Mobile microblogging: Using twitter and mobile devices in an online course to promote learning in authentic contexts. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(4), 211-227. Retrieved from: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1222/2313

Hutchison, A., & Wang, W. (2012). Blogging within a social networking site as a form of literature response in a teacher education course. Educational Media International, 49(4), 263-275. doi:10.1080/09523987.2012.741197

Johnson, K. (2011). The effect of Twitter posts on students’ perceptions of instructor credibility. Learning, Media, and Technology, 6(4), 21-38. Retrieved from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/17439884.2010.534798

Junco, R., Elavsky, M., & Heilberger, G. (2013). Putting Twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success. British Journal of Educational Technology, 44(2), 273-287. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01284.x

Kieslinger, B., Ebner, M., & Wiesenhofer, H. (2011). Microblogging practices of scientists in E-Learning: A qualitative approach. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 6(4), 31-39. Retrieved from: http://www.scribd.com/doc/75652869/Microblogging-Practices-of-Scientists-in-e-Learning-A-Qualitative-Approach

Lewis, B., & Rush, D. (2013). Experience of developing Twitter-based communities of practice in higher education. Research in Learning Technology, 21, 1-12. Retrieved from: http://www.researchinlearningtechnology.net/index.php/rlt/article/view/18598

Luo, T., & Gao, F. (2012). Enhancing classroom learning experience by providing structures to microblogging-based activities. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 11, 199-211. Retrieved from: http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol11/JITEv11IIPp199-211Luo1127.pdf

Pauschenwein, J., & Sfiri, A. (2010). Adult learner’s motivation for the use of micro-blogging during online training courses. International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning, 5(1), 22-25. doi:10.3991/ijet.v5i1.1041

Thoms, B. (2012). Student perceptions of microblogging: Integrating Twitter with blogging to support learning and interaction. Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice, 11, 179-197. Retrieved from: http://www.jite.org/documents/Vol11/JITEv11IIPp179-197Thoms1109.pdf

Wright, N. (2010). Twittering in education: Reflecting on practicum experiences. Open Learning, 25(3), 259-265. doi:10.1080/02680513.2010.512102