I am in the happy, if somewhat unusual, position of enjoying an assignment that we have been given, as an element of the Technical Communication and e-Learning masters programme at the University of Limerick. It’s not that I don’t ordinarily relish the opportunity to experience new challenges, heaven forfend, I am merely pleased that this e-tivity, as it is billed, is in an area of particular interest for me.
We have been tasked with using Twitter to keep abreast of current pedagogical trends. By creating new Twitter accounts and using the hashtag el6052, we are able to follow posts and accounts of interest as well as to add to the discussions ourselves.
As an avid user of Twitter already, I am delighted to put a personal passion to an academically practical use. Social media, and, in my opinion, Twitter in particular, provides the learner with the perfect blended learning environment in which to engage in self directed and collaborative learning experiences. Baird and Fisher, in their paper in the Journal of Educational Technology Systems, contrast pedagogy, whereby learners experience is predicated upon the direction taken by the teacher, with andragogy, whereby learning occurs independently, and with the full encouragement of the teacher. Social media mediated learning is an example of an emerging digital andragogy which espouses learning through experience and practical interaction.
140 characters means that Twitter posts are necessarily brief, however, the interested learner can follow attached media and twitter hashtags to further investigate a subject. An advantage of this format is the proven preference,by web users, for brevity, with 79% of web users, polled by Nielsen and Morkes, scanning web content and only 16% actually taking the time to read it. It was twitter’s brevity that fascinated me to begin with. It never ceases to amaze me how some twitter users can post engaging and insightful content with only 140 character’s and for others this just the right number of characters to pop their foot firmly in their mouths (Kanye West is case in point!).
I have become such a devotee of the Twitter platform that it has inspired the topic of my masters thesis. I began with the notion that I would research how technical writers and information developers write for the internet. How does their writing and content compare to that of the automated content generators and how do they compete, in terms of search engine optimisation, for prime web real estate? Having researched this area, I became interested in Google and Twitter’s agreement, whereby Google gives prominence to content that is trending on Twitter, rather than merely focussing on content optimised for Google’s search engine. This represents a new opportunity/challenge for businesses to socialise their content via twitter and remain actively engaged in the discussion that ensures. I am now more interested in researching how this affects the writer/content developer whose role it is to leverage this agreement to ensure that their content is discoverable.
That’s the plan. If there are any among you with a particular interest or expertise in this area, I would be delighted to hear from you (and surreptitiously pick your brains 8-)).
Till the next time, stay tuned!