Teachers are stretching Twitter’s reach to more than just 140 character quips according to a new study by The iSchool at Drexel University researchers. The study, entitled “Grassroots Professional Development: How Teachers Use Twitter” suggests that teachers are molding Twitter from its common perception as a social medium for sharing personal information and observations, to a conduit for disseminating educational resources and connecting with distant colleagues.
The research notes that while 80 percent of Twitter users are “meformers,” people who include personal information and status updates in their tweets, only 2.5 percent of teachers’ tweets contain personal information. By contrast, educators tend to use Twitter to connect with distant colleagues and share and discover new ideas and teaching resources, according to the study.
Dr. Andrea Forte,
assistant professor in The iSchool at Drexel, undergraduate Melissa Humphreys and Ph.D. student Thomas Park conducted the research using data collected from a web-based survey, telephone interviews and content analysis of 2,000 tweets from teachers and education-related hashtags.
“Often people think of social media like Twitter in one of two ways,” Forte said. “Either it’s mundane -a place to broadcast what you ate for breakfast, or revolutionary -a place to coordinate overthrowing your government. Actually, many people are using these media in really important everyday ways. Like sharing information that helps them do their jobs better. It’s likely that other groups of professionals are using these tools in precisely the same ways.”
The study’s data also indicate that the vast majority of people followed by teachers on Twitter are distant teachers, rather than local teachers, students, or parents. Teachers interviewed in the study also indicated that they see social media as an important tool for learning and will take the next step by teaching their students how to effectively use social media.
Forte has been an assistant professor at The iSchool since 2010. Her research focuses on how people adapt to and use new technologies, including social media. She will present the research at the International Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence’s Conference on Weblogs and Social Media at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland in early June.