St. Angela’s College, Sligo
Masters in Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change
Module 4:
Dissertation Title:
To tweet ...
i
Contents
Abstract .........................................................................................................
ii
Research strategy – descriptive phenomenology.....................................................31
Research methods ....
iii
Chapter 6: Issues and implications of findings ............................................................67
Disrupti...
1
Abstract
This phenomenological enquiry into lecturers’ disposition towards the adoption of the
disruptive Web 2.0 techno...
2
smartphones; consequently, it is beginning to attract serious attention amongst some
educators.
Regarded as a disruptive...
3
Twitter). Considering the advance of “digital society” with trends towards networked
communities, distributed and collab...
4
Literacy Studies this enquiry expounds that literacy practices are not merely incidental as
they embed ideologies and wa...
5
Enquiry methods
To ascertain the scope to which Twitter practices may be deployed within higher
education, a literature ...
6
higher education with any recognisable behaviours or interactions being accounted for by
culturally given dispositions a...
7
Technology, change and higher education
Before considering the application and implications of Twitter, it is first nece...
8
Technology is seen as a key driver that can help execute the purposes of higher
education (teaching and learning, resear...
9
Learning 2.0 paradigm the focus moves away from content to place the student at the centre
of the learning experience (A...
10
Web 2.0
Web 2.0 is an umbrella term for internet applications such as social networking,
wikis, weblogs, microblogs, vi...
11
and accepts the definition that social networks are “comprised of various independent actors
who develop relatively loo...
12
are made public to anyone using the web, however they can be restricted to certain
individuals if preferred (Costa et a...
13
Thompson (2007) acknowledges, the value of microblogging is the cumulative effect of ideas
and resources shared between...
14
consideration now turns to the range of applications to which Twitter might feasibly be
applied within higher education...
15
communicate and collaborate in order to build and share knowledge (within the literature “P”
in PLN is used to signify ...
16
applications are conducive to knowledge creation and community participation, allowing
learners to access peers, expert...
17
time-sensitive communication between students and faculty, and vice versa (Dunlap and
Lowenthal, 2009). Students can re...
18
where to find knowledge when it is needed which, is an appendage to the commonly held
understanding of “know-how" and "...
19
with fluidity and uncertainty. This corresponds with Professor Rankin’s (2009) sentiments
when she says, “it’s going to ...
20
participation in the process. This is in marked contrast to Web 2.0 practices, which essentially
remove all barriers to...
21
lecturers make their choices and determine any possibilities for adoption, literature review
now turns to the matter of...
22
proclivities towards Twitter together with wider cultural considerations and the particular
culture found in their inst...
23
legitimisation of knowledge (Delanty, 2001a; 2001b). Consequently, what constitutes
legitimate practices in the matter ...
24
Although each institution will have its own unique culture, variously comprised of the
six cultures identified in Bergq...
25
and allows us to talk in terms of the reciprocal shaping of publics, practices, identities and
technical affordances ra...
26
Lea (2011) explains that literacy practices invoke different meanings for the different
people involved; literacy pract...
27
enthusiasm for Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter could be harnessed and the practices
that they enable be used for e...
28
may be deployed and, within the context of their practice in higher education, how
appropriate this is considered to be...
29
 How would the adoption of Twitter affect the role of the lecturer?
 How would the adoption of Twitter affect teachin...
30
contributes to determining the research strategy and allows the researcher to identify their
role in the process.
Consi...
31
Creswell (1998) upholds that enquiry is a prominent aspect of effective qualitative
research, which according to Denzin...
32
phenomenological tradition is divergent upon how this should be conducted, most notably
regarding the subjectivity of t...
33
Husserlian approach. However, it must be disclosed that the researcher has recently begun to
use Twitter, investigating...
34
A consequence of the congruence between qualitative research and purposive
sampling is that there are no definitive rul...
35
emphasises that “ethical issues saturate all stages of the research process” (2005, p. 277).
This enquiry takes account...
36
A semi-structured interview permits that the exact questions asked to each participant
may vary depending on their part...
37
focus too heavily on specific methodological steps. It is thought that doing so may lead to the
reification of a proces...
38
Validity and reliability
Validity means that research methods must collect or measure what they purport to
collect or m...
39
“credibility”, “dependability”, “confirmability” and “transferability”. Consequently, the
enquiry has sought to establi...
40
estimating the representativeness of the sample or their expertise regarding the information
needed" (p. 114).
Chapter ...
41
problem” as it raises concerns pertaining to online safety and matters of quality. Compared to
previous forms of open u...
42
He continues, “I think it has fantastic potential but like all the technologies in the modern
world it doesn't come out...
43
He also talks about the importance of the relationship between the lecturer and the student,
stressing the authority of...
44
considered in terms of blended learning. Still, he upholds that the main problem with Twitter,
from a teaching and lear...
45
until it became technology, the word twitter was used in an incredibly
pejorative sense about a form of communication; ...
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers
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To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers

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 “To tweet or not to tweet?”, takes a New Literacy Studies perspective to 
position  the  use  of  Twitter  as  a  social  practice  and  enquire  into  the  disposition  of  Higher Education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices. 

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To tweet or not to tweet. a phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers

  1. 1. St. Angela’s College, Sligo Masters in Technology, Learning, Innovation and Change Module 4: Dissertation Title: To tweet or not to tweet? A phenomenological enquiry into the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices. Student’s Name: Helen Crump Accredited by the National University of Ireland, Galway June 2012 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
  2. 2. i Contents Abstract ..........................................................................................................................1 Chapter 1: Introduction..................................................................................................1 Twitter and higher education .....................................................................................1 Relevance and significance........................................................................................2 Objectives and conceptual framework .......................................................................3 Enquiry methods ........................................................................................................5 Notes on terminology.................................................................................................5 Chapter 2: Literature review ..........................................................................................6 Technology, change and higher education.................................................................7 Attributes of Twitter...................................................................................................9 Application of Twitter..............................................................................................14 Implications of Twitter.............................................................................................17 Disposition to adopt Twitter – the lecturer and the context.....................................20 Lecturers’ philosophies........................................................................................22 Contextual factors ................................................................................................22 Twitter as an appropriate literacy practice for higher education .............................24 Key findings of literature review .............................................................................27 Grounds for enquiry – research questions ...............................................................28 Chapter 3: Methodology ..............................................................................................29 Research framework – interpretivist and qualitative ...............................................29
  3. 3. ii Research strategy – descriptive phenomenology.....................................................31 Research methods ....................................................................................................33 Sample population................................................................................................33 Recruiting participants .........................................................................................34 Ethical considerations ..........................................................................................34 Data collection .....................................................................................................35 Piloting.................................................................................................................36 Data analysis ........................................................................................................36 Validity and reliability .........................................................................................38 Limitations of the enquiry....................................................................................39 Chapter 4: Presentation of findings..............................................................................40 Aidan - social science ..............................................................................................40 Declan - religious education ....................................................................................44 Conor - film, photography and digital media...........................................................47 Erin – information technology.................................................................................50 Brendan - politics and social policy.........................................................................54 Chapter 5: Discussion of findings................................................................................58 The lecturer – proclivities, philosophies and practice..............................................59 The context - appropriateness, negotiation and validation ......................................64 Possibilities for action..........................................................................................66 Overall findings........................................................................................................67
  4. 4. iii Chapter 6: Issues and implications of findings ............................................................67 Disruption to practice – a new value proposition ....................................................68 Disposition as action or positioning.........................................................................69 How Twitter is entering higher education................................................................70 References....................................................................................................................71 Acronyms.....................................................................................................................84 Glossary .......................................................................................................................84 Appendices...................................................................................................................88 Appendix I – Researcher’s prior assumptions .........................................................88 Appendix II – Recruitment email.............................................................................89 Appendix III – Participant consent ..........................................................................90 Appendix IV – Participant information ...................................................................91 Appendix V – Interview schedule (part A)..............................................................92 Appendix VI – Interview schedule (part B).............................................................94 Appendix VII _ Process of data analysis exemplar .................................................97 Appendix VIII – Student endorsement ..................................................................102
  5. 5. 1 Abstract This phenomenological enquiry into lecturers’ disposition towards the adoption of the disruptive Web 2.0 technology Twitter comprises in-depth interviews with five lecturers in Irish higher education. The enquiry views Twitter as a digital literacy practice and takes a New Literacy Studies perspective to position Twitter as a social practice. Disposition is considered in terms of Bourdieu’s contextual disposition. The enquiry reveals the disruptive affects to long-standing knowledge-making practices and analysis of data, by a phenomenological condensation of meaning method, reveals a range of dispositions amongst the research sample lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter. Analysis suggests that the research sample lecturers are disposed towards its adoption if it affords congruence with the purpose of their practice and the values and beliefs upon which this is based, as well as with their personal beliefs and values too. Nonetheless, as a social practice, the adoption of Twitter does not go undisputed. Keywords: Twitter, Web 2.0, disruptive technology, innovation, change, digital, literacy, New Literacy Studies, disposition, Bourdieu, habitus Chapter 1: Introduction Twitter and higher education Facilitated by the advent of Web 2.0 technologies (O’Reilly, 2005), the popular embrace of a participatory and networked web would appear to offer exciting opportunities for lecturers to adopt new practices and harness its potential for the purposes of higher education. Twitter is an expression of Web 2.0 that combines microblogging with social networking and is accessible via multiple technological platforms, most notably via mobile
  6. 6. 2 smartphones; consequently, it is beginning to attract serious attention amongst some educators. Regarded as a disruptive Web 2.0 technology (Bower and Christensen, 1995; Meyer, 2010), Twitter is changing the way in which higher education is able to access content and interact with knowledge, and as such presents unique challenges to an institution that is commonly perceived as slow to change (Marshall, 2010); it is widely held that many educators resist technological innovations (Baggley, 2010). To date, simply introducing new technologies into educational establishments has proved largely insufficient in itself to deliver any significant transformation of practice. Society though in the 21st century is changing rapidly and becoming ever more digital. Twitter constitutes a new digital practice with many arguing of the pressing need to incorporate such digital practices within traditional academic practice (Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008; Young, 2008, 2009; Holotescu, 2009; Mayernik and Pepe, 2009; Rankin, 2009; Sample, 2010 and Ebner et al., 2010). Relevance and significance The emergence of Twitter and its subsequent rapid adoption within many facets of society has fascinated me greatly. This is because Twitter, with its microblogging function, essentially constitutes a literacy practice, albeit a new digital literacy one, and with a background in adult literacy practice, I am widely interested in the socio-cultural aspects of literacy. Concerning Twitter, I have witnessed its increasing and widespread use together with the high value placed upon it by some, not only as a broadcast and as a social networking medium but also when championed as a tool for professional development. Yet, within the context of higher education I perceive reluctance and hesitancy on the part of many lecturers to entertain Twitter’s credentials as either a tool for professional development or as an application for teaching and learning, and more generally, a failure to attribute any significant merit to the practice of “tweeting” (a tweet being a microblog message sent within
  7. 7. 3 Twitter). Considering the advance of “digital society” with trends towards networked communities, distributed and collaborative workplace practices and where valued knowledge is increasingly communicated in digital forms (Beetham et al., 2010), this is of significance for shaping higher education’s relationship to such a society. Objectives and conceptual framework Connecting the profound socio-technological changes taking place within society and the impact of a disruptive technology upon knowledge-making practices, the aim of this enquiry is to ascertain the disposition of lecturers towards the adoption of new practices that Twitter enables. The enquiry plots the emergence of Twitter and its attributes positioning it within the conceptual framework of disruptive change confronting higher education and the emergence of new literacy practices that this engenders. The notion of disposition is crucial to this as it is within the bounds of this concept that lecturers’ value judgement and inclination towards any adoption of Twitter is to be found. As accounted for by Bourdieu (1990), disposition is a dialectical process between the individual and the context in which they operate or practice. This means that applicable to the adoption of Twitter, lecturers participate in an evaluation process, weighing up factors pertinent to themselves and those emanating from their professional practice in conjunction with wider cultural considerations and those specific to their respective institutional context. Fitting together with this contextual view of disposition is the perspective of literacies as social practices (Barton and Hamilton, 1998; Street, 1984, 1995); that is to say, it is by being situated in the specific social and cultural context of higher education that Twitter practices will derive meaning and on which they will be significantly dependent for their acceptance and performance. Advocates of New Literacy Studies (Barton, 1994; Gee, 1996; Street, 1984, 1995) assert that literacy is always for a purpose and as such, it must be recognised as operating within specific social and cultural contexts. In line with the New
  8. 8. 4 Literacy Studies this enquiry expounds that literacy practices are not merely incidental as they embed ideologies and ways of viewing the world. Consequently, such a perspective considers matters pertaining to literacy through the similitude of organisations, institutions or groups. In this, an “ideological” model of literacy, emphasis is placed on the significance of literacy practices for the people involved, which in this case are higher education lecturers. In light of such perspective, I believe higher education needs not only to be abreast of technological developments and the new literacy practices that they engender, but also it needs to pay attention to what these practices mean to those involved; after all, literacy “has always been a key site of cultural contestation and an important indicator of cultural values and social organisation” (R.C.L.C.E., 2007, p. 7). In this enquiry, it is important to understand that a disruptive technology (Bower and Christensen, 1995), alternatively referred to as a “disruptive innovation” (Christensen and Raynor, 2003), is deemed such because it helps to create a “new value proposition” (Christensen et al., 2004, p. 2). It is important to distinguish that it is not the technology itself that is disruptive but rather disruption is derived from its innovative application that produces new, and often unexpected, propositions. Thus, any acceptance of Twitter within higher education will not only disrupt traditional practices but will disrupt customary values as well. The implications of Twitter’s adoption pertain to its ability to permeate institutional walls and spawn access to multiple sources of knowledge, its impact on the role and function of the lecturer, its alteration of the learning experience, as well as issues regarding quality, security and its suitability in general for higher education. Disruptive change is acknowledged as being difficult to reconcile for an institution where current practices have long been seen as successful (Marshall, 2010).
  9. 9. 5 Enquiry methods To ascertain the scope to which Twitter practices may be deployed within higher education, a literature review is undertaken together with assessment of the disruptive implications that any adoption entails. Through a literacies perspective, attention is also given to the negotiation and validation of Twitter alongside appraisal of the contextual disposition of lecturers to adopt such practices. Broad in scope, this enquiry seeks to yield via a qualitative phenomenological strategy a temporal insight into lecturers’ disposition as they consider the suitability of Twitter for their practice. Considering that a great deal of information can be gathered simply by talking to people, five in-depth interviews with lecturers are presented as précised vignettes to afford through rich description as holistic a view as possible of the phenomenon of lecturers’ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter. What is more, it is conceived that a descriptive analysis promoting an authentic depiction of the situation and the dispositions revealed will be of benefit to a wide range of interested parties, especially policy makers, administrators and lecturers themselves as they may be able to relate to the situation and the data presented and thus extract meaning pertinent to their own circumstances. Notes on terminology Within this enquiry, the term lecturer is used interchangeably with that of tutor, teacher or educator and is used to denote the role of a professional within higher education. The term higher education itself is used to denote the diverse institutions that nowadays constitute what traditionally would have been considered the university or the academy, and as such, these terms are also used interchangeably. Similarly, it is important to note that within this enquiry the term practice is used in both a general and a specific sense. Its general sense derives from Bourdieu’s (1977) notion of how things are done or happen in specific cultural contexts. Here, denoting lecturers in
  10. 10. 6 higher education with any recognisable behaviours or interactions being accounted for by culturally given dispositions and interests that incorporate both agency (people choosing what they do) and social structure (the expectations that ‘cause’ people to do certain things). The more specific sense refers to the concept of “literacy practices” (Street, 1995), which takes account of the behaviour and the social and cultural conceptualisations that give meaning to the use of Twitter (a literacy practice due to its microblogging function) underscoring the conceptions that lecturers have of it in terms of its situated norms, values and beliefs. Hence, this enquiry utilises the terms practice and disposition to convey the things that lecturers do and the personal and cultural considerations that consciously or unconsciously position them to make certain choices. Chapter 2: Literature review Apposite to higher education and against a background of technology and change, the purpose of this chapter is to determine through a literature review the attributes of Twitter technology and to establish its application within higher education before considering the implications that any adoption might hold. This is reviewed from the perspective that Twitter institutes disruptive change, presenting a new value proposition and engendering new practices (implicitly literacy practices). Pertinent to lecturers, it considers matters in terms of contextual disposition that will determine whether they choose to adopt Twitter into their practice or not. The aim of the review is to establish Twitter’s credentials and disruptive affects and to demonstrate the need for an enquiry that seeks to discover lecturers’ disposition towards such disruption and any subsequent adoption; further to highlight the importance that this has for the incorporation of Twitter, or any other social Web 2.0 practices, and the future of teaching and learning within higher education.
  11. 11. 7 Technology, change and higher education Before considering the application and implications of Twitter, it is first necessary to take account of technology and change within higher education in general. As an institution of knowledge production (Delanty, 2001a) higher education is seen as crucial in leveraging for society the benefits brought about by digital technologies. Hence, many people are deliberating if Twitter can be appropriately utilised to this end. However, despite the apparent potential of technology to transform educational practice, over all adoption of new technologies within the sector is more speculative in nature than established in practice (Selwyn, 2008). This is particularly noticeable in the case of Web 2.0 technologies. As Baggley (2010) notes, not all teachers strive enthusiastically to embrace the latest technological approaches, which has helped to create the idea that traditional education is unprepared for a new generation of technology savvy students, dubbed “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001) that is now entering higher education. Lord Puttnam (2011) illustrates the impasse regarding technology with his analogy of a surgeon from 1911 being brought forward in time to an operating table in 2011 and finding today’s hospital environment alien; whereas a teacher from 1911 on the other hand could easily deliver a lesson in a 2011 classroom because the technology remains largely the same. Consequently, he concludes that within education “the roots of profound change that have to be addressed must run deep” (cited in Kennedy, 2011, p. 1). Marshall (2010) deems it pertinent to ask if higher education really needs to change. After all, having existed for centuries the institution of the university appears relatively stable (Waks, 2007). Marshall (2010) goes on to suggest that its “apparent resistance to change may reflect the value to society in its current form” (p. 181). However, the 21st century presents a world in constant change therefore the paradigm has now become about embracing change, as change is endemic within the system (Pena- Lopez, 2011).
  12. 12. 8 Technology is seen as a key driver that can help execute the purposes of higher education (teaching and learning, research and wider engagement) in new and innovative ways (Dept. of Education and Skills, 2011). Bradwell (2009) points out that: universities are now just one source among many for ideas, knowledge and innovation, that seems to threaten their core position and role, but in this new world of learning […], there are also great opportunities. The internet, social networks, collaborative online tools that allow people to work together more easily, and open access to content are both the cause of change for universities, and a tool with which they can respond (p. 8). However, there is a wide range of stakeholders, all of whom seek to modify higher education to better suit their needs or resist changes that do not conform to their perception of it (Marginson, 2004). Routinely, change is driven by individuals or groups that seek to exploit new capacities as they become available. When these changes make improvements in ways that are consistent with previous activities they are seen as “sustaining” changes, however “disruptive” changes create new ways of doing things or reshape existing ways (Christensen et al., 2004). eLearning, which has emerged as a major paradigm for teaching and learning in the 21st century represents an example of sustaining change; institutional learning management systems [LMSs] or virtual learning environments [VLEs] are well suited for the electronic distribution of academic resources essentially reinforcing the established transmission model of learning (Acker, 2004; Reeves et al., 2004). Today, the concept of eLearning is evolving towards Learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005; Brown and Adler, 2008; Walton et al., 2008; Berlanga et al., 2010), or Education 2.0 (Selwyn, 2008), which denotes a discourse pertaining to how education should integrate social Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005) technologies such as Twitter into educational and institutional practices. However, Web 2.0 can be regarded as provoking “disruptive” change within education (Garrison and Anderson, 2003) as it profoundly alters the generation and dissemination of knowledge. In the emerging
  13. 13. 9 Learning 2.0 paradigm the focus moves away from content to place the student at the centre of the learning experience (Anderson, 2008) and see them become active participants and creators of knowledge (McLoughlin and Lee, 2008a). Christensen and Raynor (2003) importantly observe that Web 2.0 technologies should more accurately be regarded as disruptive “innovations” as disruptive innovations help to “change the value proposition” (Christensen et al. 2004, p. 2) in relation to particular products, services, processes or concepts; implicated here for higher education is the generation and dissemination of knowledge. It is not usually the technology itself that is the cause of disruption but rather its application and ensuing impact. The application of Web 2.0 technologies could radically transform practices, create wholly new practices and even destroy existing ones. Understandably, academic discussion is fiercely contested in relation to the role of rapidly evolving and widely accepted Web 2.0 technologies. This enquiry accepts Christensen’s (Bower and Christensen, 1995; Christensen and Raynor, 2003; Christensen et al, 2004) proposition relating to disruptive technology, innovation and change and applies it to Twitter within higher education. However, before moving on to consider the nature of any disruption, the attributes of Twitter must first be established and its application within higher education subsequently determined. Attributes of Twitter Twitter signifies an important convergence of Web 2.0 and mobile technology as it is easily accesible on both the web and mobile devices. Stevens (2008) defines Twitter as a multi-platform Web 2.0, part microblogging tool, part social networking tool. Accordingly, with around 200 million users generating 140 million tweets per day (Gannes, 2011), Twitter would appear to deserve rigorous examination in order to ascertain its over all credentials for the purposes of higher education.
  14. 14. 10 Web 2.0 Web 2.0 is an umbrella term for internet applications such as social networking, wikis, weblogs, microblogs, virtual societies and more. Web 2.0 technology applications are built around the appropriation and sharing of content offering greater opportunities for creation, collaboration and communication (Downes, 2004; O’Reilly, 2005). The term “social media” is often used to describe these Web 2.0 tools and applications, the effects of which are already widespread in social and economic life, as attested to by many familiar, highly populated, websites and online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Wikipedia, amongst others. The development of Web 2.0 has fashioned the web into a more participatory medium transforming the social interactions and the modes and patterns of our lives; it is changing human behaviour (O’Reilly, 2005). An underlying feature of Web 2.0 is the harnessing of collective intelligence (Mason and Rennie, 2008), stimulating new relationship structures and communication patterns that foster new learning experiences. Sarker et al. (2005) emphasise that “conversations serve as the vehicle through which knowledge workers discover what they know, share it with their colleagues, and, in the process, create new knowledge” (p. 214). Web 2.0 applications elevate the role of dialogue and interaction, consequently requiring educators and stakeholders to regard education as a social activity that occurs in interaction with others (Laurillard, 2005). This enquiry adopts the term Web 2.0 to signify an open communication medium that enables web-based communities of users to connect and collaborate. Social networking It is necessary to clarify that this enquiry is concerned with the uptake of practices engendered by microblogging with Twitter. However, such practices largely exchange information through the mechanism of social networking. This enquiry acknowledges this
  15. 15. 11 and accepts the definition that social networks are “comprised of various independent actors who develop relatively loose relationships between each other to pursue some common goals” (Johannisson, 1987, p. 9). Online social networking has been made possible by the emergence of Web 2.0 and the affordances it offers. Boyd and Ellison (2007) present social networking facilities as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi- public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. These sites allow users to post a profile, to invite their friends, to join a variety of ‘groups’ with like interests and to make new ‘friends’ through searching for others with like interests (p. 211). These facilities permit the interactions and relationships arising from social, professional and/or learning purposes to be established online and extend to include people who would not otherwise ordinarily be in contact. Thus Wellman et al. (2002) determine that a fundamental shift is occurring, away from place-to-place community towards person-to- person community; people are fashioning their own networks through social networking sites. Upon joining Twitter, users start to build up their network by connecting with other users. These connections are referred to as “followers” and customarily are made public. This is a crucial element as it allows users to extend their own networks by linking to “followers of followers”. Once connected, people can freely exchange messages and content. Microblogging Twitter was launched in March 2006. It combines online social networking and microblogging and has become very popular in a relatively short space of time. JISC (2009) assert that this is due to its combination of brevity, usability and social characteristics. This enquiry accepts McFedries (2007) generic explanation 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.84). Typically, tweets (the name afforded to microblog posts within Twitter)
  16. 16. 12 are made public to anyone using the web, however they can be restricted to certain individuals if preferred (Costa et al., 2008; Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008). Microblogging emerged from a trend to make digital content smaller and faster to spread. Short posts distributed to the web through multiple platforms enable individuals to broadcast limited information about themselves and share their activities (Java et al., 2007). Posts are in reply to the question "What are you doing?", which in practice generally translates to, "What interesting thought (or experience or content) do you want to share right now?" (Makice, 2009). Significantly, hyperlinks can be inserted into posts to facilitate the dissemination of more detailed information. The restriction of messages to 140 characters either allows something very specific to be communicated or acts as a mechanism through which individuals can create a “peephole” for others to gain an insight into everyday events and discover what is inviting attention. Self- disclosure of this nature, rather than simply being seen as a stream of mundane status updates, can be seen as a series of posts that represent an invitation to get to know the individual user and take part in interpreting their events (Oulasvirta, et al., 2010). Microbloggers post interesting things on their own public channel and because it is not necessarily expected or anticipated that someone will reply, posts become used much more informally as a form of expression (Zhao and Rosson, 2009). As it is an open method of communication, information can be shared with people that one would not normally exchange email or instant messages [IM] with. This opens up ones circle of contacts to an ever-growing community of like-minded people and may also help to establish valuable personal relationships for future collaborations. Yet, to some people Twitter appears to be intrusive and interruptive. What is more, with its social networking dimension, Twitter creates a frivolous impression to people who have never tried it. Undoubtedly, individual microblogging messages can seem trivial, but as
  17. 17. 13 Thompson (2007) acknowledges, the value of microblogging is the cumulative effect of ideas and resources shared between numerous people. New users often report that the application is complex and bewildering at first, finding that it requires a lot of effort to become proficient in sending, replying and deciphering messages (Owens et al., 2009), not to mention the investment of time required to derive value from the practice. Nevertheless, despite the sustained effort that is required in order to become proficient in the productive aspects of microblogging, Ebner and Schiefner (2008) declare that its use for rapid communication and exchange between people with similar interests is highly valuable. In 2010 Ebner et al. declared “that microblogging is indeed a new form of communication” (p.98). Multi-platform access Microblog posts within Twitter can be sent from a number of web interfaces, mobile phones, short message services [SMS], or even instant messaging tools [IM]. It is because there is such a variety of applications that can be accessed from a plethora of handy devices that makes Twitter so pervasive and effective (JISC, 2009). With the increasing use of smartphones and other mobile devices, it is envisaged that learners will soon demand course materials or discussion forums to be delivered on such devices providing access from anywhere at any time, thus giving rise to mobile learning (mLearning). When conceptualised in terms of devices and technologies, Ebner and Schiefner (2008) point to microblogging as a practical example of mobile learning. It is reported that around 16% of Twitter users join via mobile devices (Whitney, 2010). In light of the above review, it would seem that Twitter comprises a potent combination of functions that are easily accessible across a wide range of platforms, therefore
  18. 18. 14 consideration now turns to the range of applications to which Twitter might feasibly be applied within higher education. Application of Twitter The application of Twitter within higher education for both online and face-to-face scenarios is beginning to receive meaningful attention from a range of educators (Grosseck and Holotescu, 2008; Young, 2008, 2009; Holotescu, 2009; Mayernik and Pepe, 2009 and Sample, 2010), that is to say as an instructional tool to support process-oriented learning, assist student-faculty connection, promote in-class discussion, enhance student engagement and connect students with a professional community of practice (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009; Rankin, 2009 and Ebner et al., 2010). It is thought that microblogging and social networking, as part of what Gilpin (2010) calls “the new reality media landscape” (p. 236) has the potential to change the way in which educators work, communicate and colaborate (Procter et al., 2010), not just with students and faculty but with associates further afield as well. It is therefore necessary to ascertain the scope of Twitter’s application and its implications for practice. To develop a personal learning network (PLN) Dunlap and Lowenthal (2009) attest that through microblogging and social networking activities facilitated by Twitter students and lecturers alike can build personal learning networks (PLNs) and as a result participate in professional communities of practice (Wenger, 1998). Communities of practice (CoPs) are “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006, p. 1). Harasim et al. (1995) recognise that social networks can be used to support professional learning networks (PLNs) whereby groups of individuals use the web to
  19. 19. 15 communicate and collaborate in order to build and share knowledge (within the literature “P” in PLN is used to signify either a “personal” or “professional” learning network). There are varying explanations within the literature regarding personal learning networks, but no agreement as to an exact definition. Digenti (1999) defines a PLN as "relationships between individuals where the goal is enhancement of mutual learning [which is] based on reciprocity and a level of trust that each party is actively seeking value-added information for the other" (p. 53). More recently however the term has become allied with the technology-focused discourse associated with the learning theory of connectivism (Siemens, 2005). The advent of Twitter is relatively new so accordingly it has only recently been employed for developing PLNs. Nonetheless, it has been described as the perfect social networking application for developing PLNs as it brings a steady flow of relevant content (Lopp, 2008), one that is often suitably vetted by ones peers. It also allows individuals to monitor on an international scale any new developments in their subject area (Rigby, 2008). By modelling Twitter practices lecturers can introduce students to professional communities of practice, assisting them to connect with practitioners, experts and colleagues thus helping to enculturate them into a community. Through their legitimate peripherality within the community, and plausibly anticipating a reply, students may solicit information and opinions from practising professionals. Students can also build their own networks and discover ideas and resources of benefit to their coursework. To facilitate self-directed and informal learning As reviewed, Twitter can facilitate the development of PLNs; Kester et al. (2006) note that PLNs are particularly attractive to self-directed learners as the learners themselves are at liberty to choose their learning package and its subsequent timing, pace and place. McLoughlin and Lee (2008b) also acknowledge that microblogging and social network
  20. 20. 16 applications are conducive to knowledge creation and community participation, allowing learners to access peers, experts and the wider community in ways that enable reflective, self- directed learning. Comm (2009) attests that through such activity he gained advice and suggestions from experts that he could not have reached by any other means. Costa et al. (2008) and Ebner et al. (2010) declare that microblogging is undeniably becoming a tool for use in informal learning and networking. Aspden and Thorpe (2009) explain that informal learning involves “activities that take place in students’ self-directed and independent learning time, where the learning is taking place to support a formal program of study, but outside the formally planned and tutor-directed activities” (para. 2). Ebner et al. (2010) say that informal learning is seen as an important component within process-oriented learning and crucially that “microblogging supports [process-oriented] learning by a constant information flow between students and between students and teachers” (p. 99). Direct in- class application Twitter has been trialled as an instructional tool within a direct classroom setting (Rankin, 2009). The aim of which is to make learning more interactive and affect an increase in student participation in classroom discussion. Students post in-class comments to a class Twitter account effectively utilising it as back-channel; back-channel refers to the feedback an audience shares without interrupting the speaker, the harnessing of which has been identified by Brown (2005) as a powerful instructional mechanism. To support learning Interactions that happen before and after class or when students and faculty bump into each other between classes have potential instructional value (Kuh, 1995); the synchronous nature of Twitter replicates real-time conversation and as such can serve to strengthen interpersonal relationships between and among students and faculty. Twitter also facilitates
  21. 21. 17 time-sensitive communication between students and faculty, and vice versa (Dunlap and Lowenthal, 2009). Students can request clarification on content and assignments or notify faculty of personal emergencies, thereby supporting both learning and the learner at the point of need. Implications of Twitter The adoption of Twitter practices such as those identified above constitute a change away from the traditional practices of higher education with implications not only for the role and function of the lecturer, but for engagement with knowledge and higher education’s relationship with it. Hence, consideration is now afforded to the implications of any adoption into practice of Twitter, before moving on to consider lecturers’ disposition towards such adoption. Epistemology and knowledge The advance of Twitter, and other Web 2.0, applications appears to challenge our concept of knowledge as they facilitate a culture of participatory knowledge creation (Brown and Adler, 2008) and raise questions of how we learn, what kinds of knowledge we access, and how we evaluate knowledge sources. To embrace this culture of participatory learning with its epistemological stance of learning as knowledge creation, Cook and Brown (1999) believe that our notion of knowledge and knowing will change from an epistemology of possession to that of an epistemology of practice. The focus will become one of ‘‘learning to be through enculturation into a practice” (Brown and Adler, 2008, p. 30). What is more, Siemens (2005) in "A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” posits the concept of connectivism. Manifest in online personal learning networks (PLNs), connectivism sees learning as the process of creating connections and developing a network. The network metaphor facilitates the notion of "know-where", that is an understanding of
  22. 22. 18 where to find knowledge when it is needed which, is an appendage to the commonly held understanding of “know-how" and "know-what" found in many traditional learning theories. Connectivist theory recognises that the world has changed and become more networked. Kop and Hill (2008) accept that connectivist theory plays “an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner" (para. 47). Teaching and learning Here it is worth noting that customarily within education technologies have been regarded as “tools” (Papert 1980) however, with the advent of online social spaces and technology’s ability to blur the boundary of the classroom and alter the context of learning (Parry, 2008; Ebner et al., 2010), Goodfellow (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007) suggests that more accurately technologies should be viewed as “sites of practice” (p. 50), in acknowledgement that application and meaning making is shaped by social relations emanating from the wider social and institutional setting. Further, he cautions that identities within these sites must be taken account of, as they are likely to be contested. Twitter can be seen as part of the wider Web 2.0 phenomenon that encourages a shift in emphasis from that of teaching to that of learning. In the traditional metaphor of learning, as typified by the lecture hall note-taking scenario, learners are positioned as consumers of “pre-packaged content and inert information” (Lee et al., 2007, p. 126), however with the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter they become “student-producers engaged in knowledge creation processes” (Lee et al., 2007, p. 126). This prompts a change of identity for those in the learning environment; the learner’s identity becomes that of a knowledge builder whilst the identity of the lecturer becomes akin to that of a critical friend or co-learner (Lim et al., 2010). Embracing Twitter practices means that within this new paradigm learners must accept their empowerment to construct learning and lecturers must become comfortable
  23. 23. 19 with fluidity and uncertainty. This corresponds with Professor Rankin’s (2009) sentiments when she says, “it’s going to be messy” (4.50). Role of lecturer Against this background, the role of the lecturer would seem to become more social, transformed from that of a knowledge distributor more towards that of a facilitator of self- directed learning or an orchestrator of process-oriented learning; often referred to as the transition from the “sage on the stage to guide on the side” (King, 1993, p. 30) Some reformers posit that the traditional lecture is an out-moded method of teaching not fit for education of 21st century (Clark, 2010). Be that as it may, it is appreciable that any uptake of Twitter is not simply a matter of using new tools; it is a matter of using them in a particular spirit (Selwyn, 2008), and this has profound implications for future practice within teaching and learning. Quality, ethics and privacy The abundance of information today and ease of access means that learners can now avail of multiple knowledge sources (Masie, 2008); hence, there is a shift away from single- source knowledge such as that embodied in a learned “teacher”. By tradition, teachers are the authoritative sources of knowledge or are brokers for the authoritative sources of knowledge, accordingly concerns are raised over the reliability and expertise of microbloggers on Twitter and the level of quality and/or banality. Characteristically, the information produced is disorderly and often frenzied, raising questions of aimless browsing, free association and serendipity (Gritton, 2012), leading many to speculate about the quality and degree of learning overall. Higher education is largely a hierarchically arranged system that values the quality assurance of content (Weller and Dalziel, 2007). It achieves this quality assurance chiefly through a top-down process of review and formal assessment, in effect acting as a filter to
  24. 24. 20 participation in the process. This is in marked contrast to Web 2.0 practices, which essentially remove all barriers to participation and then, via the attribution of metrics pertaining to frequency or popularity (i.e. links, followers and retweets) filter the quality and appropriateness of content, effectively “filtering on the way out” (Weinberger, 2007). Metrication is a customary feature of Web 2.0 technology and as such, means traditional peer review mechanisms that serve to maintain or enhance quality within higher education may become adulterated. Moreover, such activities create new social practices with the measurement of popularity conferring social distinction on individuals who gain prominence, thus creating what Goldhaber (cited in Goodfellow and Lea, 2007, p. 61) refers to as an “attention economy”. Weller and Dalziel (2007) posit that Web 2.0 approaches are inherently democratic, built around bottom-up principles. Embracing Twitter practices presents a number of ethical dilemmas to the higher education community. Saunders et al. (2009) say that the academic community is “hesitant to use the open web as an incubator for ideas and would rather rely on a tight circle of individuals” (p. 5). Moreover, within social networks, identity is a key component and to create a profile individuals have to share publicly some information about themselves. Self-disclosure of personal information within posts presents juxtaposition between work life and private life. Disposition to adopt Twitter – the lecturer and the context Hitherto it can be appreciated that any adoption of Twitter, or similar technology, is not simply a matter of using new tools, or operating in new sites of practice. It is as Selwyn (2008) counsels, a matter of using them in a particular spirit as there are profound implications for teaching and learning and for higher education’s relation to knowledge- making practices in a digital and networked society. Therefore, in order to appreciate how
  25. 25. 21 lecturers make their choices and determine any possibilities for adoption, literature review now turns to the matter of disposition. Katz (1988) explains that dispositions are “very different […] from skills and knowledge; they can be thought of as habits of mind, tendencies to respond to situations in certain ways" (p. 30), and continues that disposition can be defined not only as an attributed characteristic of an individual, but one that encapsulates the trend of ones actions in particular contexts (Katz, 1993). Bourdieu (1990) accounts for this dual aspect of disposition in his widely cited concept of “habitus”. The habitus appears in one sense as each individual's characteristic set of dispositions for action but also as the meeting point between the individual and society, disposition as a consequence is a contextual and dialectical process. Further, Bourdieu (1990) contends that essentially the habitus is not one of logic but rather one of practical reason or social knowledge accumulated through everyday experience. One’s habitus is not merely a mental state as it incorporates the tacit embodiment of social know- how and belief that subconsciously comes through in everything that one does and as such, this will be manifest in the way that lecturers are disposed towards adopting Twitter into their practice. Vanatta and Fordham (2004) investigated the concept of disposition to predict technology use amongst teachers. Their study included factors of teachers’ self-efficacy, educational philosophy, openness to change, amount of technology training, years of teaching and willingness to participate in continuing professional development (CPD). Although this enquiry is mindful of the role that these factors play, it is nonetheless Bourdieu’s interpretation emphasising the contextual, dialectical and not all together conscious aspects of disposition that supports this enquiry. Therefore, relative to the adoption of Twitter, lecturers accordingly engage in a bilateral evaluation and endorsement process, weighing up their own values and personal
  26. 26. 22 proclivities towards Twitter together with wider cultural considerations and the particular culture found in their institution. So in light of this, and in order to understand how lecturers are disposed to the new practices that Twitter presents, or the new value proposition that it presents, it is necessary to determine something of the principles that guide lecturers in their practice as well as something of the cultural meanings pertaining to higher education. Lecturers’ philosophies Becker and Anderson’s (1998) survey into teaching, learning and computer use investigated whether a lecturer’s underlying educational philosophies (i.e. teacher-centred or student-centred and constructivist or traditionalist) indicates the way in which they will use technology. In analysis, Becker (2000) states that “where teachers’ […] philosophies support a student-centred constructivist pedagogy that incorporates collaborative projects defined partly by student interest – computers are clearly becoming a valuable well-functioning instructional tool” (p. 2). This contrasts with the idea that teachers who believe in a more traditional transmission orientated approach mostly find applications of technology incompatible with their instructional goals (Cuban, 1986; Cuban 2000, cited in Becker, 2000). Constructivist-oriented pedagogy favours project-based or inquiry-based methods whilst traditional transmission pedagogy derives from a conventional theory of learning in which understanding is gained through direct instruction upon a topic or content, which is incidentally, largely in line with culturally normative beliefs about learning. Moreover, the perceived usefulness of a technology is a vital factor in determining its adoption, together with its perceived ease of use (Davis, 1989). Contextual factors Taking up the point regarding culture and learning, it is important to appreciate that by tradition, which can be regarded as having classical roots, higher education constitutes a set of social practices that serve as a medium for the cultural classification and the
  27. 27. 23 legitimisation of knowledge (Delanty, 2001a; 2001b). Consequently, what constitutes legitimate practices in the matter of knowledge construction is an important point to address in relation to the adoption of Twitter practices into higher education. Cultural beliefs regarding knowledge and learning are deep-rooted. However, our conception of knowledge is changing. Gibbons et al. (1994) contend that a new model of knowledge characterised by the application of problem specific knowledge by a variety of knowledge producers (Mode 2) is replacing the traditional disciplinary-based knowledge of the academy (Mode 1). This not only has repercussions for the meaning and value of discipline-based knowledge specifically but also has wider consequences for an institution that operates at the intersection of knowledge and culture in a society that is changing rapidly. The historical university was designed to provide knowledge and afford professional elites to the state together with the preservation and reproduction of national cultural traditions (Delanty, 2001a). However, the diminishing power of the state and the arrival of globalisation and technological innovations in communication has brought the role and identity of the university into sharp focus (Delanty 2001a; 2001b). Higher education today has to take account of global and market forces, new technologies and competing demands. Conceivably, therefore, from an institution’s perspective embracing Twitter practices presents a complex challenge to the culture and value system. Although agreement over the precise definition of the term culture is not exclusive, Peterson and Spencer (1991) present the concept as the “deeply embedded patterns of organisational behaviour and the shared values, assumptions, beliefs or ideologies that members have about their organisation or its work” (p. 142). Culture plays an important role in shaping people and the structures they create, or attempt to transform. Accordingly, a culture may envisage reactions to innovations and proposed changes to things that are important to the people working within that culture.
  28. 28. 24 Although each institution will have its own unique culture, variously comprised of the six cultures identified in Bergquist and Pawal’s (2008) study of the academy, it is in relation to the lately emergent “virtual culture”, concerning technology and new ways of working and new ways of thinking about the world and one’s relationship to it that is of significance here; not dis-similar to Goodfellow’s contention (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007) that technologies should be considered as sites of practice. Bergquist and Pawal say that in this new culture the roles of faculty become transformed, as it must be able to bring students to an understanding of how to gain on-going access to specific streams of learning […] both as coaches and co-learners with their students […] The virtual classroom has democratised the learning field. Any sense of power that faculty members have in this culture resides in their ability to link with their various knowledge bits, orient their students toward learning outcomes, and learn themselves (p. 163). Situated amongst contested notions, disposition can be regarded as contextual and something that must be socially negotiated. Thus, it is possible to see what Sterne (2003) means when he says that technologies are “crystallisations of socially organised action” (p. 367). Moreover, although technologies may contribute in shaping practice, practice is always shaped by the sedimented history within it. Additionally, Selfe (1999) advocates that in order to foster awareness of our increasingly technologised world and the forces that are shaping higher education today, a critical technology literacies mentality is necessary for both individuals and institutions. Twitter as an appropriate literacy practice for higher education With its 140 characters Twitter technology engenders “literacy practices” that are digital. Here digital refers not just to digital devices but also to the “sociotechnical arrangements” that are comprised, amongst other things, of different actors and institutions. As Goodfellow and Jones (2011) allow, this “defines technology as rooted in social, political, economic and psycho-social dimensions of peoples’ transactions with and through devices,
  29. 29. 25 and allows us to talk in terms of the reciprocal shaping of publics, practices, identities and technical affordances rather than the one-way “impact” of technology on people (p. 1). In addition, the concept of literacy practices signifies an “ideological” approach to literacy extending the traditional, “autonomous” view to highlight that literacy “is not simply a technical and neutral skill; […as] it is always embedded in socially constructed epistemological principles. It is about knowledge: the ways in which people address reading and writing are themselves rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity, and being” (Street, 2003, p. 78). To progress the view of literacy as social practice within an academic context, Lea and Street (2006) contend that implicit within academic literacy practices are relationships of power, authority, identity and meaning making, which emphasise the nature of what counts as knowledge in any given institutional context. Further, they consider academic literacy practices not just in terms of their disciplinary or subject-based traits, but consider how other institutions (e.g. government, business etc.) are implicated in these literacy practices. Concerning literacy practices themselves, these comprise of occasions where either reading or writing is an integral part of communication with attention also being given to the conceptions people have of those occasions and the norms, values, beliefs in which those practices are situated. Within higher education, the different meanings that Twitter as a literacy practice invokes has been highlighted recently in the blog posts of some academics (Goodfellow, 2009, 2011; Conole, 2012). Goodfellow (2011) recounts “the great LiDU Twitter debate” whereby the incorporation of a live Twitter stream at a seminar caused the differing beliefs of participants towards such practices to become manifest. He elucidates that if twittering is seen as a literacy practice for this seminar, it is clear that operational and cultural dimensions are aligned for some participants but not for others. For one participant, […] there is no reason not to tweet at an academic seminar. For another […] it feels as if people are engaged in private phone conversations with others not present (para. 10).
  30. 30. 26 Lea (2011) explains that literacy practices invoke different meanings for the different people involved; literacy practices embed ideologies and ways of viewing the world and as such can indicate competing and often colliding approaches to practice. With reference to Gee (1996), Street (2005) makes clear, “literacy, in this sense, is always contested both in its meanings and in its practices, hence particular versions of it are always “ideological”; that is, they are always rooted in a particular a world-view and a desire for that view of literacy to dominate and to marginalise others” (p. 418). Furthermore, what literacy practices are considered appropriate and count as valid or legitimate reflect different situated perspectives. The social practice view of literacy is inextricably bound up with the values and practices of a given situation. Therefore, within higher education, an institution whose primary function is to produce and validate knowledge, textual production and the practices that support it are of paramount importance (Goodfellow and Lea, 2007). Academic literacy practices are traditionally based on formal writing and are deeply embedded within the institution. As Albright et al. (2005) and Warschauer (2007) point out, both students and lecturers have largely been acculturated and socialised to value the types of literacy practices that they believe will contribute to academic success and to resist those they believe will not. Hence, the adoption of Twitter may not be seen as wholly appropriate by some in higher education. However, there are increasing numbers of students coming into higher education both confident and competent in using Web 2.0 and social networking technologies in their personal lives, with at least some of them looking for the opportunity to use some of these applications in their education and study. This appears to be in contrast to their “marked lack of enthusiasm” for the virtual learning environment [VLS] provided by their institution (Conole et al., 2006, p. 95). Yet there are some lecturers, heeding Prensky’s (2001) call to action in relation to these so called “digital natives”, who are inclined to believe that students’
  31. 31. 27 enthusiasm for Web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter could be harnessed and the practices that they enable be used for educational benefit (Mason and Rennie, 2008). However, for others there is a pejorative undertone associated with the notion of “digital natives”, which implies that immersion with digital technologies impairs students’ ability to engage in serious academic study (Lea and Jones, 2011). Baggley (2010) recognises that not all teachers strive to embrace technology, and equally nor do all students. Tan and McWilliam (2008) have explored the tensions and opportunities for students of being “digital” and/or “diligent”, with diligent equating to adherence of traditional educational literacy practices. This amounts to much the same pressure that lecturers face when called to embrace 21st century digital literacy practices and utilise innovative learning opportunities to capitalise on emerging network technologies, whilst at the same time being compelled by various stakeholders to maintain high levels of traditional literacy in order to secure high academic achievement and qualifications. After all literacy is an important indicator of “cultural capital” and a significant gauge of cultural values. For that reason, it is fundamentally a site of cultural contestation (R.C.L.C.E., 2007). Key findings of literature review Review of the literature indicates that, with its microblogging capacity, Twitter constitutes a digital literacy practice. Being rooted in conceptions of knowledge, identity and being, literacy practices embed ideologies and values that are inseparable from the context in which they are situated. Within higher education, the adoption of Twitter represents disruptive innovation as it permits the development of new practices; participatory new practices that profoundly alter the generation and dissemination of knowledge transforming the role of the lecturer from that of an authoritative source of knowledge to one more of co- learner and influencer. Therefore, adoption of Twitter by lecturers is not simply a question of using new technology but more a question of their disposition towards the way in which it
  32. 32. 28 may be deployed and, within the context of their practice in higher education, how appropriate this is considered to be. The concept of disposition signifies, not only the attributed characteristics of an individual but also indicates the trend of ones actions in particular contexts. Recognition of this dual aspect of disposition is found in Bourdieu’s (1990) concept of “habitus”; in one sense, it is the individual's characteristic set of dispositions for action and in another, it suggests the encounter between the individual and society, with all society’s attendant culture and values. Consequently, disposition is a contextual and dialectical process. Grounds for enquiry – research questions Although constitutive of disruptive change, it appears that there is meaningful scope for Twitter practices with higher education. In order to ascertain if these practices are likely to be adopted, this enquiry places lecturers as its central focus. The literacies framing is accordingly an investigative way to assess Twitter’s perceived disruptive impact on practices and to see what it tells us about individual and institutional practice and what the implications might be for teaching and learning in a digital and networked society. In addition, disposition is regarded as contextual negotiation between the lecturer and wider society, the outcome of which will be manifest in the way in which they implement, or discount, Twitter for the purpose of their practice. It is upon this conundrum that the enquiry hopes to throw light. Therefore the primary question of this enquiry is:  What is the disposition of higher education lecturers towards the adoption of Twitter practices? In order to develop a holistic answer though, a series of conception questions that seek to reveal lecturers’ disposition towards the disruptive affects, or anticipated affects, that any adoption of Twitter presents to practice is deemed necessary:  What is the disposition towards Twitter in general?
  33. 33. 29  How would the adoption of Twitter affect the role of the lecturer?  How would the adoption of Twitter affect teaching and learning?  How would the adoption of Twitter affect engagement with knowledge?  Are lecturers disposed to adopt Twitter for some aspects of their practice more than others?  How appropriate is Twitter in the context of higher education? Chapter 3: Methodology This chapter introduces the methodology of Husserlian descriptive phenomenology that underpins this enquiry together with discussion of its justification. It also outlines the methods that the enquiry employs to richly describe lecturers’ disposition towards the adoption of Twitter practices. It is envisaged that such a methodology will help to illuminate what lies at the heart of lecturers’ disposition, and it is with this goal in mind that the enquiry is designed. Accordingly, the chapter sets out the sample population and recruitment strategy, outlines the data collection and analysis methods and explains the strategies incorporated into the enquiry to afford a high degree of trustworthiness and rigor. Ethical considerations and limitations of the enquiry are also outlined. Research framework – interpretivist and qualitative A paradigm provides a conceptual framework for seeing and making sense of the social world. Kuhn (1970) explains that "it stands for the entire constellation of beliefs, values and techniques […] shared by the members of a community” (p. 175). Therefore, within the research process the paradigmatic stance that a researcher adopts will be reflected in the overall design of the research. It is important to articulate this paradigm as it
  34. 34. 30 contributes to determining the research strategy and allows the researcher to identify their role in the process. Considering that the aim of this enquiry is to uncover something of lecturers’ disposition, the locus of an interpretivist paradigm is accordingly adopted placing lecturers themselves at the centre of the action being investigated. An interpretivist outlook does not see the world as an objective reality but believes individuals construct the world, and each one perceives their own reality (Garfinkel, 1967; Becker, 1970). Qualitative research methodologies support the view that there is no single reality. Creswell (1994) provides the following qualitative outlook: “the researcher enters the informant’s world and through on going interaction, seeks informants' perspectives and meanings” (p. 161). Qualitative methodologies give voice to those involved and makes enquires into issues that lie beneath the surface. Moreover, as Denzin and Lincoln (1994) note, qualitative research stresses the socially constructed nature of reality. Hence, a qualitative methodology is judged to be appropriate here because essentially at the heart of this enquiry is an amalgam of socially constructed affairs. Maxwell (2005) provides further congruence with the aims of this enquiry when he asserts that a qualitative approach is effective for answering questions deliberating: (a) the meanings attributed by participants to situations, events, behaviours and activities: (b) the influence of context on participants’ views, actions and behaviours and (c) the process by which these actions, behaviours, situations and outcomes emerge. Research questions are an integral and driving feature of qualitative research as they provide an alternative to hypotheses. A cautious approach to theory or hypothesis is advocated because qualitative approaches indicate in effect that the research is of an open and emergent nature Maxwell (2005).
  35. 35. 31 Creswell (1998) upholds that enquiry is a prominent aspect of effective qualitative research, which according to Denzin and Lincoln (1994) can follow a number of traditions, one of which being descriptive phenomenology. Research strategy – descriptive phenomenology The aim of this enquiry is to ascertain lecturers’ disposition towards adoption of Twitter practices. Since the topic is relatively nascent, a descriptive approach is deemed appropriate as it can be used to describe or define current conditions and practices (Isaac and Michael, 1981). The term descriptive research refers to the type of research question, design and data analysis that will be applied to a given topic; descriptive statistics tell what is. According to Babbie (1995) descriptive research “is probably the best method available to the social scientist interested in collecting original data for describing a population too large to observe directly" (p. 257). It is designed to "describe, rather than explain a set of conditions, characteristics or attributes of people in a population based on measurement of a sample" (Alreck and Settle, 1985, p. 408). Borg and Gall (1989) say that descriptive research can describe a phenomenon that is often of interest to policy makers and educators. In order to understand the disposition of lecturers towards adopting Twitter practices, it is necessary to understand something of their practice, its context and the norms, values and beliefs upon which this is founded. Therefore, it is important to hear lecturers’ voices and allow them to explain directly. Lester (1999) states that phenomenological strategies are based in a paradigm of personal knowledge and subjectivity, and emphasises the importance of personal perspective and interpretation. As such they are powerful for understanding subjective experience, gaining insights into people’s motivations and actions (p. 1). In order to understand such personal knowledge and subjectivity, phenomenological researchers strive for rich and complex descriptions of concrete experiences (Finlay, 2009). However, whilst sharing a belief in the appreciation of the lived experience,
  36. 36. 32 phenomenological tradition is divergent upon how this should be conducted, most notably regarding the subjectivity of the researcher. As a result, Finlay (2009) believes that “researchers should be clear about which philosophical and/or research traditions they are following” (2009, p. 8). Husserlian phenomenoliogical methodolgies are concerned with the essence of consciousness and place emphasis on the description of the lived experience free of interpretation. Descriptive phenomenology expounded by Husserl (1962) advocates that the researcher must suspend, or bracket, their own beliefs, past experiences or knowledge in order to avoid influencing the research (Appendix I). Bracketing is fundamental to the strategy because it ensures trustworthy description of the phenomenon and facilitates phenomenolgical reduction. It is through phenomenological reduction that patterns of meaning and themes emerge. Its aim is to dislocate the phenomenon under investigation from what the reseracher already knows about it. In practice this means that the researcher comes to the research without any preconceived ideas (Streubert and Carpenter, 2010). It is on this point, of the researcher’s prior knowledge, that phenomenological tradition diverges. Hermeneutic phenomenology considers that it is impossible to free the mind of prior knowledge and preconceptions (LeVasseur, 2003). Indeed, hermeneutic phenomenologists appreciate prior knowledge, so long as it is acknowledged beforehand and made explicit how it is to be used (Lopez and Willis, 2004). As regards to this enquiry, considering the embryonic nature of the phenomenon and the fact that the researcher (being a student/observer) has no in-depth or vested understanding of practice from the perspective of a lecturer, or indeed pertaining to the field of higher education in general, this enquiry is confident that it is able to conduct the phenomenological reduction necessary in order to deliver a faithful description and consequently takes a
  37. 37. 33 Husserlian approach. However, it must be disclosed that the researcher has recently begun to use Twitter, investigating its application as part of their studies. Research methods Sample population Purposive sampling was used to recruit participants within this enquiry. Akin to case studies methodology, it is the deliberate selection of participants. Participants were identified based on their typicality and/or on their ability, as perceived by the researcher, to give particular insights into the phenomenon of the enquiry. In this instance, there was little benefit in seeking a random sample when a significant number of lecturers within a random sample may be largely unfamiliar with the discourse relating to Twitter within higher education and subsequently unwilling or unable to comment on the matter. Normally it would seem sensible to want to avoid sampling bias, in that the sample is not a good representation of the population, or that systemic under or over representation of some aspect is present however, purposive samples do not pretend to represent the wider population and therefore such strategy is “deliberately and unashamedly selective and biased” (Cohen et al., 2011, p. 157). Besides, in qualitative research such as this, the emphasis is on the uniqueness and distinctiveness of the phenomenon, the context and the individuals involved, that is, they only represent themselves and, nothing or nobody else. Therefore, as (Cohen et al., 2011) notes, it is perhaps unnecessary to talk about a “sample” and how representative this is, after all the purpose of this enquiry is to explore the dispositions of the participants within the confines of the enquiry and not necessarily to generalise. Thus, the research is given leave to simply represent itself. Nonetheless, if as a result, other interested parties find that any emerging themes resonate with them, then this is a bonus, and in this respect again is akin to case study research.
  38. 38. 34 A consequence of the congruence between qualitative research and purposive sampling is that there are no definitive rules regarding the size of the sample. Therefore, it is generally guided by the principle of fitness for purpose in that it adequately answers the research question. It might therefore “be in single figures” (Marshall, 1996, p. 523). The large volume and richness of information generated and collected from participants accounts for the relatively small sample sizes found in qualitative research (Morse, 2000). In this enquiry, it is expected that data collection from five participant interviews is sufficient to generate “thick descriptions” (Geertz, 1973) but not so small as to render the data redundant. Recruiting participants Five lecturers from three higher education institutions (a university, an institute of technology and a college) were approached inviting them to take part in the research (Appendix II). All five consented. It was thought that the five identified would generate sufficient data to represent a range of dispositions in different institutional contexts whilst at the same time allowing any general themes and concepts to emerge. The selection criteria was simply that they were lecturers in an institution of higher education in the Republic of Ireland, the exact profiles of which being determined by the researcher. Here it is important to note that because of the researcher’s position as a student within higher education, and as a consequence of having no great relationship to that field, the participants identified eminated from the researcher’s personal contacts and from a narrow range of disciplines, which can largely be categorised as the humanities or social sciences, information technology and the digital arts (Appendix IV). Ethical considerations Since personal data was collected from participants, ethical issues were given due consideration. Punch (1994) summarises the main ethical issues arising in research as “harm, consent, privacy and confidentiality of data” (cited in Punch, 2005, p. 277). Punch also
  39. 39. 35 emphasises that “ethical issues saturate all stages of the research process” (2005, p. 277). This enquiry takes account of important ethical considerations throughout, mindful of responsibilities to all participants. Informed consent, as defined by Diener and Crandall (1978) was obtained and in keeping with the principle acknowledged participants’ right to freely withdraw from the enquiry if desirous (Appendix III). Furthermore, considering that assenting to participate constitutes for the participant an intrusion into their life, the right to privacy was observed and anonymity and confidentiality of data assured. Data collection A great deal of qualitative material comes from talking with people, so in order to gain as holistic a view as possible of the phenomenon under enquiry, and considering its complexity to boot, in-depth interviews (recorded) were considered the most sagacious instrument of data collection in this instance. In-depth interviews gather dialogical data that helps to “explain more fully, the richness and complexity of human behaviour” (Cohen et al., 2007, p. 141). It was hoped that through the instrument of an interview something may be revealed not only relating to the conscious decisions that lecturers make but something of the unconscious dimension of their decision making might be revealed as well. In order to be equitable and facilitate collection of more meaningful data, it was judged practical during each interview to play a video clip of the in-class Twitter experiment (Rankin, 2009). A semi-structured form of interview (Appendix VI) was endorsed for this enquiry because it allows the interviewer to focus on issues of particular importance to the research question and to probe and clarify comments made by the respondents (Clarke and Dawson, 1999), but as Woods (2006) advises if interviews are going to tap into the depths of reality of the situation and discover subjects' meanings and understandings, it is essential for the researcher to (1) develop empathy with interviewees and win their confidence (2) to be unobtrusive, in order not to impose one's own influence on the interviewee (para. 2).
  40. 40. 36 A semi-structured interview permits that the exact questions asked to each participant may vary depending on their particular experiences, so to make the most of the interview, a precursory short self-report questionnaire was given to participants just before the interview commenced (Appendix V). The aim of which was to gather general information outlining their level of engagement and understanding concerning Twitter, and to guage their overall disposition towards it. This informed the structure of the interview, expediently helping to avoid assumptions, conjecture or misunderstanding. Questionnaires are not generally regarded as the most fitting method in qualitative research as questionnaires require individuals to respond to a prompt, thus it cannot be claimed that respondents are acting naturally (Woods, 2006). However, as the purpose here is to find out factual details, gain responses to definite categories and crucially not be evaluated statistically, a short questionnaire was considered appropriate. Piloting Oppenheim (1992) advocates conducting a pilot study, regarding the process as essential as it ensures greater reliability, validity and practicability of an enquiry. A pilot study can reveal deficiencies in the design of a proposed research instrument or procedure. In light of the researcher’s inexperience conducting research interviews, this caveat was particularly fitting and duly observed. A pilot interview served to satisfy the researcher of their ability to conduct interviews according to Wood’s (2006) counsel and to show that moderation of the interview schedule was not necessary. Data analysis Data analysis was achieved through a meaning condensation method (Kvale, 2009), and largely adhered to the guidelines for phenomenological analysis set out by Hycner (1985). It is important to note that within phenomenological research there is a reluctance to
  41. 41. 37 focus too heavily on specific methodological steps. It is thought that doing so may lead to the reification of a process. As Keen (1975) explains, unlike other methodologies, phenomenology cannot be reduced to a ‘cookbook’ set of instructions. It is more an approach, an attitude, an investigative posture with a certain set of goals ( p. 41). Giorgi et al. (1971, cited in Hycner, 1985) stress that research methods must be responsive to the phenomenon as any arbitrary imposition would deal an injustice to the integrity of the phenomenon itself. The meaning condensation process used is as follows (Appendix VII): 1. Transcription. 2. Forward the transcription to the participants to verify accuracy. 3. Undertake phenomenological reduction (suspension of premature judgement and theoretical constraints by researcher in order to be as true to the phenomenon as possible). 4. Listen to each interview to gain a holistic sense. 5. Delineate units of relevant meaning and eliminate units of irrelevant meaning. 6. Number list of delineated units of relevant meaning. 7. Cluster units of relevant meaning in relation to the concept questions of the enquiry. 8. Determine disposition within each cluster (positive/ negative or non-aligned) and determine any themes therein. 9. Summarise each individual interview. 10. Forward the summary and the document determining disposition relevant to the concept questions of the enquiry for the participants to verify accuracy. Hycner states that verification by participants provides an experiential “validity check” (p. 291). All five participants validated the transcripts and four validated their summary. The fifth participant did not respond to the later request.
  42. 42. 38 Validity and reliability Validity means that research methods must collect or measure what they purport to collect or measure, and that an account accurately represents “those features of the phenomena that it is intended to describe, explain or theorise” (Hammersley, 1987, p. 69, cited in Winter, 2000, p. 1). It is impossible to measure abstract concepts such as disposition directly so indirect methods must suffice, however indirect methods always contain some degree of error and the more error, the more questionable the validity of the research. Validity of qualitative data is best viewed as a matter of degree rather than as an absolute condition, as due to the subjectivity of participants’ opinions, attitudes, histories and perspectives a degree of bias is unavoidable. Maxwell (1992) argues that researchers using qualitative approaches would be well served by replacing the positivist concept of validity, which resonates with notions of “controllability” and/or “predictability” with that of “authenticity”. This subsequently places the emphasis on participants’ accounts as opposed to upon that of data or methods. It is after all, the meaning that participants give to the data and the inferences drawn that are important, and was the reason why respondent validation was sought. Reliability is often regarded as an essential affiliate of validity, equating essentially with consistency, dependability and replicability. However, this view stems largely from its significance in matters of measurement, which does not fit with an interpretivist outlook; subsequently the term is contested when applied to qualitative research. Reliability as concomitant to replicability in qualitative research is problematic as qualitative approaches are premised on the singularity of the situation, so realistically an enquiry such as this cannot be replicated, which can be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Lincoln and Guba (1985) suggest that to depict accurately the experiences of participants, “trustworthiness” of the research is required and favour using terms such as
  43. 43. 39 “credibility”, “dependability”, “confirmability” and “transferability”. Consequently, the enquiry has sought to establish methodological rigor at every stage of the research and to make this visible (Appendices). To guard against the accusation that the enquiry’s findings are simply the result of a single method and a single investigator's partialities, triangulation of data sources is employed to support the enquiry’s construction (Denzin, 1978). The purpose of triangulation is to locate and reveal the understanding of the object under investigation from "different aspects of empirical reality" (Denzin, 1978, p. 28). To this end, through its purposive sample of participants across three different sites, the enquiry adopts Dervin’s concept of “circling reality”, which is defined as “the necessity of obtaining a variety of perspectives in order to get a better, more stable view of ‘reality’ based on a wide spectrum of observations from a wide base of points in time-space” (1983, para 7). However, such a comparison may not necessarily lead to consistency, but then sometimes it is helpful to study and to understand when and why there are differences. Limitations of the enquiry Although this study cannot be said to be generalisable to the wider population, its validity is strengthened if generalisability is understood as “comparability” and “transferability” (Lincoln and Guba, 1985). To this end detailed and in-depth descriptions are provided so that others can guage the typicality of the participants and the settings and thus judge the extent to which its findings are generalisable to another situation, thereby addressing the dual issues of comparability and transferability. Moreover, whilst there is nothing to suggest that the participants in this enquiry are not typical of lecturers across higher education. The selection of participants may have introduced a bias and the negotiation of access to a population sample may have introduced another. Fraenkel and Wallen (2000) state that "the researcher may not be correct in
  44. 44. 40 estimating the representativeness of the sample or their expertise regarding the information needed" (p. 114). Chapter 4: Presentation of findings In this chapter, the enquiry’s findings are presented. To expediently demonstrate the range of dispositions exhibited amongst the participants and the conceptual factors upon which they are founded, the findings are presented as précised vignettes of each interview. It is anticipated that such presentation will allow for a lucid and faithful rendering of each participant’s viewpoint and for common and/or individual themes to emerge strongly. The vignettes describe how participants are inclined towards Twitter in general and how they perceive Twitter to be applicable or not for the purposes of their practice. The focus of presentation covers Twitter as part of a personal learning network (PLN), Twitter to progress classroom discussion and Twitter as a mechanism for learning support. This is advanced against any disposition (positive, negative or non-aligned) that the participant exhibits towards the practices that Twitter affords together with any possibilities for action they display in relation to adopting it or rejecting it into their practice. Disposition is presented as contextual, duly located within the culture of higher education and a particular institution. Aidan - social science Aidan does not use Twitter but says he sees it “second hand, through other forms of media”; what is more, he says that he has not seen anything on it that he would care to see. Referring to both the technological medium of Twitter and the messages therein, he declares, “there's nothing that I've seen that has any special intrinsic value”. About the open nature of Twitter he grants that this is positive as “public media is essential to democratic society” However, he pronounces that Twitter’s “virtue is also its
  45. 45. 41 problem” as it raises concerns pertaining to online safety and matters of quality. Compared to previous forms of open uncensored communication, Twitter it seems to Aidan is somewhat “vulgar” and people “undisciplined” in its use, “consuming” an endless feed of status updates in what he refers to as “the zone of constant gratification”. However, concerning social media generally, Aidan acknowledges, “the value of it is that it actually enables us to be to be with others in multiple new ways” and he allows, “we should trust each other to have it”, but he cautions, like most things there is “a good and a bad side”. Aidan sees that this technology is remarkable in many ways, elucidating of course this technology is fantastic […] and I'll tell you why it's fantastic, because the life of the mind has always been trapped in the life of the body, the human condition; and for the philosopher, what every academic is whatever they call themselves, it is really about thinking [...] you just want your mind to be connected with all your philosopher buddies all the time. When asked about developing a personal learning network (PLN) within Twitter, Aidan concedes, “it’s only what we've done forever; when you’re an academic you live in a networked world”; and duly recounts making international calls via a switchboard to network with colleagues overseas. He continues to add that with technology such as Twitter human behaviour is changing and for this, there is much to be concerned. Sophisticatedly designed alongside mobile devices, it appears to Aidan that this technology is possibly “habit-forming”. He observes, “it is being developed into an almost symbiotic thing”. “This stuff traps human beings” he emphatically declares, and contends, “it's not accidental when you’re putting multi-million dollars into design and you’ve got the best designers in the world making your technology”. Moreover, via mobile devices, he insists that the interests of the producers of technology have infiltrated education: we've lost control of the zone, of the teaching and learning zone; so there's a kind of piracy going on, you know the interest of the producers of this technology have entered and plundered and taken over the teaching and learning zone.
  46. 46. 42 He continues, “I think it has fantastic potential but like all the technologies in the modern world it doesn't come out of space, it’s driven by commerce, it's over individualised and not communal enough”, lamenting that “the technology is coming before the thought is applied to its use by pedagogues or social policy people, psychologists and so on when we really don't know what we’re doing” attributing this to the fact that some people now have actually lost […] their own critical sense. They don't believe in the embeddedness of learning in an environment. […] Some people are so infatuated with the process […] because this is so intellectually seductive. Hence, Aidan proclaims, “as pedagogues we have to ensure that we keep this thing clean, we keep it virtuous, we keep it for the good, keep it social”. Students today it seems “are overloaded with information”. Consequently, one of Aidan’s “worries” is that because information “comes with such a barrage” it means that there is very little time for students to do anything other than to treat all information superficially and equally. He says there is no time for them to take the critical distance the intellect needs and indeed the body needs to rest for holistic engagement as a human being with the experience. There is no space, and I think it's probably deliberate, there's no space for them to put the thing down and think about things. It all comes about too fast too readily. They are overloaded with information, overloaded with information that they are unable to critically evaluate and assess so everything gets treated equally, everything gets treated superficially there is no time to treat it any other way. The students therefore lose their critical judgements. Aidan believes it is important that space be allowed between the flow of information, for private reflective practices by the student and for discourse between the student and the tutor. Aidan declares that he wants to talk about the concept of the “stick in the sand” extolled by Socrates as being at the heart of teaching and learning: I really feel strongly about it. You can do a lot of stuff, you can use a lot of technology to promote, embellish, facilitate, support and develop that process but the damage is when people think that you can replace it.
  47. 47. 43 He also talks about the importance of the relationship between the lecturer and the student, stressing the authority of the lecturer’s knowledge, the interpersonal nature of the relationship and the boundaries therein: it's one of those things you learn when you're learning to be a pedagogue. It's about the authority of your knowledge, and the way you exercise that is through authority, through the authority of your teacher presence. It's actually your professorial status to use that old-fashioned idea. What’s required is that the student just respects that. It’s a mutual thing, you respect their learning […] and they respect that you have it too. And it means there are boundaries and there are moments where the student must defer. […] It’s a subtle thing and the boundaries are hard when you’re a teacher because you've got to make it invisible and part of learning as a student is to get the boundaries, so it's complex and it’s very [emphasis] interpersonal. How learning happens Aidan maintains is complex and not easy to explain, occurring somehow in the dialogue between the lecturer and the student(s): it's very much about people; it's almost animal in a way if you know what I mean. It's very complex and I don't even know how it works, it works in the dialogue between the tutor and the students. Furthermore, he avows that the process of learning is dialectical, either between two people or amongst a group of people, so when asked to comment on the premise that Twitter is suited towards the self-directed learner, Aidan is unequivocal “the self-directed learner is a fantasy”, continuing that “the idea of this individual learner in control I think is a really unhealthy idea”. This he considers to have been borne out in the video (Rankin, 2009) but merely augmented by technology, “she [Prof. Rankin] is using Twitter to precisely facilitate that process”. He asserts, “those people in the class, that's perfect that's how it is they’re not on a personal learning thing they’re in a group”. This is important to Aidan and it pertains to how to replicate the “stick in the sand” within online environments whilst maintaining group interaction and the interpersonal dimension of communication. Aidan contends, “it has always been understood that distance is never the same as presence”. However, he can see that Twitter may be a useful tool when
  48. 48. 44 considered in terms of blended learning. Still, he upholds that the main problem with Twitter, from a teaching and learning perspective, is that it does not appear to have “the range and depth to allow people to develop their thinking” being literally a “sound bite”. From the outset, Aidan admits that he has not heard anything about Twitter in higher education. However, he is familiar with the discourse pertaining to eLearning more generally and the drive to implement online methods within his institution. He advocates eLearning initiatives as a means of democratising education but against a tough economic backdrop, possible commercial and political motives give cause for concern. Aidan notes his president’s enthusiasm but states, “he/she loves it for the reasons that aren't the ones I love it for”. Referring back to long established academic practices, he goes on to ask will we “surrender [all] this to have everybody online” continuing “if you open everything up to the flux it is fantastic but what do we lose?” Thus, he concludes, “this technology is very challenging”, “it's going to take a lot of very serious philosophy of education thinking” accepting that “all of this, as pedagogues, we would have to re-engage with it and build it into the process”. It is noteworthy that the role of a pedagogue (role being taken to mean “proper or customary function”) is a constant theme of Aidan’s throughout. So, as to whether he might consider adopting Twitter, it would seem that this is dependent upon satisfactory philosophical assessment and careful “piloting” by pedagogues. He says, “I wouldn't want to just get it and use it. I would want there to be training within the college by someone who has really spent time thinking about the pedagogy of the uses of Twitter”. Declan - religious education When asked about his thoughts in general regarding Twitter, Declan straightaway expounds
  49. 49. 45 until it became technology, the word twitter was used in an incredibly pejorative sense about a form of communication; as in that person is twittering on, they are not making any sense, there is no substance to what they are saying. Consequently, upon learning that the word is now being applied to a form of internet communication Declan admits to being “automatically and instantaneously negatively disposed towards it, because there’s enough twittering going around between people without starting to put it on to machines”. Furthermore, when asked how he feels about social networking and posts on Twitter being public, he ardently replies, “how do I feel about something being available to everyone? I really cannot psychologically I really cannot understand why you would want to”. He goes on to explain that for him “communication, if it's real, is of a much more close intimate and purposeful nature rather than I’m going to buy chips for my tea this evening”, which is the sort of banal comment with which he associates Twitter. He persists, why do people do that “is it a sense of ultimately wanting to be seen and recognised in a way that they haven’t felt before. I absolutely find that very very strange”. Regarding Twitter for the purposes of higher education, Declan ventures that “as an educationalist to believe that you can put learning into little sound bites of 140 characters rather than developing ideas and really looking at arguments for and against over a longer period […] it's not helpful”. Not only does Declan discern the short 140 character “sound bite” aspect of Twitter but surmises that one might “get sucked in to that minutiae” of microblogging. Hence, he pronounces, “I'm really worried that this is mitigating against the idea of actually having to look at something in-depth and having to get into depth reasoning”. He then raises the notion of problematic knowledge saying “when you’ve got people Twittering and they've got different points of views it's nearly always that knowledge is not unproblematic” adding that today when “we're awash” with information “how are we going to help people engage much more critically with the unending information”, typically “how

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