Thanks to all on the #scholar14 MOOC, I have found encouragement through your discussions about being an online scholar and feeling vulnerable in revealing professional practice or personal experiences online……….
I have been meaning to post about my exploratory research for quite some time but always had a feeling that the research wasn’t quite ready or good enough to share……….in fact it is still is not ready, but articulating where I am at the moment will hopefully help me on the research path.
I am in the process of an EdD which is a Doctorate programme structured towards the professional practice of education. However in the past few years my own engagement in professional practice has been rocky to say the least………..Ireland, where I live has been in recession and this has had a knock-on effect to employment in public sector in areas of education. As a result short term contracts have been the norm in Irish higher education for a few years and I have changed professional roles 3 times in 3 years! This has had an impact what I have been able to carry out research on in a professional context…………..Looking back perhaps the PhD track would have been more suitable to me, but I wanted a structured approach, and I felt the EdD programme offered that. Despite my rocky professional and employment journey over the past few years (which has had its impact on me financially, emotionally and meta-physically!) I have completed all of my papers and assignments to date and now I am onto the final thesis of the EdD programme.
My participant group is small, about 10 people. They are a group of professionals all working in higher ed, who originally engaged in a professional development Masters programme, I was the programme coordinator /lecturer and encouraged the use of Twitter to reach outside the ‘classroom’, connect with others, and find and harness information that they could use in their learning and Masters studies. A few years later many of the graduates of this master’s programme are still using Twitter. I became interested in how and why these professionals were continuing to use Twitter, so in my research I am exploring Twitter as a tool for professional learning.
I have analysed the Tweets of participants in my research group. Veletsianos (2012) asserts that there are 7 activities that higher education scholars’ engage I non Twitter. I am using these 7 activities as priori codes, and I have analysed Tweets of participants to see if they engaged in those activities and also if any additional activities popped up.
What became apparent from Tweets, was that all of the participants were using Twitter in different ways, some had more of a focus on networking, and echoing thoughts of others; some participants have established useful collaborations with other academics and this had had an impact on their professional practices; others are listening/lurking on Twitter
Jane Hart says that Twitter is a learning tool (see http://c4lpt.co.uk/top100tools/) and I want to read ‘The Use of Twitter for Professional Growth and Development ‘( Gerstein 2011) to see what the author asserts about Twitter professional development (currently awaiting an interlibrary loan)
However, according to my own understanding and beliefs developed through reading about theories of learning and professional learning (Mezirow, Kolb, Boud, Lave & Wenger, Argyris, Schön). I have a certain slant on what professional learning is ……….Learning is more than information retrieval, more than talking to people over the web…………I believe that for professional learning to become realised, a change must occur to practice of a professional. I am interested in transformational learning, applied changes in perspectives that leads to changes in practice. Mezirow’s Theory of Transformational Learning influences my theoretical framework….
I am carrying out interviews with participants at the moment on this, the research is very much exploratory
I need to talk about many things with my supervisor who I will meet next week. I am enjoying this research but I am a long way from conclusions at the moment. What most interests me at the moment is that Twitter can be a learning tool, but that use of it might need to be honed and sharpened so that professionals in higher education are making the best use of it for professional learning purposes
Gerstein, J (2011) The Use of Twitter for Professional Growth and Development. International Journal on E-Learning Volume 10, Number 3. Publisher: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE),Chesapeake, VA
Veletsianos, G. (2012). Higher Education Scholars’ Participation and Practices on Twitter (Links to an external site.). Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(4), 336-349.