Twitteracy: A New #Literacies Practice

Find the Chat Archive here…and continue the conversation below!

Guest host this week is Benjamin Gleason (@BWGleason).

The title of this #literacies chat comes from the article “Twitteracy: A New Literacy Practice” which Christine Greenhow (@chrisgreenhow) and I wrote in October, 2012 in a special issue on New Litearcies in the Educational Forum. We aimed to review literature that explored how young people use Twitter in formal and informal learning settings, whether or not Twitter may represent a new literacy practice, and how might Twitter use align with standards-based curriculum.

Here’s an overview of our argument from the article:

When learners and educators engage in social and technical practices on microblogging sites such as Twitter, they may simultaneously be developing the kinds of new literacies increasingly advocated in the educational reform literature (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, and Leu 2008; Partnership for 21st Century Skills 2008).

We also reported on some of the benefits of using Twitter in formal settings:

In summary, these findings suggest that Twitter use in higher education may facilitate increased student engagement with course content and increased student-to-student or student–instructor interactions—potentially leading to stronger positive relationships that improve learning and to the design of richer experiential or authentic learning experiences.

In addition, we also suggested that though we found little research on how Twitter may be considered a new literacy practice, we found research on social media and literacy practices more generally, which informed our conceptual understanding:

First, literacy practices in Twitter fit the definition of new literacies outlined by Coiro et al. (2008): they are multimodal, dynamically updating, situationally specific, and socially mediated practices. Like the unique combinations of text, images, sound, and color that characterize teens’ self-expressions on social network sites, individual tweets and retweets typically comprise a multiplicity of modes, demonstrated via abbreviated hyperlinks to other online content (e.g., photos, videos, other Web pages) (boyd et al. 2010; Gleason submitted).

Finally, we suggest that there may be alignment between traditional print based literacies and new literacy practices:

Drawing from this work, we speculate that young people’s tweeting practices may open up opportunities for their development of standard language proficiencies in several ways: (1) improving students’ motivation and engagement with course content; (2) increasing student–student or student–instructor interactions, which creates more opportunities for feedback and mentoring; and (3) offer- ing lower barriers to publishing and a more “relaxed” writing style, which can encourage self-expression, creativity, playfulness, and risk-taking.

Some questions we hope to inform our #literacies chat include:

  1. Have you noticed an interest in young people using social media in your work with youth? Which platforms were used regularly, and for what purposes?
  2. How do the young people you work with use Twitter (as compared with how they may use Facebook, Tumblr, Snapchat, for example?) Do they tweet a lot? Send more Direct Messages? RT but don’t post?
  3. What social literacy practices are enabled by the use of new media like Twitter?
  4. What research methods align with research design that aims to describe/interpret/capture these new social literacy practices?
  5. Have you used Twitter in your teaching or professional life? How did it work for you? How did it work (or not) for your students, colleagues, etc?
  6. What kind of learning environment is supported when learners (instructors, students, other colleagues) use Twitter (and other social media platforms) to present themselves?
  7. How might Twitter align with standards-based curricula, and what steps can we take in our classrooms to make these learning spaces relevant to your youth?
  8. What are some challenges of using Twitter in formal and informal learning settings?
  9. What are some methodological considerations, challenges, or limitations about using Twitter as a research tool and research site?

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