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Transcript of Tweetagogy (ATTW2010)
Building Community in 140 Characters or Less
& Vincent Rhodes
Old Dominion University
ODU Doctoral Program
Summer Doctoral Institute (SDI)
PhD program began Fall 2006; admits full-time, part-time, and distance-learning students
Distance learning classrooms allow on-campus students and teachers to meet face-to-face while also allowing students at a distance to "join" the class via synchronous video conferencing
Students at a distance see single video stream that alternates between real-time video, computer-based content, or images from overhead camera (for note taking or non-digital content
Students required to complete a minimum of two semesters of full-time, on-campus study (full time in fall/spring = 9 credit hours, full time in summer = 6 credit hours)
SDI (special 6 week session) created to assist part-time and distance-learning students in meeting this requirement
SDI consists of 3 components: a two-week period of daily asynchronous online work, a two-week period of daily face-to-face on-campus instruction, and a final two-week period of daily asynchronous online work
Summer Doctoral Institute (SDI)
Case study focuses on the use of Twitter in 2 courses (ENGL 894: Seminar in New Media & ENLG 895: Tracing Digital Culture)
During #SDI09, 9 students enrolled in one course and 8 enrolled in the other
Because some students took both course, the number of unique course particpants is 11
Although the SDI was created for PhD students, 2 participants in each class were Masters students
Established in 2006
Microblogging platform affords 140 characters to answer the question "What are you doing?"
Has been appropriated for a variety of uses despite explicit question posed by interface (daily chatter, conversations, sharing info, and reporting news)
As of March 5, 2010: 10 BILLION tweets sent
50 million tweets/day, 600 tweets/second
19 million twitter accounts (21% active)
TWeet = a Twitter posting
RETWEET = re-posting a tweet (similar to forwarding e-mail); noted by "RT" preceding the rebroadcast message
[I agree! RT: @varhodes This article was confusing.]
AT REPLY = Message directed to another user by placing "@" prior to username at the beginning of the tweet
[@varhodes This is an @reply]
HASHTAG = allows aggregation of tweets by common tags noted with # symbol
[ #SDI09 • #CCCC2010 ]
Sample SDI Twitter Requirement
Draws from two arenas
Linguistic sense: backchannel communications are utterances or non-verbal signals that indicate a listener is listening to a speaker (Kellogg, Erickson, Wolf, Levy, Christensen, Sussman & Bennett, 2006, p. 451; Wikipedia 2009).
Political context: backchannel offers a connotation of being unofficial, unwanted or illicit (Kellogg et al, 2006, p. 451; McCarthy, boyd, Churchill, Griswold, Lawley & Zaner 2004, p.550).
"The definition of the term backchannel varies with context and usage. To some it suggests an intangible, clandestine community. To others, it suggests an empowering toolkit for participation, collaboration, and interaction. The central function of the backchannel is its use as a secondary or background complement to an existing frontchannel, which may consist of a professor, teacher, speaker, or lecturer. It offers a unique communication medium, a novel toolkit through which students can create, identify, and filter new modes of learning" (Yardi, 2006, p. 852).
The concept of online classroom community has become more important as universities begin to deal with concerns regarding distance learning students’ potential experience of isolation and disconnectedness. This case study seeks to empirically validate the existence of such an online community in the Summer Doctoral Institute at Old Dominion University and determine whether Twitter functions as an effective facilitator of that community.
Rovai (2002) distills various definitions into “the most essential elements of community: mutual interdependence among members, sense of belonging, connectedness, spirit, trust, interactivity, common expectations, shared values and goals, and overlapping histories among members” (p.4)
Kling and Courtright (2003) observe that “many uses of the term community are, in fact, aspirational rather than empirically grounded” (225)
While it is possible to maintain community online, it should not be taken for granted (Haythornthwaite et al, 2000)
Sock Puppets & Privacy Concerns
Twitter & Third-Party Applications
Results: Social Presence
@lizapotts • @gossettphd • @varhodes
Archived 2,311 tweets using #SDI09 hashtag
Limitation: Archive does not include tweets lacking the #SDI09 hashtag
Limitation: Archive does not include @replies lacking the hashtag or Direct Messages (DMs)
"Spam" tweets (equivalent of junk mail) eliminated from data set
Other Twitter-based research (Honeycutt & Herring 2009; Krishnamurthy, Phillipa & Martin, 2008) has noted difficulties in collecting data due to Application Programming Interface (API) limits imposed by Twitter.
A system glitch prevented some tweets containing the proper hashtag from appearing in the #SDI09 archive including 70 tweets generated by @varhodes
Twitter service issues and API restrictions on Twapper Keeper in place at the time the course archive was being collected resulted in collection of 188 incomplete tweets as part of the #SDI09 data set
While this did not significantly hamper the coding used in this study, it is the intent of the authors to replace incomplete entries with full tweets
A coding glitch in the original version of Twapper Keeper (since corrected) converted some special characters such as quotes and ampersands into character entities or other symbol strands (O’Brien, 2009)
Not originally built to scale to such high usage, Twitter occasionaly experienced lags or worked inconsistently with third-party clients
Twitter #FAIL ?
As a new technology, Twapper Keeper also experienced glitches.
When saving or exporting the archive, some tweets that appeared correctly in the tweet stream were duplicated in the PDF version and in the CSV data file
Although one advantage of microblogging formats is persistence of data (McNely, 2009), in the case of Twitter, that persistence is imperfect
During the course of the SDI session, thousands of user accounts were inadvertently suspended due to human error (Twitter, 2009)
Rovai (2002) offers 7 factors positively correlated with classroom community:
small group activities
teaching style & learning stage
CeME Lab • #CeME
firstname.lastname@example.org • email@example.com • firstname.lastname@example.org
Deciding on short user names to conserve tweeting space
Picking consistent profile pictures
Selecting message types: RT, @, #
Tutorials for Twitter, Tweetdeck, etc.
Follow your students & have them follow you
Search before assigning hashtags & be ready for possible conflict
Issues with using numbers (conferences vs. classrooms)
Shorter = better (again, to conserve tweeting space)
"Sock puppets" are always an option
Public performance: Twitter is PUBLIC
This will be on your permanent record (at least until Twitter crashes)
Archives: TwapperKeeper and Google
A CMC tool is not sufficient in and of itself for creating community (Lee, 2006)
psychological and communicative space between learners and instructors
Transactional distance is dependent on dialogue and structure (Moisey, Neu & Cleveland Innes, 2008) where structure refers to the amount of control exercised by an instructor in a learning environment as opposed to dialogue which affords the student a greater level of control (Rovai, 2002)
High levels of structure and low levels of dialogue translate into greater or more "remote" transactional distance
Lower levels of structure and higher levels of dialogue result in "closer" transactional distance and a stronger sense of community
(Moisey, Neu & Cleveland Innes, 2008)
Participating in CMC creates social presence for communicators by projecting identities and building online communities through the use of verbal immediacy behaviors
According to social presence theory, what matters in
relationships developed via CMC is that a participant in a discussion feel that the other
communicator is a “real person”
Akayoglu, Altun &
Dunlap & Lowenthal note, “What seems to be missing [in online courses] is the just-in-time,and sometimes playful, interactions that happen before and after class, during a break, and when students and faculty bump into each other between class meetings”
Swan (2002) and Akayoglu, Altun & Stevens (2009) draw on the work of Rourke et al (1999) in adapting three indicators of social presence (affective, cohesive, and interactive) to gauge the level of social presence in their own data sets
Affective indicators: “personal expressions of emotion, feelings, beliefs, and values” and are thought to make up for the lack of gestures, facial expressions, intonation and other cues commonly available in face-to-face communication (Swan, 2002, p.37)
Cohesive indicators: “verbal immediacy behaviors that build and sustain a sense of group commitment or group
presence” (Swan, 2002, p.37)
Interactive indicators: provide evidence that other participants are attending to the discourse (Swan, 2002, p.37)
Steps of Grounded Theory include:
Analysis (includes coding, comparison and testing)
Theoretical sampling (reviewing data that have relevance to the evolving theory)
Developed by Glasner and Strauss (1967)
A general, inductive methodology
“The outcome of the methodology is an explanatory theory that adds to our understanding of complex interactions such as teaching and learning.” (Neff, Potts & Whithaus, in progress)
Results: Tweeting Patterns
Results: Transactional Distance
2 Elements: Structure & Dialogue
Goal is to minimize instructor control
of the tweets (n=326) were generated by the professors
(n=192) were directed to or responses to students
Of those 326 tweets,
+ High Dialogue
of the data set were coded as @replies indicating a high degree of conversation
Within the #SDI09 tweet stream, 7.68% (n=177) tokens were coded as retweets
Together, @ replies
& retweets make up
the tokens included
in the #SDI09 data set
Twitter acted as a community builder during the SDI because, as Comstock (2004) notes, such technologies “extend our work time and space, making us all more instantly and continuously available and thus more intimate than we would have been in a more traditional course setting.”
A classroom is most successful when it operates “not like a homogeneous community or horizontal alliance but like a contact zone.” (Pratt, 1991, p. 39)
Successful online instruction must include a range of interactions between students and instructors that extends the more public concept of community. (Blair & Hoy, 2006, p. 34)
Classroom as Contact Zone
work in progress • still coding
Cohesive Power of Hashtags
Because Twitter can be used asynchronously, we cannot assume that those viewing the tweet stream will have a shared context
The hashtag allows a participant to filter out other tweets bringing order to the "chaos"
100% of archived tweets used
Strong Cohesive Function:
Hashtag creates sense of identity
Must label self/token/content each time you communicate
Discussion Board Contrast:
"Space" you enter to communicate (and one you can leave)
Static (not a "stream")
public performance vs. private participation
Group Reference Code (GR)
May split the Group Reference code into two distinct categories:
Internal Group Reference (course)
External Group Reference (discipline)
Does the ability of participants to mutually identify with mulitple groups strenghten their sense of community?
Although coding is incomplete at this time, two series of tweets seem to indicate a strong sense of community:
During two sessions of group presentations, participants tweeted encouraging, approval-based messages
Similarly, in last week of class (when tweeting was not required), participants continued to tweet supportive messages during the writing of final papers (173 tweets)
Emergent Code: Off-Topic (OT)
The use of humor (an affective indicator) appears to be greater in this case study than that found by Swan 2002
This may be because of the type of CMC utilized:
Discussion Board: More formalized, academic writing genre
Twitter: Less structured, more conversational
Messages that do not pertain directly to a reading or an on-topic comment from a peer
Unlike SS, may be about course — but not CR. May ask questions about assignments or classroom parameters that are not specifically related to the prescribed reading
Examples include clarification from peers about assignment criteria, meeting times, mutual tech support, and sharing information about others' research interests
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Bikowski, D. (2007). Internet relationships: Building learning communities through friendship. Journal of Interactive Learning Online 6(2), 131-141.
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Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education 20(2), 129-135.
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