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Inquiry - Tweeting about Hugo

An inquiry into using Twitter as a collaborative book review tool with year 9 students.

Ray Burkhill

on 6 October 2014

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Transcript of Inquiry - Tweeting about Hugo

Microblogging as a medium for socially constructing book reviews
Tweeting about Hugo
Defining the Problem - rationale, aims and objectives
My personal Twitter journey
Student Context
Teacher context
Planning and initial set up
Up front: I hate Twitter. Inane comments, time waster, self indulgent...all these things spring to mind when I think of Twitter.
My opinion at the start of 2012!
So how can I use Twitter in the classroom
Maybe I can use it for professional learning?
How do other teachers use Twitter?
New digital class set up for 2012 with emphasis on use of technology to enhance achievement.
25 students working at Level4/5 of NZC (March 2012 Reading asTTle).
Each student equipped with an iPad plus access to traditional computer labs.
Class has been reading the book 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' as part of their work in English.
Typically, after reading the book the teacher would lead the students through a review process to identify and explore key ideas...including characters, themes and style.
This would be completed with reference to the appropriate NZ curriculum achievement objective.
Discussion with the class teacher revealed a desire to explore ways to engage individuals and promote collaboration within the group as they completed the necessary book review process.
In his view, this was difficult to achieve through traditional means, often resulting in a deconstruction of the book that detracted from the pleasure of reading it in the first place.
In addition, he wanted to investigate the affordances of both the iPads and available web 2.0 tools in relation to the above objective. He saw this as part of his mandate as a teacher of the digital class.
We agreed that Twitter might have something to offer in relation to these needs and decided to make this tool central to the book review process.
In particular we thought that Twitter might afford a
social constructivist
mode of learning in tandem with the
intrinsic "engagement factor"
of Twitter itself.
To reach the point where students could effectively tweet about Hugo took several steps.
(cc) image by nuonsolarteam on Flickr
Step 1 Technical issues and cybersafety
Step 2 Teaching about Twitter
Step 3 Identifying the #hashtags
Step 4 Tweeting
As common a medium as Twitter is today, using it in the classroom is not all that straightforward.
On the plus side, there are plenty of 'how to' guides and education resources online.
To set Twitter up for use by the students, we had to first create a class Twitter account @LDLCEng (that's
lish by the way)
Next, each student created their own school account, with tweets set to 'protected' so that they could not be followed by strangers.
We developed a Twitter policy and communication strategy with parents
Finally, each student had to follow the class account and each other so that their tweets would be visible to the class.
This last step was 'messy' and created visibility issues for students who had not followed everyone else in the class.
Firewall issues
Even with tech support on our side, signing onto Twitter at school was an incredibly frustrating experience.
This problem initially compromised our pedagogical goals...but in the end we managed to find a satisfactory solution.
Students knew about Twitter but very few knew how to use it effectively.
We invested a fair amount of time teaching about Twitter via our Hugo Moodle site.
Your first Tweet! Now it's time to say something on Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you are going to introduce yourself. You can just say what your name is, or something about Hugo. It doesn't really matter as long as it's respectful.

Click on compose new tweet and set out your message like this...

@LDLCEng Hi my name is Joe Bloggs, Great to be using Twitter. Really enjoyed Hugo. #LDLCintros

The @LDLCEng is like an address...it makes sure your Tweet goes to the right place, in this case our class Twitter account.

The #LDLCintros is called a 'hashtag' and is a way of saying what you are talking about. We will use # a lot when we start talking about Hugo using Twitter.

Okay...give it a try!
Central to the tweeting process was deciding what to tweet about. The idea was to use Twitter hashtags # as a way of tracking discussions about particular aspects of the book. For example, friendship is a key theme in the book, so #hugofriendship could be used as an identifier when a student wanted to add to this discussion.
We used a Moodle forum to suggest and agree on our hashtags.
Our final list of hashtags as identified by students.
As complex as all this might sound, without the technical difficulties we could have reached the actual tweeting stage after just two one hour lessons.
After all of the hard work setting things up, the tweeting was itself very straightforward.
The only instructions we gave the students were to address their tweets to the whole class and use the hashtags.
Both the teacher and I had no idea what to expect at this point...whether the students would take up the challenge from home as well as at school or the nature of their Twitter discussions.
Extract from Hugo moodle course
Login as guest, password = hugotwitter
The numbers
Note that tweets can be exported to an excel file for analysis. For this project I used a free service on http://twdocs.com/
The following stats do not show actual student names. Each student has a unique ID number.
The summary table below shows that of the 25 students in class, 19 tweeted and between them generated a total of 65 tweets
Of the 65 student tweets, 17 were introductory tweets - ie not specifically about Hugo (see side panel in this section for examples).

Of the remaining 48 student tweets, 38 were replies (including replies to teacher tweets ) - in other words there were 38 separate social interactions about Hugo.

Of these 38 tweets, 17 were replies to other students rather than teachers.
Other key stats
By far the most prolific tweeters were the teachers...the class English teacher and myself. We tweeted 29 and 27 times respectively during the week long tweeting period.
The tweeting period lasted a week and spanned a weekend.
The latter stat indicates the degree of social interaction which took place solely between students.
The tweets
Introductory tweets
Students were asked to introduce themselves on Twitter, in part to get used to the conventions of using @ and #.
Although not directly related to the book review task, these tweets revealed how the students viewed Twitter as a potential tool for learning.
Example intro tweets
@LDLCENG ,I really really like,twitter!(: ,Im happy we're using it in english!
@LDLCEng Hello im on Twitter now and i think it is great(:
@LDLCEng Thanks goodness we got it working! Great to finally be using twitter. Hugo is a good book! #LDLCintros
@LDCLEng Hey, (name) here, great to be using twitter, hope it helps us with the hugo project! #LDLCintros
@LDLCEng it is very exciting to be on twitter
Twitter conversations
Some of these comments reflected the students' frustrations about the technical problems when setting up Twitter.
Other comments were undoubtedly motivated by the excitement of using Twitter (regardless of its intended use in class!).
There were no negative comments about the prospect of using Twitter.
For this project, by the time we had Twitter working effectively, time had almost run out. Therefore the number of Twitter conversations was fewer than hoped for. However, even with the limitations, some good interactions did develop.
In the examples below, there is an initiating tweet (I) followed by a reply or replies (R1, R2).
Example 1
I: #hugofriends Hugo,made a very strong friendship with Isabelle.
R1: @(name) it was a very deep friendship that helped hugo with his plan on how to do everything, (:

Example 2
I: #hugopicture the pictures in this book are very good,and show a lot of detail.
R1: @(name) the drawing were done by a critically known artist
R2: @ (name) i agree the pictures are very good!! They show a lot about the book! (:

Example 3
I: Hugo was a cross between a story and a work of art.
R1: @(name) #hugochar yes (name) I think you are right about that because of all the art shown in the book.
R2: @(name) I agree with you (name) that the book is a work of art, but it can be annoying switching between txt and pictures #Hugopicture

Example 4
I: #charautomaton the automaton is a very weird character and there are lots of things about it that u don't know???
R1: @(name) yes i definitely agree with you (name)! They should say more stuff about him!
R2: @(name) maybe they should write another book with another automata in it

Example 5
I: I want to know more about the station Hugo lives in. #Hugonewtheme
R1 (teacher tweet): @LDLCEng @(name) Does it say where it is in the book...which country...which city? #Hugonewtheme
R2: @(name) I think its in Paris, France #Hugonewtheme
R3 (teacher tweet): @(name 1) @(name 2) #Hugonewtheme I know you don't have the text in front of you but can you remember any clues which suggest in Paris?
R4: @LDLCEng @(name) Umm i think there is a picture looking over the city with the eifel tower in it. #Hugonewtheme
Overall, this project hinted at the potential for using Twitter as a collaborative learning tool rather than confirming its efficacy.
In relation to the literature and initial aims of the project, I believe two tentative conclusions are justified by the available evidence.

1. Twitter is an intrinsically engaging medium for students.
Students repeatedly expressed enthusiasm for using Twitter as a medium for discussion about the book...in fact this bordered on genuine excitement in many cases. If not for the technical difficulties surrounding the set up of Twitter, this enthusiasm would have translated into far greater use of Twitter as a collaborative tool.
This conclusion is supported by the persistence shown by students when attempting to use Twitter even when the technology let them down and the very vocal disappointment when things did not work out as planned.

2. Twitter affords social construction of knowledge and understanding.
Even with the limited number of Twitter conversations generated by this project there was clear evidence of scaffolding of knowledge and understanding, both between peers and between student and teacher.
In all of the examples shown in the results section, each initiating tweet was followed by a reply that either built on the idea expressed in the first tweet or challenged it in some way.
In example 5, the students and teacher together clarify that Paris is the setting for the book. In example 3, the students agree that the book is artistic, but one student lays down the challenge that the pictures in fact detract from the reading experience.
Where to from here?
Clearly, I've only scratched the surface during this project. The logical next step is to repeat the use of Twitter as a collaborative tool, but this time starting from a position of strength with all of the technical issues resolved.

I had planned to gain more feedback from students about the use of Twitter but this was pushed aside by the stop-start nature of the tweeting itself. In particular, I would like to base a discussion with students around the four 'motivational factors' taken from the literature on Social Exchange Theory outlined in my learning theory section earlier in this presentation.

Another obvious direction for this work is to examine the impact of social construction of knowledge/understanding via Twitter on the desirable, curriculum related learning outcomes.

In fact, the English teacher did make a start on this by preparing a Google Forms 'quiz' for the students to complete (you can see this for yourself here http://bit.ly/K7RLZo if you have a GoogleDocs account) but this process is not yet finished.
According to this theory, motivation to participate depends on four factors, whereby the learner:
(i) expects that he/she will receive useful (extra) information in return for participation;
(ii) feels he/she can improve own visibility and influence to others in the network;
(iii) perceives the efficacy of the learning network in sharing knowledge as a ‘public good’, especially when contributions are seen as important, relevant, and related to outcomes;
(iv) negotiates to get some kind of more tangible asset (financial reward, bond, book, etc) in return.
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