Thursday, 9 October 2014

Using Twitter in Sociology Teaching and Learning – Research Project Launch!

Today sees the launch of a new research project titled ‘Using Twitter in Sociology Teaching and Learning'

The project is being led by Dr Emma Head and Dr Ala Sirriyeh, and is funded by Keele's Teaching Innovation Project Scheme. The objectives of this investigation are to firstly assess the use of Twitter as a tool to promote enhanced student learning and engagement on a sociology module and, secondly, to explore the role of social media in the education and wider lives of undergraduate students.  The research will evaluate the use of Twitter as a teaching and learning tool in a new second year undergraduate module 'Race', Racism and Resistance, which will run this semester. This is an elective module in sociology, led by Ala. The module introduces students to the sociology of ‘race’, ethnicity and racism. Ala will be using Twitter as a teaching and learning tool within the module. Emma will evaluate this use of Twitter on the module as well as exploring this within the wider context of student engagement with various forms of social media. 

Research aims 
In this project we will be exploring three main research aims: 

·         To explore whether Twitter contributions and exchanges can help enable students to feel a greater sense of connection to their studies and whether a more collaborative approach to learning will develop as students exchange ideas about their reading and seminar preparation.  
·         To evaluate whether, and to what extent, the use of Twitter on this module encourages students to think of different forms of communication, to reflect on how to act in an online environment, and to consider their self-presentation whilst using social media. 
·         To examine how contributions online relate to contributions in seminars and preparation for seminars to explore the possible connections between student engagement both online and in the face-to-face settings.

We are interested in talking to students about these issues and considering whether existing social media networks might offer any advantages over the Keele Learning Environment (KLE) for student learning. This is particularly significant in a subject like sociology where we aim to encourage students to relate the observations of scholars to the contemporary social world and wider social issues.

Undergraduates are often heavily embedded in social media networks and this project will allow us to explore the experiences students have of issues around privacy and self-presentation online. We will be able to ask students to reflect on their ‘digital footprint’ and to consider related issues at a time when they will soon be making the transition from student to potential employee in a graduate labour market. We will also be exploring the appropriateness of using social media sites as places for learning and how students experience learning differently in online and real world environments.

Using Twitter on the module

Students on this module will be encouraged to participate in a series of tasks that connect their learning and seminar preparation with the weekly key readings and lecture topic.  For example, students might tweet questions for a forthcoming seminar discussion or tweet their favourite quote from the week’s key reading.  Students will be encourage to use a shared hashtag in their tweets. In the seminars the tweets from that week’s online discussion will be displayed via a hashtag search, or by using storify. Ala will present and comment on the Twitter feed in class to summarise and facilitate a discussion on themes that have been raised. Ala will also tweet and retweet links (from @AlaSirriyeh) to resources that debate contemporary issues around ‘race’ and racism, this will include journal articles, news reports, and documentaries. Students will also be encouraged to share resources that they find in the same way. One of the assessments on this module asks students to present an analysis of a relevant contemporary debate. These tweets will collate a set of materials that will be useful for this task.  Ala's twitter feed is displayed within the KLE for any students who don't wish to access Twitter, or to set up their own account.

Evaluating the use of Twitter for teaching and learning

We will be using questionnaires and focus groups to evaluate the use of Twitter on this module. Students registered on the module will be invited to complete a questionnaire at the beginning and end of the course. The first questionnaire asks about expectations and experiences of Twitter and the how social media is currently used by the student. The second questionnaire asks students to evaluate the use of Twitter on the module and their overall learning experience. Additionally, students will be invited to take part in two focus group sessions, once in the first three weeks of the module, and again in the final weeks of teaching. Emma will facilitate these focus groups, to explore issues around online teaching and learning and social media in greater depth. We hope our students will enjoy the opportunity to be participate in a research project.


Guy said...

This is very interesting. I am confident that students will access and use twitter far more readily than they access the discussion groups on the KLE. Because posting is instant and responses are rapid, students will soon be making full use of it and will then lead the way it goes. I see more academics using twitter, which has a great future. We should encourage students to use social media responsibly and extensively. Guy Woolnough

Sociology and Criminology at Keele said...

Thanks Guy. We're going to post short updates on the project as it develops and will post details of our project findings at the end of the study. One of the things we are interesting in talking to students about is their experiences of our learning platform and if they think there are any advantages or disadvantages in using social media sites in education. Emma