Self-determined learning and social media

This post describes one exercise that can be used with students as part of a module to train them in how to use Twitter, and why they might find it a useful tool.  The idea is part of a heutagogical approach to learning as described by Lisa Marie Blaschke at the RIDE 2013 conference on 1 November 2013.  If you are interested in finding out more about Heutagogy I talk a little more about this concept on my Sixteenth Century Scholars blog. 

Senate House, University of Lodnon
Senate House, University of Lodnon

On Friday a few weeks back I attended the RIDE 2013 conference held at Senate House (University of London).  RIDE stands for research and innovation in distance education and e-learning, and was organised by the Centre for Distance Education/University of London International Programmes.  I was there primarily to learn more about current trends in learning and teaching especially in regards to online training and the use of social media.

Training students to use Twitter

One of the keynote speakers was Lisa Marie Blaschke who mentioned one way of using Twitter as an exercise as part of a heutagogical approach.  I have not really considered social media applications as potential training tools beyond the obvious collaborative wiki or forum discussion.  This seemed to me a potentially useful way to reveal to students the potential benefits of Twitter as a tool and resource, whilst also providing them with training in how to use it properly, and fitting it into a research topic that was of interest to them.  The following is approximately what this aspect of the module involved (as far as I understood it).

  1. Create an account – students are asked to create their own Twitter accounts and asked to follow a specially created Twitter account for the module.
  2. Students are to use the Twitter search functions to find and follow one expert in their field.  Their job through the term is to see and record what that person says on Twitter and to learn from them both in terms of the information they provide about their research subject, but also in terms of how Twitter is used.
  3. Experiences are shared between the students using Twitter (although not said here, I would imagine a carefully chosen hashtag being perfect for this)

This approach not only gives students the opportunity to see the potential of Twitter as a tool but it seamlessly slots into their own research interests and – for minimal work on their part (and that of the tutor) – gives them a ready-made forum for seeing what their classmates are finding out as well.  As a further benefit many of those that took the class in the past will still continue to follow and be followed by the module Twitter account allowing past students to help train the next generation just by their mere presence and, presumably, past students to continue to learn from their successors.

For more about the RIDE conference both past and present check out the Centre for Distance Education website.  

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