Online for TLCWebinars, 12 June 2018
There has been much research in the use of social media to support learning and teaching. In many instances it is argued that it enables a decentralization of learning moving towards a distributed model which has many benefits including supporting a stronger foundation for lifelong learning.
Twitter is one service that has been widely used within this context. The introduction of hashtags as a mechanism to allow communities to form and contribute to a topic is now a well established model within both formal and informal education as well as in society in general. The use of Twitter in this way removes boundaries extending the opportunities for co-learning, in particular, discussions can become less siloed, every contribution to a hashtag community is potentially another opportunity for someone else to join the conversation. The thinning of the walls in this way is not without it implications and the vulnerability of being a learner should never be underestimated. Another consideration is that Twitter has been adopted as a tool to support learning in this way rather than being designed for this purpose. As a result exploring and finding understanding within hashtag communities can be problematic and with many open learning contexts individuals can end up feeling lost.
This conversation will explore approaches to help learners and educators gain more insight and a feeling of place within hashtag communities. As part of this we will look at TAGS and TAGSExplorer tools (https://tags.hawksey.info) which have been developed with educators and learners in mind to help support the collection, analysis and exploration of Twitter hashtag communities. These free tools provide a means to collect data from Twitter searches and analysis the results either in Google Sheets, where the data is collected, or visualized in the companion TAGSExplorer web interface. As part of this conversation we will touch upon the limitation of data collection from Twitter and issues around data protection and privacy. We will also provide some examples of where TAGS/TAGSExplorer has been used within an educational context.