#CritLit2010 | How can micro blogging help participation?

On this post I would like to reflect about the following topic:

“Learning in social networks.
How can micro blogging help   participation?”


My motivation to this post came from the topic of “Measuring the Unmeasurable: Digital Participation Seminar” that was developed by Steve  Mackenzie on his interesting entry named “Digital Participation, Digital Inclusion and Social Learning”.

I am interested on  micro blogging in a blended learning environment as a quick and easy medium for informal
communication. Since I began to use Twitter (this service of  micro blogging ), I discovered that apart from being in touch with people by telling them in 140 characters “What I am doing at anytime” , I found that Twitter can be an engaging tool for a community of students and teachers (and colleagues) that provides an opportunity of innovation on the (formal and informal) learning experience.

The purpose of this post is to give an overview of the
characteristics on  micro blogging, its contributions on
engaging learning, the critical literacies and the benefits
and problems. Finally, there is a reference to a Twitter
learning experience.

I will intended to answer the following questions in order to provide another framework when designing and implementing learning to engage participation:

1. Can tweeting help your teaching?

2. Why  micro blogging (Twitter) to social learning?

3. How to guide learners to engage on  micro blogging on-line learning?

4. Is there any micro blogging strategy for the blended classrooms?.

5. Which are the critical literacies on micro blogging?

6. Which are the benefits and the problems on micro blogging?

7. Is there any learning experience? … A Twitter Experiment.

Here are the answers:

1. “Can tweeting help your teaching?

“Twitter is a social network in which the members of a
community share their current activity by answering the question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters. This form of social interaction is called micro blogging.

Regarding this, I found an  article from National Education Association (NEA) that  answers  synthetically the above question.  It says: “Twitter won’t change your life, but it might make your job more fun and a little easier”. I will develop this topic in the following items.

2. Why  micro blogging (Twitter) to engaging social learning?

First of all, micro blogging tools motivates learners because of the sense of connections in real time. Twitter enables to post short ( sinchronic and asinchronic ) messages that are distributed within a learning community. It also  provides the opportunity to interact with others through certain topics  and interests, developing communicative and cultural competences.

Second, Twitter is accessibly from almost everywhere. So students can practice by posting and recieving messages from different ways: their mobile devices, a web page, from instant messengers and their  desktops. Students can also  decide how
much time they spend reading and writing messages.

Third, Twitter is suitable for integration.The use of Twitter as an online learning  community can help to integrate students in the community who could not attend classroom. This gives a closeness sense among them and teachers or facilitators.

3. How to guide engaging learning with micro blogging?

Engaged learning (Josey Bass; 2004) is a collaborative learning process in which the teacher and the student are partners in constructing knowledge and reflect about problems. Engaged learning may require a cognitive and affective learner connection with the strategy and the learning conditions. And Twitter provides an informal communication that most young students are familiar with. So most learners can demonstrate the skills required and are able to understand and adopt the strategy.

So, it is necessarily to set the  strategy ´s stage
appropriately. Then, we will see how you could do it

4. Is there any micro blogging strategy for the blended classrooms?.

As the classroom activities may include synchronic and asychronic way ( which are common on micro blogging), the most frequent Twitter usage types are: daily chatter, conversations, sharing information and reporting news.

In micro blogging strategy for the blended classrooms there are some tips to follow:

Firstly, the instructor will inform the students about the learning proposals and will give them the paper to work.

About Twitter

A. The instructor create a new and personal Twitter account.

B. The students  of the class (as homework) were prompted to  create their own account and to become “friends” with the instructor’s account as well as with the accounts of the other students.

C. Since each Twitter user receives the messages
of his or her friends, each student who followed the
instruction would receive the messages of his/her fellow students and of the instructor.

D. The students were then told to post at least a number of   messages a week and to  read the incoming
messages of their fellow students.

About micro blogging activities

E. Activities should be decentered and group dynamics should place more emphasis on student tweets rather than on teacher led tweets.

F. (Guideline) “Activities should take advantage of features like:

1. Backchannel
2. Hashtags
3. Synchronous capabilities
4. Add on “aftermarket” features like twit pages:  twitter scoop or Between
5. Collaborative process

Activities don’t have to take in all of the above to be
considered twitter efficient, but should include one of the core values or characteristics of the rubric”.

Some tips to take into account in a micro blogging  activity:

  • Whether the  activity will contribute to the learning objectives of the classroom.
    • How the needs of the learner will be met.
      • If the  micro blogging will force to ideas to formulate them precisely.

        5. Which are the critical literacies on micro blogging? (from Microblogging for Language Learning: Using Twitter to Train Communicative and Cultural Competence )

        Twitter requires training of aspects of communicative
        competence as well as cultural competence.

        Communicative competence consists of  four components:

        • grammatical competence (words and rules);
        • sociolinguistic competence (appropriateness);
        • discourse competence (cohesion and coherence),
        • strategic competence (appropriate use of communication strategies).
        • cultural competence

        Grammatical competence (words and rules):
        it involves the ability to use words correctly, according with grammatical rules.

        Sociolinguistic Competence: is the ability to use and respond to language appropriately, with regard to the setting, the topic, and the relationships among the community. It includes the ability to express a specific attitude (courtesy, friendliness, annoyance).The overall atmosphere on Twitter was polite and friendly; consequently the main style was in general colloquial.

        Discourse competence (cohesion and coherence): it refers to the ability to understand and construct several kinds of texts.

        Strategic Competence: it refers to the ability to handle communication breakdowns. In the following, we focus merely on how the students react if they don’t know. Also, the ability to be concise which is important to a clear thinking and efficient communication.

        Cultural competence: it helps people from different parts of the world to effectively interact across cultures.  It consists of four categories: awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, attitude towards cultural differences, knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and cross-cultural skills.

        6. Which are the benefits and the problems on micro blogging?


        • Mirco blogging applications (like Twitter) are simple to use, to formulate ideas precisely;
          • micro blogging invites diversity and traffic;
            • there is little expectation of a reaction on the part of the receiver;
              • communicating in micro blogs is asynchronous in principle, a certain Synchronicity is given when participants directly to each other;
                • twitter is not designed for conversations, but rather for updates. Still people engage in conversations which are markers of social coherence and community forming;
                  • conversations implicitly provide motivation through social  support by giving the individuals the sense of belonging to a group;
                    • micro blogging contributes to create a social network to share common interests and exchange information;
                      • is a media in which curiosity contributes to look into what others are doing;
                      • contributes to the human need of recognition, attention, respect;
                        • can be a tool to engaging learning in education institutions despite the reputation system need;
                          • provides an opportunity to reflect, collaborative work, share information and give points of view briefly;
                            • is a tool for brainstorming, keep links, take notes or communicate instantaneously to teachers, colleagues and learners;
                              • is a great instantaneity medium for sharing ideas and getting feedback.  Its speed means you can gather a range of  opinions and constructive criticism within minutes.


                                • A certainly a risk of distraction by micro blogs in learning and working;
                                  • it can create conflicts and misunderstandings about the nature of usage (Twitter is not the most appropriate communication channel to the to agree on for the next term paper with a student);
                                    • it works on the interaction of an amount of followers, friends and update frequency.

                                      7. A Twitter Experiment.

                                      This is about an experiment done by Dr. Monica Rankin, Professor of History (The University of Texas at Dallas School of Arts and Humanities).

                                      The video describes how the micro blogging experience of using  Twitter with students helped the development of the class and the  interactions and communications among her and the them.

                                      To have more details about the conclusions of that experience I suggest to take a look to “Some general comments on the “Twitter Experiment” .


                                      Twitter widgets
                                      Twitterfeed, Friendfeed
                                      feeds to twitter and facebook
                                      Twuffer :
                                      allows the Twitter user to compose a list of future tweets, and schedule their release.
                                      witterfox, Twhirl
                                      , TweetDeck: are desktop client that notifies you of your friends’ tweets on Twitter.
                                      search for links on Twitter.
                                      Tweetbeep, Between: track of information on Twitter.

                                      twitter wiki for education.
                                      Twitteando: news from Twitter.
                                      Twitter y su mundo: more information.


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                                      4 Responses to #CritLit2010 | How can micro blogging help participation?

                                      1. Mary says:

                                        Interesting blog post.
                                        I was a little thrown off by the components of communicative competence…. You wrote that there were four components and then listed five components.
                                        An historical frame of reference for understanding this construct is Del Hymes’s use of the term. http://www.sil.org/lingualinks/languagelearning/otherresources/gudlnsfralnggandcltrlrnngprgrm/AspectsOfCommunicativeCompeten.htm. Hymes is a sociolinguist and his work is worth a read.

                                        I know that the term communicative has been reconceptualized. I see that your conceptualization is similar to one by the NCRLC: http://www.nclrc.org/essentials/goalsmethods/goal.htm. They have retained the use of the term linguistic…
                                        They use the term sociolinguistic where someone else might use the term rhetoric.
                                        It seems to me that you are also trying to incorporate concepts related to Intercultural Communicative Competence into your conceptualization.

                                        If we were to use the framework to analyze The Twitter Experiment what might we learn?

                                        • maferarenas says:


                                          Thank you for your comments and links, and excuse me for my delay to answer it. Your post make me think in a very important issue in learning: Intercultural dimension.

                                          I found interesting what you meant as the “Intercultural Communicative Competence frame” because, from my point of
                                          view, in a interconnected world it is the new dimension in
                                          which communication issues are developing, particularly when
                                          learning in a conectivism way. I think you have pointed it
                                          out because it is the framework of the Twitter experience.

                                          Using it we might learn several issues that could not be summarize in a few ideas but at first sight, I could understand the following:

                                          In the Twitter experience, Intercultural communication competence can be identified not only in the work proposal (where the approach is radial, collective and interactive)
                                          but also in the way learners discuss and argues about the subject of matter. That gives the opportunity to learners and trainers could explore ideas, innovate and deeper in the proposal.

                                          In Pragmatics, they engaged the task interacting in a
                                          platform to discuss collaboratively. In Linguistics, they
                                          have to express ideas and develop arguments, to give opinions
                                          and explain their positions with a limit of 140 words. That
                                          makes participants think and improve their vocabulary while
                                          decide which words means accuracy what they wanted to express.

                                          With regarding to the NCLRC, I will add another area: Semantics competence. That is because they must know the symbolic level of their discourse to express and use the search engines. In the way they communicate briefly, they synthesize the concepts by the use of signs, characters and numbers that make meaningful and effective their message in 140 signs.

                                          The experience was interesting to:

                                          -Collaborative work to post comments.
                                          -Engage and expand reflection and discussion from the classroom.
                                          -Contribute to research.
                                          -Express ideas besides different personalities (becausse of
                                          the platform mediation)
                                          -Develop arguments to give opinions and explain their positions with a limit of 140 words.
                                          -Integrate others in the experience.

                                          These are some ideas about the Twitter experience. I think there will come many of them after this post.

                                          Thank you very much for your comment again. After it, I found that I could deepen on the first idea of my post.

                                          María Fernanda

                                      2. Really enjoyed the post Maria,

                                        Hope to give more feedback at a later date. Some Immediate feedback.

                                        The opinion gathering (brainstorming) exercise in the twitter experiment is a fantastic use of technology to engage many more students during a class (inclusive teaching).

                                        The main focus of your post seems to be on using twitter as a communication medium as the disseminator of a message or a communication . I just wanted to emphasize how i see twitter as a fantastic data gathering tool that in my opinion is fantastic for the serendipitous learning that you have talked about in previous blog posts.

                                        When used in combination with for example tweetdeck – columns can be setup to track hashtags or specific groups of tweeters and the vast array of useful links and resources is amazing. After your blog post on serendipty, it made me think this is like a managed serendiptious learning strategy. Good for teachers in their professional development and good to instigate classroom activities or a self study activity.

                                        • Steve, thank you very much.

                                          In connection with “managed serendiptious learning strategy” I think that there may be many ways in take the best from the tools. We could learn from other uses and may try it in learning.

                                          I am glad you enjoyed the post. Regards.

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