Chapter 7: Gathering: It’s personal…

Chapter 7 introductory graphic

One of the factors prompting this study was the number of people who tweeted how important Twitter was in supporting their professional learning. The following tweet provides a reminder of the kind of sentiment expressed:

During participant observation I curated a corpus of educators’ tweets which referred in some way to both professional learning and Twitter. Analysing this corpus revealed that educators frame Twitter PD in different ways. The capacity to be able to choose the routes you take, the content you see, the time and duration of your involvement and the location from which you participate are important to many. However Twitter is perceived, one can find or be exposed to a wide range of resources, ideas, advice, research, inspiration, support, and answers to questions.Read More »


Chapter 6: Gathering: Assembling actors, maintaining relationships


Chapter 6 introductory graphicA single tweet and the hashtag with which it participates provide a point of departure in this Gathering. I first explored the exchange which unfolded from the tweet below and the interrelations between the human participants. This exchange and the #teamenglish hashtag which helped to bring it together, brought me to a second, longer series of interactions assembled by and around a nonhuman actor, the ‘crib sheet.’ Finally I followed the hashtag to the #teamenglish ‘community’ it assembles, then compared and contrasted that with a similarly enacted sister community, #mfltwitterati.

Making a request by way of a tweet is a common practice amongst educators on Twitter. Levels of response vary, but can be assisted by Twitter. Where a hashtag or a mention is included, reach and therefore the likelihood of response are increased. What unfolds subsequently is much harder to predict.Read More »

Chapter 5: Gathering: Meeting the locals

Chapter 5 introductory graphic

The above tweet marked the point of departure for this Gathering, but what I now present is a summary of what that traversal through the data revealed.

Whilst it is possible for anyone to find information on Twitter, even without an account, that would render it no more a means of undertaking professional learning practice than say, using Wikipedia. With an account however, connections become possible and connecting is facilitated and encouraged through profiles and tweets. The bio and follow button help to begin the process, whilst retweets and likes help to sustain the relationships which form. Connecting is more than merely a one-time click when viewed as assemblage. Every tweet sent, retweeted or liked; every hashtag, mention or emoticon included; every link to a site, post or image, offers potential. It might be an act of renewal – touching base with those with whom you’re already connected – or growth, and be perceived as an invitation to make a connection.  A broad palette of possibilities is available ranging from a tight focus on those with similar experience, from similar educational contexts and with similar interests, to those from different educational phases, in different countries, who might espouse different pedagogical views. Each mix assembled by each individual will do different things.Read More »

Introducing the Gatherings

“gathering” flickr photo by mRio shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

A common way to present analysis of data in a thesis or other report is by allocating chapters to emerging themes. In the last post I explained why I declined to undertake a thematic analysis leading to generalisable conclusions, so in the chapters which follow, I present an account of my analysis of the data. I call these chapters ‘Gatherings,’ drawing on the work of a number of authors, but predominantly Law (2004a: 160), for whom Gathering is:

[…] a metaphor like that of bundling in the broader definition of method assemblage. It connotes the process of bringing together, relating, picking, meeting, building up, or flowing together. It is used to find a way of talking about relations without locating these with respect to the normative logics implied in (in)coherence or (in)consistency.

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“Soho London, street after rain” flickr photo by Julie70 Joyoflife shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

In earlier posts, including this one, I’ve attempted articulate what flânerie involves. Like the urban wanderer, explorer, observer and chronicler of city life, I’ve approached my research as flâneur. Initially, that was in attempting to find an alternative way of describing my ‘ethnographic’ approach to Twitter. Initially, only somewhat playfully, I called this a ‘flanography.’ More recently, I included it within my thesis; it had become a ‘thing!’ What struck me at the time, and what was recently reinforced during a supervisory meeting, was that I need to articulate clearly what distinguishes flanography from ethnography. In this post I want to thrash around a few thoughts how that might be done.Read More »

Visualising Flânerie on Twitter

“Doctoral Research Image” flickr photo by IaninSheffield shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

Here at SHU there’s a couple of PhD researcher competitions on at the moment as part of the forthcoming Doctoral Showcase series. There’s the ‘Three Minute Thesis’ heats and local final, but the one that attracted my interest was the ‘SHU Doctoral Research Image Competition 2018.’ I’ve been producing visualisations throughout my study and I had in mind one I wanted to produce, but hadn’t because I knew it would suck up time. The competition provided the final impetus and although I suspect from the information and instructions, the organisers are expecting photographic images, I thought I’d have a shot at pushing the boundaries.

We welcome attention-grabbing images to intrigue, inform or excite a lay/non-specialist research audience about your research. Images may be arresting, beautiful, moving or even amusing but they must relate to your doctoral research project.

Entrants are also allowed 150 words of accompanying text; here are mine:

The flâneur of 19th Century Paris was an observer and chronicler of city life. In exploring the bold claims some teachers make that ‘Twitter is the best PD ever!’, I called on the spirit of the flâneur to guide my ethnographic approach.

One of several methods I employed in the study was participant observation; this image is formed from tweets collected during that process. Each of the districts or ‘quartiers’ contains tweets on one of the emerging themes, each typified by a magnified example.

Since flânerie inspired my approach to observation, analysis of the data, and presentation of the findings, I sought an image which spoke to that activity. Although somewhat playful, creating this image, and other visualisations during the study, was more than simple representation. On each occasion I found the attention to compositional detail which was demanded also yielded additional analytical insights.

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The path to Twitter is paved with …

Clearly no marks for originality, but there’s my first tweet. Those which followed illustrate that Twitter for me was more about learning with and from other educators. It still is … but I digress. As I’ve been analysing the data from my research, the routes by which people come to Twitter to support their learning are rather different. My tweet above was at 18:33 on the 19th February 2009, and was prompted by a fellow Master’s course member, Geoff, who suggested I might find Twitter interesting. The path for me then began with a course (Technology Enhanced Learning, Innovation and Change), followed by a nudge from someone whose opinion mattered. Can you remember the route by which you came to use Twitter to support your professional learning?Read More »

Never mind the quality, feel the width…

“integrity” flickr photo by drumminhands shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

In preparing for a forthcoming supervisory meeting, I’ve been asked to share what I felt were the standout insights from my empirical observations, but for each one explain how I know, how I convinced myself of that, and how I can convince others. I guess what I’m being asked here is to justify my claims to knowledge; how do I assert that my interpretations are plausible? Lincoln and Guba (1985:290) phrase it as follows:

“How can an inquirer persuade his or her audiences (including self) that the findings of an inquiry are worth  paying attention to, worth taking account of?”

For them it is about trustworthiness and the arguments which can be mounted to make the case, however, assessing the quality of research findings is far from straightforward and is contested in a number of ways. Traditionally, research quality has been judged on the criteria of validity, reliability, generalisability, and objectivity. Validity, simply put, is the extent to which an account adequately represents the phenomenon it purports to. Reliability is related to the replicability of the data generation and analysis; if different people conducted the same study, or the same person on different occasions, would the outcomes be the same? Generalisability refers to the extent what has been learned can be extended to wider populations and objectivity, to how the biases and interests of researcher and researched have been reduced or accounted for.Read More »

What do teachers do on Twitter? Emerging findings.

“Sharing” flickr photo by bengrey shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

When teachers are active on Twitter, they participate in a wide range of practices. From the outset it is important to state how their activity is underpinned by the principle of reciprocity. When one teacher claims that Twitter helps them keep abreast of current educational research, it follows that at some point, someone else must have contributed that information. When teachers describe how they contribute ideas, share experiences and signpost resources, that might not immediately appear to be enhancing their learning. However, when taken in the round, at some point the same teachers will have benefited from others having done the same. Professional practice within this communal space is based on exchange, both giving and receiving.Read More »


One of the most frequently mentioned activities when teachers discuss their use of Twitter is ‘connecting,’ and the purpose of connecting is in order to learn. Principally, they’re seeking connections with other people, but also in order to link between different spaces, for example between Twitter and blog posts. Some of the most important connections they’re seeking to make are with other teachers, especially those who share similar interests, passions, and are of a ‘like-mind.’

Whilst connecting with specific individuals can lead to strong and trusting relationships forming and reforming, there’s a recognition that by doing so, you’re also connecting with the whole network of other connections that person benefits from; it’s a cumulative or even exponential process. Knowing the importance of making and maintaining connections, some act as brokers in bringing together people and things they think would interest or assist one another.

…or seeing someone tweeting about some subject and you think, well you need to speak to this person; those sorts of connections I think are incredibly important and that’s not really to do with the technology, it’s just about being a nice person …
(J Dale)

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