Saturday, 25 October 2014

Using Twitter in Sociology Teaching and Learning, Dr Emma Head and Dr Ala Sirriyeh

Using Twitter in Sociology Teaching and Learning

Recently launched, 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 who 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. As part of this evaluation, students will be invited to complete two questionnaires and to take part in two focus group discussions.

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 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.

Using Twitter on the module

Students on this module will be encouraged to participate in a series of tasks that connect their seminar preparation with the weekly key readings and lecture topic. 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 to facilitate discussion on themes raised. Ala will also tweet and retweet links (from @AlaSirriyeh) to resources that debate contemporary issues around ‘race’ and racism, including 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.

We are looking forward to finding out student opinions about the role of social media in teaching and learning. Updates on our project will be posted on our School blog.

Creative Commons License
Using Twitter in Sociology Teaching and Learning by Dr Emma Head and Dr Ala Sirriyeh, from Keele University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at