Twitter Research

During Alan November’s presentation at ISTE this month, he shared a really important strategy for teaching students to use Twitter as a professional networking and learning tool.  He indicated that while following the top people, organizations, schools etc in a particular field was a good idea, researching who those people/groups follow represents a potentially higher-level exposure.

I couldn’t help think in that moment that there  may be no better Peer-Reviewed Research database in the world than Twitter.  I went back to my own account and looked at the list of people I follow.  Essentially, they are the people who are at the top of the education field, highly respected authorities in a variety of areas, and most important, easily accessible to me (and anyone for that matter).

I have written and spoken many times about how teaching research has changed.  I always taught my students that regardless of era, tool, process, or objective, the research process starts with three steps:

1) Navigation

2) Determination

3) Validation


Navigation is about finding our way around.  When I was in school, navigation was about getting to the library, and finding my way around the stacks,  using the card-catalog, then the computers to find my sources.  Sometimes they were micro-fiche (remember those), other times in books; but the navigation process didn’t end there.

Once I had a source, I had to navigate the pages to find what I needed. This step incorporate a the second step: determination.

While one must certainly be determined as an integral intangible for successful research, this use of the word refers to determining a) what parts are use-able and b) how to use them.

Finally, validation refers to the validity or credibility of the source. Was it produced by an expert, published in peer reviewed literature, or created by someone with lots of alphabet soup after her name.

In ancient times, the first two steps could be laborious. But we were almost always rest – assured that the third step was a given.

Digital research has often been considered “easier” than prehistoric methods. I disagree in some ways.

While I can do a Google search and hit a button that returns 1 million hits in .307 seconds, there is actually more navigation involved that finding three books from the card catalog.

While we can better target for determination of use, the validation step in significantly more complex and ambiguous.

Which is where twitter comes in. I know I am idealizing here, and that at the current moment there does not exist the field specific variety and depth that Google scholar and traditional methods boast, but I can go on twitter, navigate with #hashtags, determine in 140 characters, and evaluate validity according to the sharer of information.

My PLN is a peer reviewed network of the top educators in the world. When they share, I am rest assured that the information has enough validity to consider credible.

When Alan November referred students interested in business to the PLN that the HBR follows, he was likewise navigating the students towards a valid, credible source who produces sources that are easily navigable, determinable, and credible.


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