TWITTER AND PROFESSIONAL LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES: A SELF STUDY ACTION RESEARCH PROJECT

R. Purcell

St. Patrick's College, Thurles (IRELAND)
This paper presents my living theory, developed as I sought to improve my practice as a lecturer and researcher. I aimed to achieve this as I answered my research question: “How can I improve my understanding of Twitter as a professional development tool, and as a mechanism to improve my practice as a lecturer?”

This enquiry involved the creation of a Twitter account, @PurcellRebecca, and the evaluation of the impact of this Twitter account on my own professional learning and my understandings of how students may be enabled to engage with real-world marketing practice in a Higher Education setting.

About Twitter:
Twitter is a micro blogging tool, launched in 2006, which allows users to communicate with followers in 140 characters or less. The social networking technology allows users to tap into a global network of others interested in similar topics. As of 2012 Twitter had surpassed 500 million global users.

My context:
I am the Head of the Business Department, in St. Patrick’s College of Education, Thurles. St. Patrick’s College of Education offers two concurrent post-primary education degree programmes. There are four primary facets to my role at St. Patrick’s College; firstly, I lead the Business Department. Secondly, I serve as a member of the College’s executive management team. Third, I lecture to students in the areas of Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Strategic Management. Lastly, I engage in ongoing research activity in the field of strategic marketing and management, and recently educational management.

I am an avid Internet user, subscribing to many online newspapers, journals, magazines and websites, both from a professional and personal standpoint. My morning ritual consists of visits to news and research based websites to review relevant information in the field of business. The use of Twitter as a professional social networking tool appealed to me, as through following my preferred news sources, I could access this information in one place. It could become a continuously updated portfolio of my preferred online information providers. As I would be using Twitter for professional purposes, I also aimed to share this portfolio with students and therefore invited first year marketing students to follow me. I created @PurcellRebecca on the 29th January, 2012 and ‘tweeted’ for the first time on 13th February, 2012. On completion of this action research study, @PurcellRebecca was following 85 Twitter users and was followed by 67 Twitter users.

My educational values:
A declaration of educational values is the first step in a living theory approach to research (McNiff, 2002). My beliefs and values are:
- Self-directed and self-regulated learning: can improve the quality of the learning experience and have a positive impact on academic achievement.
- Continuous professional learning: in a variety of social and technological spaces, is a central responsibility of educational professionals
- Educator modelling: As I am involved in the education of student teachers, I should model the types of professional behaviours I encourage students to develop.
- Technological adaptation: Mechanisms of communication, learning contexts, learning tools and assessment strategies should be cognisant of the lives our students lead and the technologies they interact with.
- Living marketing practice: Marketing is a living subject area and marketing practice is evidenced daily in the press.