Can Twitter Ever Have Academic Value?

short-twitter-namesTo many, Twitter seems to be the home of banality and shallow commentary.  It seems the last possible place that one would find anything of academic merit.  Or would it?  The London School of Economics and Political Science have produced a guidance document for academics wishing to use Twitter.

Can anything intellectual be said in 140 characters?

The document provides some guidance into what Twitter is, how to setup an account, the kind of styles people adopt and so on.  I’d like to focus on the how part of the paper though.  They break down Twitter usage into a few categories.

Using Twitter in your research projects

Here they suggest academics tweet about:

  • major milestones in the life of your academic research
  • use hashtags to keep all tweets around a single piece of research together
  • get help from your followers with things such as gathering information, making observations, undertaking data analysis, transcribing and editing documents
  • interact with other stakeholders in commerce, the media and government who would be interested in your research

Using Twitter for internal comms

It isn’t clear here whether they suggest using Twitter itself or a service such as Yammer, but they suggest using microblogging to do some of the following things within your university

  • informing other departments about your research milestones
  • interact with students, PhD students, and part-time researchers
  • share details of talks, seminars, guest lectures, parties and other departmental events

Use Twitter alongside your blog

It’s great to see the paper advocating that academics blog regularly as that is a great addition to the thought process.  Most of the advice here revolves around sharing your blog posts on your Twitter channel, so I won’t dwell too much on this.

Using Twitter as a teaching tool

Now this is an interesting section.  The guide has a number of good ideas for how you can use Twitter in your teaching.

  • create a course Twitter feed
  • use this feed to share advice on each week’s tasks, reading or problems, aiming for a conversational style that will support students. Congratulate people who do good presentations and whole groups for having good debates or making progress on tough problems or experiments. Use Twitter to take up questions raised by students in seminars or classes and to point to extra answers or literature.
  • add the feed to Moodle or Blackboard
  • engage with PhD students so they are aware of all of your latest work.  The space for continuous, brief debate that Twitter allows could make a
    difference to the research produced by both teacher and student.
  • keep in touch with postgraduate students both during their studies and after they graduate
Some good tips there and it’s refreshing to see academia encouraging usage of Twitter as a communication channel.
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