Twitterus Academicus

Ms E-Mentor recently joined Twitter: .  It’s a buzzy, interesting and distracting place, the Twittersphere.  I managed within my first week to join in the Friday afternoon trend that was #popleveson, where thousands of tweeters posted Levenson Enquiry-style tweets using pop lyrics (example: “But you are not a poor boy from a poor family, are you Mr Mercury?” by @moomindroll).  I also started my own very small trend by using the hashtag #GoodLecturer to link to the Guardian Higher Education Network‘s live chat on ‘How to be a Good Lecturer’ on 18/05/12 (see my comments within the live chat thread as well).

There’s no shortage of interesting stuff out there on Twitter and Academia:  Are Twitter/blogging antithetical to ‘deep’, scholarly writing?; AcademHack’s suggestions on Twitter for Academia; Katrina Gulliver’s “10 Commandments of Twitter for Academics”; the LSE Impact Blog’s Guide to using Twitter in University Research, Teaching and Impact Activities; Should students ‘do’ social media with their lecturers/tutors?

Until recently I’d not taken much notice of Twitter, thinking it mainly for those with smartphones (hoping Antiques Roadshow will be in town soon so they can value my mobile).  But then I read the Observer’s “Twitter feeds you need” and met one of their mentioned top tweeters, Stella Duffy, at Gladstone’s Library.  I signed up.

As I’m tweeting as Ms E-Mentor I’m inevitably interested in the ways that Twitter can be used within academia, research and (higher education) teaching.  One of my most immediate responses to Twitter is to note its capacity for blurring of boundaries (what other medium offers the seeming proximity to celebs/stars — surely part of Twitter’s popularity?).  While academics on Facebook may well not (rightly, in my view) want their current students as ‘friends’ (and vice versa), Twitter is different.  Any tweet is immediately public and hence potentially there is a tweeting etiquette.  I hope some of my students will follow me, as I may well follow some of them, and some of the blurring of boundaries that Twitter brings seem to me to be good from an academic point of view.  Hopefully academics are rounded people who have lots of different interests and enthusiasms and it is good for our students to see this about us.  This isn’t about being inappropriately personal, it’s about being an authentic person (and lecturer/academic).  Twitter is also potentially a place for wit, wry comment and fun (as exemplified by the tweets of Elizabeth Windsor @Queen_UK).  If you’ve only got 140 characters you’ve got to be to the point; if you go over, edit down until you’re sharper!

But can you teach with Twitter?  Before I actually had a Twitter account I tried…

3 thoughts on “Twitterus Academicus

  1. I found your post while googling about “teaching with twitter”. I myself just started tweeting several months ago. I find that tweeting is much more appealing to me than blogging, because when I blog it turns into a footnoted research paper that I just don’t have time to pull together and complete. With Twitter I can stay focused and to the point.

    I’m not an academic teacher — I work for a software company in the mobile space, and have a personal interest in mobile security. I’m tweeting about security issues (in a format that’s a “series” about particular subjects) to give back to the community by being a resource for people who want to ask questions about what they read/hear/experience related to infosecurity issues. I don’t have very many followers yet, so it’s hard for me to see if I’m having much impact. And I don’t know how effective the “series” format is…but I do get occasional questions and comments. And to my surprise, the effort of writing the focused tweets is actually enjoyable.

    Best to you. Thanks for your article!


    • Dear Brian,
      Thanks for this. Yes, the immediacy of tweeting is definitely part of its appeal. It seems that a lot of academics on Twitter also do have blogs and use Twitter to circulate their latest blog post — hence linking from the briefer to longer-length discussion of topics. But, as you note, composing a good blog post — with pictures and links, etc., can take time.

      Many thanks for your comment.


  2. If you like the Queen, you’ll love @Dianainheaven…

    I think there will be teaching opportunities, from Tweeting questions and suggestions in lectures, fielding easy queries about essays, to more creative tasks.

    I think you’re right about boundaries being blurred, but there’s a wider question about identity – Twitter’s another performative space, though it’s as yet unclear whether all users and commentators quite understand this approach to identity. We’ll find out when I get sacked in meatspace for comments made by my online persona…

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