The social networking site – which lets users read, send and
group together 140-character messages known as tweets – can actually be a
better source of information than traditional news sources and online search
engines, Benjamin Gleason reports in the journal American Behavioral Scientist.
“Reading on Twitter about a particular topic will expose
learners to multiple perspectives – far more than is possible by reading a
newspaper or even doing a Google search,” said Gleason, a doctoral student in
MSU’s College of Education. “Imagine how much more rich and complex our
teaching and learning could be if learners brought such diverse ideas into the
How the study was
Gleason has been following Occupy Wall Street Twitter posts
since the protest movement began in New York City’s Wall Street financial
district in September 2011. He compiled a database of tweets – documenting
whether each tweet linked to a photograph, video or website – to figure out how
users specifically learned from them.
Users can “tag” tweets for grouping with a preceding “#”
symbol, or hashtag. Gleason said tweets tagged “#OWS,” for Occupy Wall Street,
contained a wide range of information about the movement.
Gleason was part of a previous study (led by Christine
Greenhow, MSU assistant professor of education) that found Twitter has become a
new literary format that is improving student learning.
Gleason said the research offers “powerful implications for
formal and informal educational settings – the most critical being that using
Twitter can complement formal teaching and learning.”
He added that he wants to see how students could use Twitter
to learn about a complex topic of their own choosing.
“Basically, how young people read and write on Twitter may
be similar to, and different from, reading and writing in other literacy
spaces,” Gleason said. “The question is: how can we support the literacy
practices that young people are currently engaged in – how can we validate the
learning that’s already happening?”