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Title: What is, and what might be, learned from images shared during Twitter conversations among professionals?
Authors: Wilson, Anna Naomi
Supervisor(s): Fenwick, Tara
Drew, Valerie M
Keywords: professional learning
social media
Twitter chats
teacher education
midwifery education
informal learning
visual social semiotics
lines of articulation
lines of flight
agencement machinique
Issue Date: 9-Aug-2016
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: This thesis explores the pedagogical potential of images shared during intra-professional conversations held on the social media platform, Twitter. Twitter chats are loosely synchronous exchanges of tweets sharing a unique, identifying keyword or hashtag. They are increasingly being used among professionals to create professional networks in which practice-knowledge and opinion might be shared and where communal connections may be created. As such, they may serve as sites in which professional learning unfolds, both in relation to workplace practices and in relation to the development of new forms of professional practice around social media use. Because the exchanges and broadcasts on Twitter are, for the most part, public, and the conversations are ongoing, they also provide open, freely-accessible, and constantly renewing resources for use in pre-service learning contexts. The research focused on two example chats, one held among midwives and the other among teachers. Inspired by the increasing use of images in new forms of digital communication, the research used images tweeted during the chats as starting points from which to explore flows of knowledge and affect. Data were generated from observations of the two Twitter chats over extended periods, together with interviews with practising professionals, student professionals and their educators in which images were used as elicitation devices. The research combined an approach to reading and “being with” data inspired by ideas drawn from the work of Deleuze (1994; Williams 2013) and Deleuze and Guattari (1988; Massumi 1992), with approaches to reading images drawn from visual social semiotics (Kress and van Leeuwen 1996). The findings suggest that Twitter chats such as those studied here can provide rich opportunities for professional learning. Practice knowledge can flow from one participant to many others, and flows of affect can be used to remoralize individuals and communities. Both chats seemed to serve as sites in which professionals could experience a positivity and affirmation that was not always available in the workplace. However, the forces and intensities at play in these spaces influence both what is said and what is not said, creating new norms of online interaction that generally seemed to avoid negative comments or open disagreement. Educators saw potential to use images such as those shared in the chats in a variety of ways. For example, images could be used as prompts for examination and critique of practices. The educators I interviewed also suggested that the images could be used to help student professionals develop their sensitivity to the forces and intensities that produce particular practices. Group interviews with student professionals suggested that the former happened spontaneously when students encountered and discussed such images, but that the latter might need deliberate facilitation or prompting. The thesis concludes with some recommendations for: (i) educators considering using such images in pre-service professional learning; (ii) professional developers considering using Twitter chats; and (iii) policy-makers involved in drafting guidelines for professionals’ use of social media.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation

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