Thursday, 19 August 2010

Retweets and hashtags as indicators of learning

Following on from my last post, I'm searching for examples of exploratory dialogue in Twitter, on the assumption that the presence of this type of dialogue suggests that learning is taking place. I'm looking at the 110 Tweets that went out using the conference hashtag #ouconf10 during the afternoon conference session on 22 June 2010. Previously identified chracteristics of exploratory dialogue are: analysis, challenges, counter-challenges, explanations, explicit reasoning, justifications and reflection on the perspectives of others.
 The table above codes the Tweets. By far the biggest category is the retweet. We don't retweet in F2F conversation, so this isn't an identified characteristic of exploratory dialogue.
Retweeting is akin to quotation, although perhaps quotation requires more cognitive input because it suggests that the quoter has remembered something (either the quotation or where it can be found) and has identified that it could be relevant to the conversation. Retweeting does not require the use of memory, but it does help to flag what participants in the dialogue are identifying as important elements. I therefore think it can be classified as cumulative dialogue which is another (perhaps more low level) form of learning dialogue.
In cumulative dialogue: 'Speakers build positively but uncritically on what the others have said. Partners use talk to construct ‘common knowledge’ by accumulation. Cumulative talk is characterized by repetitions, confirmations and elaborations' (Mercer & Littleton, 2007, p59)
If this is the case, a third of the conference Tweets in this sample can be characterised as cumulative dialogue. Is this an example of a learning analytic?
If a retweet contains a conference hashtag this is an indicator that learning may be taking place.
I'll take a look at this in more detail in my next post.

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