#DigPed Narratives in Education: Critical Perspectives on Power and Pedagogy – Transcript

Transcript from Koseoglu, S., & Bozkurt, A. (2018). An examination of #DigPed narratives through the Lens of the Capacities and Signals Framework. Ireland International Conference on Education (IICE- 2018), Dublin, Ireland.

Hi everyone, thank you for joining this session. My name is Suzan Koseoglu, I’m an Academic Developer at Goldsmiths, University of London. My collaborator is Dr. Aras Bozkurt, who is currently a Researcher and Faculty member at Anadolu University.

We are really excited to be presenting at IICE. We weren’t able to visit Dublin in person, but at least, thanks to the conference organizers, we have the opportunity to connect with you virtually. This notion of connecting virtually with others, constructing a presence through online technologies, the meaning of this connection and how that impacts our everyday lives, form the essence of our work. Connecting, creating online, with colleagues and with friends, with people we care about… Living in online networks, in hybrid spaces that are neither entirely online or offline…

Today, we are going to talk about how educational narratives spread on Twitter, on hashtag DigPed (#DigPed): a hashtag focusing on digital pedagogy. Before we begin, I’d like to give you a brief overview of Twitter and hashtag communities just to build a common understanding of the platform.

Twitter is a flexible open platform which can be used for microblogging and social networking. I mainly use Twitter for connecting with colleagues and with other educators, from all around the world. Just to give you an example, my colleague Aras Bozkurt and I met around 2016 on Twitter and have started collaborating on a number of projects in 2017. Interestingly, there is a name for this: networked participatory scholarship or open scholarship, which is defined as “any teaching and research practices that are public and that espouse openness.”

So what is a Twitter hashtag? We’ll define it as adding a keyword, or set of keywords, to a Twitter post. Hashtags help us organize and make sense of information on social networks; they help us connect with others. And also, hashtags tell stories – I’ll give you examples for these shortly.

You can only use a limited number of characters for a Twitter post: this was 140  characters until quite recently, but then was improved to 240 characters. It is still quite a small space to share things with others. So one way of making good use of this limited space is by using hashtags.

For example:

  • Check this out, great article on XXX (isolated tweet, disconnected to other hashtags)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed (I’m now connecting my tweet with all other users who follow hashtag DigPed)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation (I’m extending the connection to Higher Education by using a secondary hashtag)
  • Check this out, great article on XXX #DigPed #HigherEducation @arasbozkurt (I’m tagging another user so that they can see and respond to the article)

Now, let’s look at an example for a Twitter narrative:

#BlackLivesMatter (This began after the tragic death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin; has started as the story of injustice towards African-Americans and state oppression in the US, but then expanded to include societal issues in other countries.)

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.55 AM.png

Twitter threads have a lot of capacity if they are used well: the capacity to spread a vision, as Zeynep Tufekci argued, the capacity to change the status quo. As long as  they exist, any post can be quoted, retweeted, liked and commented on anytime, by anyone. New stories can be created, existing ones can take new forms, become even powerful or slowly fade away. Virality matters in these networks.

Going back to #DigPed… We examined #DigPed activities during three Digital Pedagogy Lab events: Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo, Digital Pedagogy Lab PEI, and Digital Pedagogy Lab 2017 Summer Institute. All of these were face-to-face professional development events designed by the Digital Pedagogy Lab. These events had online components such as virtual meetings, Twitter chats and blogging. If you haven’t heard about the Digital Pedagogy Lab, I strongly  encourage you to check their website, also their online peer reviewed journal Hybrid Pedagogy. So Digital Pedagogy Lab used #DigPed as their Twitter hashtag during these events.

We used SNA and thematic analysis of content for this research. We collected all Twitter posts tagged with #DigPed during the three events I mentioned. We analysed top tweets, top domains, top URLs, top hashtags and top words used in each event. We also looked at social relations within each event and examined the connections between users; that is, their weight in the connection and their reach. You can think of this as follows:

Imagine in a conversation I’m doing all the talk, like I do now. And you mostly listen to me and take notes—a classic classroom situation, isn’t it? But also imagine, perhaps a small group in the room becomes active. They start a new discussion, they react or respond to what I’m saying. Their conversation begins to draw more attention, others in the class start responding to them too. My talk slowly fades away. I’m no longer in the center of everyone’s attention; this other group has more “weight,” more power in the class. So with the SNA, we could look at how connections occurred: who did the “most talking,” with whom, and when? Who held the power and how?

Screenshot 2018-07-30 at 9.52.39 AM.png

What have we seen in the quantitative analysis? The figure you are seeing on screen is a sociogram. This sociogram is a visual  representation of social relationships on #DigPed during one event. This sociogram is important because it shows that the #DigPed network was not controlled by a single person, which is something that is typically observed in “ego networks.” That is, rather than depending on a focal node/person, power was distributed among different groups of people.

We thought, isn’t it remarkable that connections are grouped like this on #DigPed? But we still could observe key influencers directing the flow of conversations in each group. These were mostly people leading the Digital Pedagogy Lab events like keynote speakers or event facilitators. In a way, we thought, they were like “de-facto leaders.” As Zeynep Tufekci argues, de-facto leaders “consistently emerge as informal but persistent spokespersons [on social media]—with large followings.” Key influencers had charisma; they produced artifacts like blog posts, keynote speeches, talks which stirred the community.

Our findings confirmed the view that online spaces are organized by hidden hierarchies and these hierarchies are marked by influence. On an open platform like Twitter, although many voices can be heard and potentially the space is open to all, people with influence still hold strategic positions in the network. Influential people help spread educational narratives; in fact, they are instrumental for increasing the narrative capacity of online networks. But, what we also observed was, #DigPed had a capacity that we are all familiar with in educational contexts: pedagogic capacity, which we defined as the power to initiate a productive and potentially transformative educational discourse, within one’s self and within communities.

Through qualitative analysis of Twitter posts, we identified three prominent narratives on the #DigPed network (which were all initiated by somebody influential on the network): “love in pedagogical work is an orientation”, “every student can have their own domain — to share their work, knowledge, memory” and “most stories about student debts/struggles go untold. All of these narratives, all the work and thought that went into initiating one, could be considered pedagogical acts.

Interesting questions arise from our findings on power in online networks and the interaction of narrative and pedagogic capacities.

A thread on Twitter, a narrative, can spread wide irrespective of geographical boundaries. But does it lead to positive change? Does it allow co-construction, an openness to other worldviews and ways of being? Does it have the capacity to grow not only in size, but also in depth, within one’s self and within communities? Does it lead to social change? Our research led us to believe that there is a need to strengthen the pedagogic capacity of educational narratives spreading on networks like #DigPed. We need to talk about network literacies (like using hashtags effectively), multimodality, access and capital.

Apple asks: “What stories, what names, what struggles, do you wish to add to enable a more democratic education to be built?” We can be active participants, good listeners, or we can simply be lurkers (quite/non-visible engagement) online. Regardless of our level of engagement in online networks, we believe, as educators, we have an ethical responsibility to be good pedagogues—online or offline or in hybrid spaces. This is something we owe to ourselves and others.

Thank you.

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