Tweeting as a New Literacy Practice

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The Educational Forum, 76: 464–478, 2012 Copyright © Kappa Delta Pi ISSN: 0013-1725 print/1938-8098 online DOI: 10.1080/00131725.2012.709032

Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literacy Practice
Christine Greenhow and Benjamin Gleason College of Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Abstract This article defines TwitterTM; outlines the features, affordances, and common uses; and conceptualizes “tweeting” as a literacy practice, comprising both traditional and new literacies, and impacting both informal and formal learning settings. Also provided is an overview of traditional and new literacies, and insights from a scan of the research literature to date on tweeting as a literacy practice. The authors outline areas for inquiry and the challenges to conducting such research. Key words: digital literacies, micro-blogging, new literacies, social media, tweeting, Twitter In March 2012, The New York Times headlined a feature story with the implied question: “If Twitter is a work necessity …” (Preston 2012). The article argued that digital literacy is becoming a required skill as employers increasingly want employees with social media savvy. If knowing how to build a community on Twitter®, present yourself on Facebook, engage with public issues via YouTube®, network on Foursquare®, and share your creations on Instagram are among the literacies that some employers expect people to have to secure a job or advance their careers, educators and educational researchers ought to play a role in helping people critically evaluate and cultivate best practices. Better theorization and study of the forms and functions of social media communication, and their relationship to the existing literacy curriculum, are needed to define and model promising digital literacy practices for our students. This article advances a step in this direction by focusing on one popular form of social media: Twitter. We consider tweeting practices through the lens of new literacy theories to inquire the following: (1) How do young people use Twitter in formal or Address correspondence to Christine Greenhow, College of Education, Michigan State University, 513F Erickson Hall, East Lansing, MI 48824, USA. E-mail: Greenhow@msu.edu; Twitter usernames: Christine Greenhow: @chrisgreenhow; Benjamin Gleason: @BWGleason

Twitteracy: Tweeting as a New Literacy Practice
informal learning settings, and with what results? (2) Can tweeting be considered a new literacy practice? (3) How do literacy practices on Twitter align with traditional literacy practices typically emphasized in standards-based curriculum? We conceptualize “tweeting” as a literacy practice, comprising both traditional and new literacies. First, we outline the distinguishing features, demographics, and common uses of this socio-technical space. Next, we provide an overview of traditional and new literacies, and present insights from a scan of the research literature to date on Twitter as a new literacy practice. Third, we outline untapped but fertile areas for inquiry, and the challenges to conducting the types of research we advocate. Ultimately, we seek to advance understanding of how new literacies are enacted in educational settings for adolescent and adult learning.

Social Media: Definition and Impacts
Internet connectivity in schools, home, and communities has become pervasive, transforming desired competencies for learners, teachers, and administrators; the adoption of social media impacts our constructs for learning, instruction, and paths for future research (Greenhow, Robelia, and Hughes 2009). Social media, which is a term often used interchangeably with Web 2.0, refers to online applications that promote users, their interconnections, and user-generated content (Barnes 2006; Cormode and Krishnamurthy 2008). Social media include social network sites such as Facebook and MySpace®; video-sharing sites such as YouTube®; image-sharing sites such as Flickr®, Tumblr®,...
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