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Twitter for Scientists Part 3: To boldly go where no lecturer has gone before

January 27, 2012

How are scholars using Twitter? Click to enlarge.

So far, I’ve talked about how Twitter can be used by scientists to help disseminate information, and acquire new information. I’m going to change gears in my final post and talk about how Twitter can be used in the classroom, and how it can be used by scientists moving forward.

If you missed them, click here for Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Reason #4: For lecturers, Twitter can contribute to discussions and deepen understanding

While researchers spent most of our time trying to get our work published and publicized, another responsibility we have is to train the next generation of researchers. With increasing budget cuts at Canadian universities, being offset by increased undergraduate and graduate enrolment, classes are getting bigger while there are fewer lecturers to teach those classes.

Twitter can be used to give shy students a voice, and allow for them to have discussions with peers easily. They can be pushed on issues, deepen their understanding and further their knowledge; which is the goal of education. This occurs in a forum that they might be more comfortable in. While people may be nervous to make a point in class, or simply unable to due to lack of time and large class sizes, Twitter allows for those conversations to continue easily outside of the classroom.

Twitter has been used by professors with some success. Monica Rankin at UT Dallas taught a history class (video above) where she used Twitter to engage students. She also wrote about her experiences here, for those who would prefer to read about her experiences or cannot access YouTube.

For those interested, Mark Sample has created a framework that sums up how Twitter can be used in the classroom based on an idea proposed by Rick Reo. There are many ways Twitter can be used in the classroom to supplement learning – it just depends how you want to use it!

An interesting framework for how Twitter can be used in the classroom. Click to go to Mark Sample's blogpost.

Reason #5: The way we translate information is changing

This is more important for those beginning their careers in science. The current publishing paradigm has come under fire recently, with many improvements being proposed. There has been an explosion in science blogging, which is a great way for people to get their work out and communicate with people they otherwise wouldn’t. Big networks such as Nature Blogs, Research Blogging, Scientific American, Science Blogs, Occams Typewriter, PLoS Blogs and others have provided a haven for scientists who want to get information out. Knowing how to use Twitter, and use it effectively can help get your message out. Sidneyeve Matrix, a professor at Queen’s University, talks about this, specifically how those in Public Health can use social media, in more detail here (her slides are embedded below as well).

Socializing Health Research

View more presentations from Sidneyeve Matrix

So there you go – five reasons why I think you should use Twitter. What are your thoughts readers – is there anything I’ve missed? Any reasons why you think other readers should or should not sign up for Twitter? Let me know in the comments!

For a guide about how to set up a twitter account, I’d recommend the following links for a handy “how-to”: WikihowCNetBrent Ozar’s FAQ, as well as Travis Saunders’ post about Twitter etiquette. If you’re wondering who to follow, I’d recommend checking out these lists: Colby Vorland’s list of Nutritional and Health Science peopleHealth Scientists, Shelley Wallingford’s list of Epidemiologists,  Sara Caldwell’s Science-y Folk, RenuShenu’s Public Health Tweeple, Melonie Fullick’s PhDChat and Liz Ditz’s MedSocialMedia.

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