Educating The Twittering Classes

How are we going to be educating the twittering classes? No brainer! By Tweeting our thumbs off. Of course the effectiveness of education has to be assessed and Edu–Twittering is no exception and there is now a definitive study available.

Last year’s Kidney Week was held during the week of November 8th and had 10,000+ participants. With their hash tag Twitter address, some of those 10,000 were able to work those thumbs, night and day, to educate, advertise, ask questions or make wisecracks. Desai et al painstaking read through all these Tweets, classified, evaluated, boxed them up, and finally, reported out in this week’s Public Library of Science (1).

The first surprise (to me) was that only 172 people of the 10,000 had twitter-engaged thumbs so the size of the Twittering Classes among the kidney cognoscenti seems rather limited, although they Tweeted at five times each on average. Uninformative Tweets in the form of advertisements took up about a third of the Tweeting space.

What makes an informative Tweet? The authors homed in on three criteria. Firstly, the Tweet had to have something to add to the Tweetee’s understanding of kidney disease, secondly, there should be some internal citations (after all a Tweet is not a tablet of stone which would henceforth be a self-evident factoid), and lastly, an informative Tweet should have ‘positive sentiment score’.

Snarky Tweeting is not going to be educative for the Tweetee except in terms of education of the Tweetor likeability rating. The general conclusion was that Tweeting is a good thing in terms of increasing informed awareness of conference topics and can be usefully employed by any conference organizer.

Perhaps academics should consider Tweeting their lecture bullet points out as they reach them (clearly with a positive sentiment). The vibration of smartphones all over the lecture hall might waken up those in the back rows.


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