Building on the excellent post by Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) on the value of using Twitter to extend the ‘conference conversation’, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on the potential of Twitter and associated social media tools to support academic writing – particularly for early-career academics. In a recent presentation at a writing retreat organised by Edinburgh Napier University, I made the case that engaging with new and emerging forms of social media and investing in our personal learning network (PLN) can afford significant benefits when writing for publication. I began by sharing the views of Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) from the University of Plymouth (http://steve-wheeler.blogspot.co.uk/) on the characteristics of the ‘Connected Educator’, and used the analogy of circle time to illustrate our ability to use social media to observe and learn from others with similar professional interests, move within and between different personal and professional circles and develop a sense of community. Emphasis was placed on the ‘personal’ and distinctive nature of each individual’s use of social media – the tools/channels favoured, different contextual uses and need to be conscious of your digital profile and footprint.
In the context of academic writing, blogging was discussed as a useful means to improve writing discipline and to develop your ‘academic voice’. I highlighted the growing number of specialist networks available on Twitter to support those engaged in academic writing (#acwri), doctoral studies (#phdchat) or wishing to participate in more general conversations around UK education (#ukedchat). These channels provide access to rich seams of ideas, resources and like-minded individuals to connect with. More than that, they can become a powerful source of support – both moral and practical. In my talk I also touched on the dramatic changes social media are driving in relation to the traditional model of academic publishing and the developing culture of openness. Appropriately used, social media can dramatically increase the potential readership of published work (particularly work submitted to open source journals) but challenges remain to the early career academic with regards to the professional credibility associated with publishing in ‘closed’ journals. Watch this space.
So to summarise, there are many tools that could form part of your personal learning network but it’s about choosing the right tools for you. It’s personal. Whether you wish to be passive or actively contribute to the networks you connect with is your decision. It’s individual and collaborative. It’s also about sharing and without doubt the more you nurture your network the greater it will grow and the more you will receive.
David Walker (@drdjwalker)