Wednesday, October 22, 2008

List of twitter resources uncovered during recent bout with research

A collection of narratives about how Twitter has allowed successful collaboration

Five resources for how to use Twitter in education for both secondary school and higher education
Twitter for academia
by David Hussein Parry
Twitter a teaching and learning tool by Tom Barrett
The twittering teacher
by John from Western New York
Explaining the value of microblogging and twitter for educators by Wes Fryer
Twitter as a tool of cognitive apprenticeship by Jared Stein
Why twitter is important for education by Jennifer Jones

Two resources elaborating on style and etiquette as well as the conventions used in Twitter
How conventions are established
Twitter Style Guide

Two lists of educators from all sectors classified according to area of work
Twitter for teachers

Plurk for educators


PART TWO: Twitter as a community of practice for educators

Twitter is a form of microblogging that was launched in July, 2006. It has grown very fast with 94, 000 users within eight months of its launch (Java, p. 1), it now has over a million users with over 200,000 active users per week (Arrington, 2008). As Twitter is a “social networking and micro-blogging site that allows users to post their latest 140-characters-or less-updates… through one of three methods: web form, text message, or instant message” (Arrington, 2008) it is also a means of communication with affordances for forming distributed communities. There are many similar services such as Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku and, but Twitter is the most popular form of microblogging to date (Wikipedia/Micro-blogging)

The reasons that many educators are part of this are the ease with which knowledge can be shared and developed and meanings attributed to situations and experiences common to educators in developed English speaking countries can be negotiated. Educators who have joined twitter join because it is easy and people they already know and trust have joined it. Some may hear about it through workshops and conferences and try it out. There are varying levels of participation – some say it is not for them, they do not have enough time, or is too distracting.

The effects of participating, reading and posting often – from several times a day to all the time they are online through third party applications such as twhirl or twitterific are many (In using third party applications many users hear a chime whenever a tweet from one of their “friends” comes through, much like an alert for an email. As part of the research for this study I put out a question on both twitter and plurk: What has been one effect of your participation in twitter/plurk? (See Table 1: Twitter and Table 2: Plurk) and looked at the verbs present in the replies. Verbs used included: tried, used, accessed, shared, clarified, discovered, linked, was supported, read, demonstrated, taught, collected, upgraded, learned and continue to learn. These are dynamic learning words, speaking to mutuality and identity. Life giving words reminiscent of the practice of participation. Let’s explore some more about this in the terminology of communities of practice.

Table 1: data from Twitter

Can you point to some knowledge that has been created because of microblogging? What has been one effect of your participation in twitter/plurk?
AngelaC @jomcleay Have read a wide variety of blog postings, tried new software, and used apps like voice threads, Ustream and Wordle
annemareemoore @jomcleay access to up to date info, links to what people are blogging, great resources that others share. It’s all good!
etalbert @jomcleay "knowledge created via microblogging" I have accessed online, meetings, conferences etc and not left my house ... too cool!
Skip Zalneraitis @jomcleay Access to many high quality educational blogs
lucybarrow @jomcleay Since joining Twitter, my delicious links have gone through the roof! I have a constant stream of valuable resources from my PLN.
David Noble @jomcleay Significant support in planning, preparation and backchannel around the recent TeachMeet @ Scottish Learning Festival
@jomcleay i have tried new software and activities because of tweets and pln support and clarified ideas because of help ;}
nrwatkins @jomcleay I discovered Wordle and Google forms thru Twitter, though I read blogs too, so probably would have found out about them anyway
I wonder if your workplace or students is/are getting some benefit from you being on plurk/twitter
Amanda @jomcleay I'm benefiting from the global connections & so is my workplace. It's helped me to build connections between teachers & students
@jomcleay workplace is definitely benefitting heaps, students do to a lesser degree

Table 2: data from Plurk

Jo McLeay wonders can you point to some knowledge that has been created because of microblogging? What has been 1 effect of your participation in twitter/plurk?
October 13, 2008 at 09:38 bookjewel Our 'PLN reflections' taught me how to build a slideshow from nothing and demonstrated the potential power of web 2.0 to colleagues!
October 13, 2008 sharon_elin says I've collected a huge wealth of resources that I refer to frequently - from examples to "how to's" to collections of topical information
October 13, 2008 at 10:35 megbg says I have upgraded my wiki and collected a host of web 2.o sites that my students now use
October 13, 2008 at 11:41 kmulford I learned how to embed vokis and glogs into wikis and blogs. (Sounds like Klingon, I know, but it's true!)
October 13, 2008 at 11:58 TeachingMother says I learnt how to put a slideshow into my blog and numerous tips for using my shiny new mac
October 13, 2008 at 12:00 mrichme says I have learned that I'm not alone with my struggles. Another one would be the PD opportunities through ustream, coveritlive, skype, etc.
October 13, 2008 at 12:10 loonyhiker says learned how to use ustream, skype, make wikis, oovoo, voicethread, live conferencing, attend PD online
October 13, 2008 at 12:25 susanvg says thinking about your term created - different from knowledge learned
October 13, 2008 at 12:56 dmcordell says My vision is less local, more global. I feel like part of a community, rather than a voice in the wilderness!
October 13, 2008 at 13:28 KarinBeil says I can continue to learn & share tech knowledge despite being retired.

October 13, 2008 at 13:34 dmcordell says Many of us have shared resources and created projects online.

In Part one, we saw how participation in a joint enterprise is a key attribute of a community of practice. It is clear from the tweets of those in my community that the educators are enthusiastic, passionate teachers. Those I “follow” (300+ people, all of whom are educators) include practitioners from all sectors from kindergarten to university professors, and live in Europe, Great Britain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and countries in South America and Asia. But wherever they are and however they feel about it minute by minute they are present in my network because they want better outcomes for their students and their participation in this community is part of this endeavour. Community maintenance is part of this and the community has evolved to include tweets that are greetings, birthday wishes, support in times of bereavement, family illness and work crises, invitations to local face to face meetings when twitterers from out of town are visiting and other live events, virtual or face to face (often both). In plurk, emoticons are an important part of community maintenance and recently twitter, not to be outdone, developed twitterkeys (a way to easily use wingdings such as ♥♣).

The mutual engagement is in the volume of tweets that passes across the screen hour by hour (depending on how many people you follow). The community of practice of microblogging educators works well when there is a diversity of participants, otherwise it would feel like an echo chamber. Twitter is a communication tool that is user friendly and has a low participation barrier. Just like the presence of the claims processors that Wenger wrote about in the office of the insurance company and their ability and being allowed to talk to each other, the platform of twitter and its affordance make mutual engagement possible. The adoption of the @ symbol to create a link directed at a specific person and the ability to search for replies to our tweets with the @ symbol and our username created the opportunities for conversations without which the evolution of a community of practice would have been a lot less likely. This engagement is so satisfying for many participants that they speak of “addiction” to twitter (a quick search of blog posts about twitter attests to this.)

The knowledge, beliefs and suppositions shared by edutwitterers include the discourse of improving students’ experiences of learning, that knowledge is to be shared, not hoarded, the value of discussions on ethics while using the internet, citizenship and the future of schools. There is a conscious value given to the etiquette of respectful discussion and disagreement as well as transparency. These values and beliefs are not limited to educators on twitter or even to educators, but they are noticeably present in the writings of those I follow on twitter. These are a part of the shared repertoire of this community of practice. Twitter specific jargon has developed (see glossary) and this includes collective nouns for the community such as “tweeties”, “tweeple” and “twits”. The community itself is referred to as the “twitterverse” (those on plurk have their own name: “plurkadia”). The shared repertoire includes the custom of wishing others goodnight or good morning when they themselves are going to bed or getting up, often with a wry acknowledgment that it is a different time of day for other participants.

Another custom is that of “shoutouts” when a member is showing twitter to another group who are not familiar with it. It is common to see a tweet “say hello to a group of teachers in (name of place)”. Those who are online at the time will reciprocate and the twitter will have 15 to 20 shoutouts from all over the globe in as many minutes – a powerful way of showing the reach and influence of twitter. Often members will introduce someone new to twitter: “please welcome (name of person) and older members will add them and say hello to them by name as well.

As far as a repository of resources is concerned twitters have made wikis and bookmarked resources and will tweet the link. As noted by Costa microblogging at conferences “enable[es] the spontaneous co-construction of digital artefacts” (Costa and others p. 1). In the last fortnight since I have been working on this topic, two resources: a searchable spreadsheet and a wiki have been made so that educators may more easily find those educators with common interests or areas of work. These resources, and customs are part of the reification mode of twitter which along with participation enables the community of practice to function and evolve.

The way that the edutwittersphere has evolved is dynamic with new tools and functions being added frequently. Conventions such as the use of @ and # have been brought over from IRC (Internet Rely Chat). The @ symbol is very useful as it makes a link. When a person I am following addresses another twitterer I can click on the link, see their contributions, see their photo or avatar and self description. I may then choose to add them to the list of people I am following. The # is used by a program called Twemes to search tweets for topics of interest: “follows public tweets (messages) that have embedded tags that start with a # character.” Twitscoop also searches tweets: “input a twitter username or keywords in the search box to track a conversation, topic or conference. The results will auto-refresh every 20 seconds”. Recently developers have added a tool that enable you to see who has removed you from their network and after which tweet they stopped. Statistics/graphs of twitter use and followers are also available. Work is also happening on a program to help twitters to follow threaded conversations .

The kind of learning that is enabled by being part of the twitter educator community of practice is often called “just in time learning”. A question can be asked and almost immediately the twitterer will have more than one suitable way of solving the problem or links to resources where they could find the answers. Because twitter can be accessed via the mobile phone it is easy, and available anytime, anywhere. Unlike traditional views of learning, which resides in the individual this is distributed learning. I have heard people refer to it as their “outboard brain”. All can learn from anyone else, as there are no teachers and students per se. All members of the community of practice would consider themselves as learners and show the attributes of life long learners. Another kind of learning seen on twitter is serendipitous learning, where just by seeing a tweet addressed to someone else a twitterer can find an answer for a problem they are facing. It is not surprising therefore that when seen as a community of practice, twitter should be “a powerful catalyst for enabling teachers to improve their practice.” (Hildreth, p. x) Another way of learning that educators have found through twitter is the live tweeting of conferences to enable the learning to be distributed to those who are not able to attend, as well as among those present at the conference. See Appendix 2 for an example of the live tweeting of a recent educational technology conference in Canberra. As a result of this, there is currently a discussion of the ethics and etiquette of live tweeting which promises to be quite interesting.

All of the above shows that educators find meaning in their enterprise through twitter and this is linked to their identity in very interesting ways. Advice to new twitterers often includes what to do and not to do as you will appear aloof or unintelligent: “Remember that your personal profile shows a history of all your tweets so if somebody comes to it and it’s just empty, or you only post a mundane update every day or so, why should they bother following you?” from Caroline Middlebrook's twitter guide.

As educators, members of this community of practice will frequently want to be brokers to others in their workplace. But this may be difficult as the site is often blocked at school for being a “dating site”. It can also be seen as a distraction to workers and a waste of time. Alternatively its power can be shown when a question is asked of the twitter network and a useful answer is forthcoming within minutes. In the light of the difficulties of using twitter at work one might be surprised to find that educators do still want to collaborate in this way when so many other intentional online communities of practice have had difficulties. “Effective and successful virtual communities of practice do not happen without attention to their design, launching and support” Kaulbeck, p. 26), and yet twitter was not made for educators and no support is given by schools to the use of twitter. Despite this it is clear from this study that much learning is happening within this community. An explanation of this may possibly be found in a paper by Shumarova (2008), where she discusses the “shadow” collaboration present in informal communities when the formal channels of collaboration may not elicit the same energy and participation.

The twitter community of educators does indeed conform to the understanding of a community of practice. It has the three main attributes: mutual engagement, an emphasis on interaction, conversation and community building in their joint enterprise of improving education for all learners, and over time have evolved a shared repertoire that is apparent in the jargon which provides members of the community with the lexical items they need in order to talk about the subject matter, as well as customs and tools for enhancing the interactions. The learning is clear from the active and dynamic verbs that community members use to talk about the effect that membership of plurk and twitter have had on their work as educators.

There are of course, questions that remain. Given the informal nature of this community of practice, the learning can have no currency in academia, no credit is given and there is no assessment other than that of real life problem solving. Some might say that having a 140 character limit on individual posts may hinder the ability to be reflective about the learning. However, the reflection is often distributed over time and still accessible in the archives. Twitter and microblogging in general cannot be a tool that does everything. Blogs are still important for the longer reflective posts about learning and twitter can inform the community of these posts as they are written. Comments can be made on these blog posts and there is no limit on the length of these. Other more serious concerns are that twitter can be distracting, that it can result in information overload and that it is not suitable for all learning styles (Costa, p. 8). As Costa concludes on the same page: “microblogging does not present us with an ubiquitous learning strategy.” There is an investment of time needed, of that there is no doubt. The information overload is part of living in the 21st century and being part of this community of practice can in fact filter the information overload and point us to great discussions and useful resources. Twitter is the platform of choice for many lifelong learners and, as a community of practice, it presents us with learning opportunities and presents a welcoming way to enter a network.


Microblogging: a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually 140 characters) and publish them
Plurk: a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as plurks) through short messages or links, which can be up to 140 text characters in length. Updates are then shown on the user's home page using a timeline which lists all the updates received in chronological order
Twitter: a social networking and micro-blogging site that allows users to post their latest 140-characters-or less-updates through one of three methods: web form, text message, or instant message
Twits: people who use twitter (see also twitterers, tweeties, tweeple)
Twitterers: collective noun for people who use twitter
Twitterverse: all the people in the twitterer’s network
Tweeties: collective noun for people who use twitter
Tweeple: collective noun for people who use twitter
Tweets: updates by twitterers
Edutwitterers: Twittering and Networking for Learning Professionals
Edutwittersphere: educators who use twitter (from edublogosphere)
twhirl : a desktop client for the Twitter microblogging service based on the new Adobe AIR platform
twitterific: application for Mac that lets you both read and publish posts to twitter. User interface is clean, concise and designed to take up a minimum of space on desktop.


Arrington, M., & Schonfeld, E., (2008) “The Real Twitter Usage Numbers” in Techcrunch accessed 20/10/08 on

Caldwell, B., (2008) “Networking knowledge to achieve transformation in schools” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Costa, C., Benham, G., Reinhardt, W., & Sillaots, M., (2008) “Microblogging in Technology Enhanced Learning: A Use-Case Inspection of PPE Summer School 2008” Retrieved 13/10/08 from

Glover, I., & Oliver, A., (2008) “Hybridisation of Social Networking and Learning Environments” in Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008 (pp. 4951-4958). AACE, Chesapeake, VA:

Hildreth, P., & Kimble, C., (2008) “Introduction and Overview” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 1) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Java, A., Finin, T., Song, X., & Tseng, B., (2007) “Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities” in Proceedings of the 9th WebKDD and 1st SNA-KDD 2007 Workshop on Web Mining and Social Network Analysis (San Jose, California, August 12 - 12, 2007). ACM, New York, NY, 56-65.

Jonassen, D., Peck, K., & Wilson, B., (1999) Learning with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective, Merrill, Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Kaulbeck, B., & Bergtholdt, D., (2008) “Holding the Virtual Space: the roles and responsibilities of community stewardship” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Kimble, C., & Hildreth, P., (2008a) Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 1), Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Kimble, C., & Hildreth, P., (2008b) Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2), Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Klonsky, M., (2003) “Small Schools and Teacher Professional Development” in (accessed 20/10/08)

Koch, M., & Fusco, J., (2008) “Designing for Growth: Enabling Communities of Practice to Develop and Extend their Work Online”, in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E., (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Lesser, E., & Prusak, L., (1999), “Communities of Practice, Social Capital and Organizational Knowledge”, Information Systems Review 1, No. 1, 3-9, White Plains, NY.

McInnerney, J., & Roberts, T., (2004) “Online Learning: Social Interaction and the creation of a sense of community” in Educational Technology and Society, 7 (3), 73 - 81

Office of School Education (2005) Professional Learning in Effective Schools: The Seven Principles of Highly Effective Professional learning Published by Leadership and Teacher Development Branch Department of Education & Training, Melbourne accessed on 20/10/08 from

Shumarova, E., & Swatman, P., (2008) “Informal eCollaboration Channels: Shedding Light on ‘Shadow CIT’”, 21st Bled eConference eCollaboration: Overcoming Boundaries Through Multi-Channel Interaction, June 15 - 18, 2008, Bled, Slovenia

van Aalst, H., (2003) “Networking in Society, Organisations and Education”,
In Schooling of Tomorrow, Networks of Innovation: Towards New Models for Managing Schools and Systems. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Wenger, E., (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Wikipedia/Micro-blogging: accessed 20/10/08 from


I thought I would put my essay up on here: a way of exploring my twitter and plurk obsession. I have already submitted it so I hope there's nothing I wish I hadn't said. It will be in two parts.

The number of educators microblogging has recently escalated and is “becoming serious in informal learning”. (Costa, p. 8) Microblogging is “a variant of blogging which allows users to quickly post short messages on the web for others to access.” (Costa, p. 2) Twitter is the most popular platform for microblogging. (Java, p.1) This essay attempts to explore this phenomenon through the heuristic of the concept of communities of practice in order to understand this use. It looks at whether microblogging by educators, and specifically the formation of groups of educators on Twitter, can be thought of as communities of practice, and whether the learning constructed by these groups can be thought of as professional development. (See glossary at end of the paper for unfamiliar words associated with microblogging)

The effectiveness of traditional teacher professional development has been questioned in recent times: “research substantiates... the ineffectiveness of the all-too-common one-shot workshop” (Klonsky, 2003). This is true especially in the context of new requirements for ongoing professional learning by state mandated institutions (e.g. the Victorian Institute of Teaching). Traditional professional development is characterised by one-off days where, despite research into learning, teachers are subjected to transmission based teaching methods from a speaker or presenter who “delivers” a presentation. This knowledge is then expected to transform practice in the classroom. This traditional teacher professional development, despite being ineffective, is also expensive of time and money, and questions are naturally raised about better ways to achieve ongoing learning in the fast moving field of education. "Investing in professional learning is the key to ensuring that schools become learning communities where teachers work together, learn from each other and share best practice on effective teaching and learning." (Office of School Education, 2005)

Networks in education are highlighted in government policy on professional development for educators: “It is only through the collective work of teachers and by creating a shared professional knowledge that sustained school improvement will be secured.” (Office of School Education, 2005) and Hans van Aalst demonstrates that “networking is a powerful tool for improvement” for an organisation’s culture (van Aalst, p. 40). He shows that communities of practice are a type of network with all the value that networks provide: provision of links and interaction, some self-management and the creation and use of knowledge. He also shows that networking, a fundamentally human activity, can be enhanced by electronic means (van Aalst, p. 33). But it is as a community of practice that the network that I will be exploring, that is microblogging educators, will be under the spotlight.

PART ONE: communities of practice
The heuristic of communities of practice has allowed us to see valuable situated learning in the daily lives of learners. Moreover, in the discourse of the reform of education and school improvement it is taking its place as a strategy to be employed. Caldwell (p. 18) goes so far as to say that the concept of communities of practice is “moving from a rather comfortable and frequently informal approach to the sharing of professional knowledge to a strategy that is central to success in the transformation of schools.” But how could it work to transform schools and why choose this particular lens to look at a phenomenon that many have dismissed as navel gazing and a waste of time?

The concept of communities of practice is valuable among educational researchers when we take account of the number of studies that reference it. Hildreth (p. xi) states that the concept has a much broader impact than it did ten years ago when Wenger published his influential monograph of the same name. (Wenger, 1998). This is because it can help explain and predict aspects of social learning among educators. Examining the practice of educators involved in microblogging through the heuristic of communities of practice can help us see this practice in a new light and add legitimacy to the practice, if it is seen to result in knowledge construction and sharing. According to Hildreth (p. ix) the term has moved beyond Lave and Wenger’s original use for social learning in communities whereby “newcomers to a community learn from old timers as they are allowed to undertake more and more tasks in the community and gradually move to full participation.” (Lave, 1991) Membership of communities of practice “allows teachers to collaborate, to develop new knowledge and to develop and learn about new resources” (Hildreth, p. x) as “the sharing and developing of knowledge are key activities of a community of practice.” (Hildreth, p. xii)

What are the essential elements of a community of practice? In his examination of a group of medical claims processors in an insurance company, Etienne Wenger (1998) solidified his understanding of the term. For the current exploration it is essential that some key terms be understood. Wenger emphasises that the theory of communities of practice is a learning theory, developing his earlier view with Jean Lave, of situated learning, learning that is an outcome of participation, that is engaged in and passed on from generation to generation (The term ‘generation’ as used by Wenger (1998) refers to the trajectory that newcomers go through on their way to being full members of the community and eventually leaving the community.) Jonassen expresses this view clearly: “Learning results naturally from becoming a participating member of a community of practice.” (p. 117). Communities of practice can be defined as “self-reproducing, emergent and evolving entities that frequently extend beyond organizational structures”. This attempt at a definition by Schlager and Fusco (2003) quoted in Koch (p. 3) is helpful as these authors’ research into communities of practice among educators, specifically Tapped In a community of which I have been a member for many years. Their definition resonates with my own experience.

Along with this trademark evolving structure, Wenger (1998) had defined three important terms, and these terms will be important in the later evaluation of microblogging communities of educators. They are mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire. These three attributes are key ways to differentiate communities of practice from teams or groups. Mutual engagement is Wenger’s term for the common endeavour which constitutes the practice of the community. Mutual engagement consists of the actions that members are engaged in whose “meanings they negotiate with one another.” (Wenger, p. 73) Being present to other members and able to interact are key to mutual engagement; being included and a feeling of belonging are also part of this. Mutual engagement necessitates community maintenance. An example of this in the claims processors community was the member who supplied snacks to share with other members at the workplace. Mutual engagement does not imply homogeneity; rather diversity is fine and can be enhanced by mutual engagement (Wenger, p. 76) This will become significant in Part 2. Mutual engagement is essential for the development of joint enterprise.

The joint enterprise that constitutes the practice of a community of practice is, according to Wenger, a negotiated, collective process (Wenger, p. 80). In many cases of communities of practice studied for this paper (see reference list), the enterprise is owned by the participants, despite being a part of the workplace with the language of “bosses”, “demands”, and “work hours”. As highlighted by Kimble (2008a) there is an internal motivation to being involved, pointing to the importance of learning as part of the formation of identity. Membership is voluntary and a community often grows informally around a need (Kimble, 2008a p. xi). Even so, the context of the participants has a “pervasive influence” (Wenger, p. 79) and is part of the drive towards finding solutions for problems and constructing learning that helps develop participants’ “inventive resourcefulness” (Wenger, p. 80). As members go about their joint enterprise in their mutual engagement, they develop what Wenger calls a shared repertoire. (p. 82).

The shared repertoire includes “knowledge, beliefs and suppositions” as well as “local jargon, nicknames or locale specific common ground” (Kimble, 2008a, p. xii) as part of a collection of resources for negotiating meaning” (Wenger, p. 82). This collection of resources can include “routines, words, tools, ways of doing things, stories, gestures, symbols and actions” (Wenger, p. 83) that have become part of the practice. In this exploration of microblogging we will see many of these (see also Appendix 1: List of Twitter Resources).

Participation and reification are also key concepts for the understanding of communities of practice. In Wenger’s view, participation and reification are components of learning through the collaborative negotiation of meaning among members. Participation gives individuals experiences which they remember to a greater or lesser extent and these memories are subject to interpretation and the construal of meaning. Reification “produces forms that persist” (Wenger, p. 88) and this process “compels us to negotiate their meaning” each time they are used (Wenger, p. 89). Both participation and reification are modes of existence to help shape the future of a community of practice. This rich seam will be mined more fully when we come to look at microblogging educations in Part 2 in the community called by some the “edutwittersphere”. (See also Appendix 1: Reification)

Wenger goes on to elaborate how these elements make up what he sees as learning, through remembering, forgetting and interpretation across a community. “Learning is not just a matter of competence but a matter of the experience of meaning as well” (p. 263), and this has to do with the negotiation of identity. “Education… concerns the opening of identities – exploring new ways of being (p. 263). A major topic of interaction among the microblogging educators is how we are to redefine education and schools for the 21st century.

Brokering is another important concept, and it explains how teachers being members of communities of practice outside their workplace are able to influence the workplaces with the learning created. Traditional professional development often takes place outside the school and almost always outside the classroom, and the learning needs to be brought back to the workplace. A microblogging educator bringing the learning to the school or workplace is acting as a broker. A broker will understand a problem or situation in the workplace through their experience in a different community of practice and be able to influence the practice among colleagues at the workplace. As Wenger affirms, “[b]rokering is a common feature of the relation of a community of practice with the outside” (p. 109).

Social Capital is a term (borrowed from sociology) for the “concrete personal relationships and networks of relations… in generating trust, in establishing expectations, and in creating and reinforcing norms.” (Lesser, p. 126) It is not hard to see how this fits into the theory of communities of practice with its understanding of mutual engagement and joint enterprise. In this sense the learning that results from this participation in community and the trust that is engendered through the participation is a part of this social capital. The learning does not reside in the heads of the individuals per se, but in the network of relations that make up the community of practice. The recognition of such social capital means that these “communities can be supported… to benefit the members of the communities and the organisation as a whole” (Lesser, p. 126).

Coming back to where we started when first defining communities of practice (p. 2), we remember that communities of practice are not static but subject to evolution (Hildreth, p. xii). In Part two of this paper we will see how microblogging is evolving and new tools and conventions are being adopted.

A very important aspect in evaluating a group to see if it is in fact a community of practice is the relationships it engenders. Kimble 2008a emphasises that “informal relationships form based on trust and confidence (p. xii). We will see that the community of educators that is forming on Twitter “fulfils the human desire for interaction” (McInnerney, p. 73), overcomes isolation, engenders a sense of belonging in a joint enterprise. Thus it is a source of influence, learning and identity.