Course:LIBR559A/McPherson, M., Budge, K., & Lemon, N. (2015)

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McPherson, M., Budge, K., & Lemon, N. (2015). New practices in doing academic development: Twitter as an informal learning space. International Journal for Academic Development, 20(2), 126-136.

Purpose of article

In this article, the authors explored the application of Twitter as an informal platform for educators and academic developers to communicate and learn from each other, and was aimed at evaluating Twitter’s role as an informal learning platform, and sharing the findings to inspire academic developers.


This research was based on a combination of a thorough literature review and case study (some practical experience reflections which was called “vignettes” in this article).

Main Argument(s) and supporting evidence

The authors made several conclusions about Twitter’s application in education: 1. Twitter had been used as an informal platform to enable professional local and global connections 2. Twitter enabled equal communication instead of putting the authorities in the charging role 3. With Twitter, dynamic conversation and openness were encouraged and new relationships were built.

To support their hypothesizes, the authors draw their conclusions based on several case studies: instead of looking at narrative data as text that conveys mere descriptions of things, the authors built on Barad’s notion of reflections (2007) and used several vignettes to reflect how Twitter had been used as an informal learning platform by various educators in practice. The samples provided by this article included how academic developers used Twitter to inform others and change practice, how did they use Twitter to develop their broader connections with others in this field, and how they maintained a complex connection with multi-discipline academic development information needs. All the cases were narrated by a real-life academic developer, which makes the cases really persuasive and supportive.

Areas / Topics / Keywords

Twitter, Academic Development, Vignette

The authors raised some main concepts and defined them based on the educational context. Vignette was defined as “a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object”, which referred to some academic practices occurring on Twitter and written in narrative form; while the term “academic development “was defined “those formalized roles of this nature such as academic and educational developers, and those in academic roles within faculties with academic development responsibilities”.

Theoretical frameworks

From my perspective, this article was based on Technology-determinism framework, since the authors were thinking about how could educators use Twitter to change their learning and communication mode.

Novel Ideas

The authors raised some novel ideas in using practical reflections to support their research findings, and also talked about the possibilities to use Twitter as an informal way to improve the global communication of the academic developers.


On the one hand, the authors ignored the fact that academic developers are also re-shaping Twitter and their experience and expertise could be used to revise Twitter into a better place for informal professional communication, which could be considered as a drawback of this article.

On the other hand, they were being too optimistic about using Twitter as an international communication tool that ignored the issue of digital divide and censorship. For example, how can educators without good Internet or digital devices be accessible to Twitter resources? How can educators in a country that can not get access to Twitter (like China) join the conversation? So from my perspective, more possibilities and alternative plans should also be considered while planning for new platforms to use for future academic development.

Potential Contribution to Social Studies of Libraries and Librarianship

From my perspective, the findings of this article could be used in the library world as well: librarians, no matter public or academic, could use Twitter as a platform to follow the experts in their field, make connections, and keep themselves informed about the most recent technologies that could be incorporated in their own daily work. In addition, making immediate global connections is also a good idea for librarians to make further progress, for example, a children librarian in Canada can learn about how did a British librarians use AR/VR technologies to host a successful event for the kids, communicated with other librarians who also followed the British librarian, and explore the possibilities of applying that technology in his/her own library.

Page Author: Wendy Zhang