Twitter as a search tool

Figure 1 Search results for
Figure 1 Search results for “inquiry school library” in Twitter.

I have referred to social media a few times to search for information. Notably, I have used Pinterest consistently throughout my (short) teaching career with various levels of success. However, I have never tried Twitter as a search repository, and was curious to see how useful it could be.

Research question: How can the library support inquiry learning?

My first attempt at Twitter was to search the hashtag, #inquiryinenglish but that came up with nothing. My next search was “Inquiry school library” without a hashtag hoping to widen the results. The results were broad and unspecific, and largely about student-driven questions (Fig. 1). I was unable to find anything specific enough for my needs, and it was too difficult to narrow down the search.

Figure 2 Richard Kassissieh @kassissieh's Twitter Post that surfaced through the search
Figure 2 Richard Kassissieh (@kassissieh)’s Twitter Post that surfaced through the search “inquiry school library”.

Research question: How can inquiry learning be included in the English classroom?

My next search “Inquiry in English“, again without the hashtag, still generated largely irrelevant results, but it wasn’t being updated as quickly as “inquiry school library”. I was able to scroll down to find some relevant tweets. @kassissieh Tweeted an image from his class with the title, “Thematic inquiry in English classes builds student dialogue around contemporary topics” (Fig. 2); however, the limited explanation made the concept unclear to me. I also found a conversation initiated by Lissa Layman (@MmsLayman): “What does #inquiry look like in High School English classes?” Bingo.

This conversation provided a selection of blogs, strategies and ideas of what other English teachers have found successful (Fig. 3):

  • Dianne McKenzie (February, 2015). Scaffolded Thinking. – a question based activity to determine prior knowledge on the context of the text (in this case, Shakespeare), and to generate questions that students want to explore further about what they still want to know. This also led me to the Visual Thinking Strategy Think, Puzzle, Explore via McKenzie’s reflection on a blog post by Buffy Hamilton (The Unquiet Librarian) on Igniting Inquiry.
  • Visual Thinking Layers routine, which organises students questions about a text into genuine and generative inquiry questions that can be explored in order to deepen understanding and appreciation with the text.
  • Dianne McKenzie (August, 2015). One size for all limits of learning – The teacher provides a concept, theme, or idea that they want students to explore, for instance, racism, and students then locate a text that they want to read that explores the concept.
  • Dianne McKenzie (September 2014). Visualising Orwell – a visual literacy strategy that uses images and quotes to initiate questions and discussion about the context of the novel before studying it.
  • Dianne McKenzie (November, 2014) Maze Running – a visual thinking activity where students worked in groups to negotiate an agreed upon layout for the setting, personalities of the characters, and their relationships. However, while this was included in the Twitter search results, I would not classify it as strictly ‘inquiry’ based learning.
Figure 3 A map of the Twitter conversation generated by Lissa Layman (@MmeLayman) about what inquiry can look like in an English classroom.

This search also provided me with the hashtag #sharedinquiry which sent me to another conversation on Twitter. However, this hashtag did not give me any information on what Shared Inquiry actually was, so I went back to Google and typed it in. I discovered that an organisation called The Great Books Foundation who produce educational resources have developed their own method of inquiry in English called Shared Inquiry. On their website, the aims of the Shared Inquiry method, “..centers on interpretive questions—questions about a text that have more than one plausible answer. Discussion leaders employ the Shared Inquiry method to get participants thinking, listening, and responding to questions and answers from others in their discussion groups.” (The Great Books Foundation, 2015). The website also includes a free-to-download PDF that examines the Shared Inquiry process using texts, which will prove to be a highly valuable resource in helping me to generate ideas about how inquiry can be used in the English classroom.

I became incredibly carried away following the ideas that the short discussion that @MmeLayman generated on Twitter. It was overwhelming trying to curate their ideas in a way that I could use. Eventually I found some order to my Twitter searching, and found enough to keep me occupied in generating my own response to the English-based inquiry question. I did not need to try any more search terms, nor did I try other social media sites – I was quite satisfied with what I found. A combination of finding more than enough ideas to keep me occupied, plus how time-consuming it was to curate the resources I was finding into a logical order were my reasons to not continue my social media search at this time. While Twitter is a pain to navigate as you cannot sort results in any meaningful way, and you also have to sift through many irrelevant sources (I had many Tweets from companies asking for the “inquiry to be in English please”), the conversational nature of Twitter makes it a goldmine for information, once you actually find what you’re looking for.


One thought on “Twitter as a search tool

  1. marg05 September 21, 2015 / 1:48 pm

    This post was particularly topical, I’ve been working in the school library and as a secondary English teacher and have struggled with the notion of how to generate inquiry in English. Interesting that it took a specific question, as opposed to general searches, before you struck gold and then the links seemed to flow. I do like THINK, PUZZLE EXPLORE, on following this link to Visible Thinking, I ended up in familiar territory, I have the book (!) and hadn’t thought to use it for inquiry inspiration, possibly because I haven’t used it in a while. Funny how things old can be new again. Great Books Foundation another fantastic link. I’ve gained a lot! I appreciate the clarity with which you’ve documented your searches and the associated screen clips make it easy to relate to.
    I know you were focussing on Twitter in this blog and understand time is of the essence in these searches. How much time do we spend, for what gain? You made a conscious choice not to check out other social media sites, was this based on time or sheer volume of information? There may be some interesting work in this space on Pinterest or Google+ community (for another day!).


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