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“I follow you on Twitter”

The power of social media in knowledge mobilization

Dr Ashley Casey, School of Sport, Exercise and Health SciencesIn July I had the pleasure of attending the PE Institute in North Carolina. I was invited to give the keynote address because of my work on social media, and because of the sharing community I have become involved in over the last six years on Twitter.

When I entered the conference venue I kept bumping into people I knew and the term “I follow you on Twitter” became a frequently shared greeting. Of the 600 people I met many were familiar and yet I had only actually met (face-to-face) less than a dozen of them. I had read their blogs, advised them on Skype about teaching, sought help with my own thought processes, and had even started to write a book based on our shared experiences but I hadn’t met them.

When I left the secondary physical education classroom I promised myself that I wouldn’t lose touch with teachers. My job now is to teach teachers, so I still see lots of them but I didn’t want to lose touch with real schools and their classrooms. I joined Twitter and started a blog with that thought at the centre of my actions and intentions. Over the last six years (I celebrate my Twitter birthday in early February) I have created a wide professional learning network (PLN) of friends and colleagues who I rely on to keep my feet on the ground. It is this network (and their networks) who have read my work and operationalized it in their classrooms.

My research is about physical education, pedagogy, technology and professional development, which carries, I believe, key information for those who follow me. They are, in short, my key audience; but sharing research through social media is a multifaceted process. I make sure not to send only my own work out through my network and when I do I make it palatable. I tweet out screen shots of abstracts and have created presentations to accompany key papers, in order to make them accessible, and then I try and connect with people. I read their work and try to comment.

I have also worked collaboratively with Routledge to promote what ‘I do’. They share my work and we work hard together to get the message out there. We have retweeted one other and I have a played my part in sharing their messages (not always those about my work) with my PLN. It is a partnership after all.

The process of interaction is the key ingredient in my successful use of social media to promote my work. I write to be read not just to be published and I am proud to say that seven of my peer-reviewed publications are featured on six different journal websites as one of their most read papers, while two are listed as a most cited paper. This is testament to the power of my PLN and the reciprocity of our friendship. It also shows the power of social media, as I am only six years out of my PhD.

“I follow you on Twitter” is not just an introduction but is an indication that your work is well known to others.  My advice? Don’t take social media for granted, and don’t try and force-feed it as it won’t thank you for it. Invest in social media and it will pay you back.

Ashley is a lecturer in Pedagogy and Programme Director for the Post Graduate Certificate in Education (Physical Education) at Loughborough University. He can be found on Twitter at @DrAshCasey where he talks about pedagogy and practice in education and physical education.