Finding a Community of Scholars in the TwitterversePosted: Fri 07.29.2011
Sometimes graduate student life is a lonely place.
Every program is different with different types of participants: commuter students, part time, full time, university employees working hard through a tuition remission program. Unless you are very lucky, you won’t have a cohort who is supportive, geographically around, and moving at the same pace. While I have very willing and supportive colleagues, we are all in different places in our lives and programs that makes commiserating a bit more challenging. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities.
One way that I am working to try and combat that isolation is through the use of Twitter to reach out to other scholars who are undergoing similar challenges and triumphs. While I am focused on educational research, I’ve found a wonderful group of engineers, scientists, philosophers, politicial minds, and more who are all looking towards the same goal: finishing their PhD. Through these tweets I have found comfort through the hiccups that human subjects research brings, am testing out the pomodoro technique for time management, and am finding better ways to sort through the mountain of literature for my comprehensive exam preparation.
Twitter is not just limited to its use as a one-on-one communication tool, either. Twitter can be used as a backchannel (as AMF is testing in the course she is teaching) to relay real time information on whether or not students are “getting it” in the classroom. Twitter can be a way to gain a crowdsourced opinion on a topic, get feedback on your teaching, and participate in group discussions (such as the #phdchat event that serves as a chat forum on Wednesdays and a stable page for archive). The #phdchat resource has been particularly helpful as participants can share the topics they are grappling with to gain insight from other students and scholars. For those of you who seeek to discuss, share, and refine your practice, but find yourself without a brick-and-mortar place to do so, I would highly recommend a little tweeting to help build your community and your online cohort.
[A great compilation of resources on using Twitter in the classroom can be found here.]