A Science Instrument for the Digital Age: #Scistuchat Participants' Perceptions of Twitter as a Tool for Learning and Communicating Science
The integration of digital technologies in K-12 education is ubiquitous. Web 2.0 technologies enable students who were once passive consumers to become active participants in, and even creators of, dynamic digital experiences. Social media, in particular, can connect disparate populations, minimizing traditional barriers such as time, space and geography. Similarly, science communication has also been influenced by an expanding array of media through which scientists can now connect directly with the public. #Scistuchat, the focus of this study, uses the social media platform Twitter to bring together scientists, secondary science students and teachers outside of school in monthly, science-focused Twitter chats. Using a multiple-case (embedded) design, this study sought to answer the question "How do #scistuchat participants perceive Twitter as a tool for learning and communicating science?" Thematic, cross-case analysis of four #scistuchats revealed themes specific to the #scistuchat experience, as well as the broader use of Twitter for science learning and communication. In addition to real-time observations of each chat and later analysis of the archived tweets, videoconferencing technology was used to conduct individual interviews with participating scientists (n=16) and teachers (n=6), as well as focus groups with students (n=17). Notable #scistuchat-specific findings include a recognition of the experience as dynamic and student-focused. Regarding student outcomes, although gains in science content knowledge were limited, an evolving understanding of scientists and the nature of their work was prominent. Findings regarding the broader use of Twitter for science purposes highlighted its multidimensional, professional utility and its unique contributions when leveraged in classroom settings.