“transcendence”, moments of connection to the bigger whole, distinct from a “normal
subject-object dichotomization” (Hart, 2000, p. 4). At inspiration stage the
individual is more likely to make novel associations beyond the ego boundaries.
(Thrash & Elliot, 2003)
“Transcendence is illustrated by the fact that the individual gains access to and uses ideas that are felt to be more elegant or novel than those generated wilfully.” (Thrash & Elliot, 2003, p. 872)
The transcendent nature of Twitter became clear by participants expressing connection to a broad set of domains, from education, over other contexts such as Human Resources, to ‘life in general'. The moment of being inspired through Twitter was accompanied by a shift in the sense of self-separatedness. They felt part of the bigger picture and expressed seeing the bigger picture more clearly. This is in line with Carpenter & Krutka (2015) who acknowledge the connection with educators and the likeminded from beyond their own school and districts.
Participants expressed engaging in multiple domains of expertise:
“I follow people on Twitter, not only for my educational practice but also for my hobby: music; even for information about ‘life’.” (Mariska)
“Twitter is an extension of my mind.” (Heidi)
“It is a channel for networking beyond my specific professional practice and I receive a lot of up-to-date knowledge on education.” (Els)
“Twitter enables me to put the enterprise of my husband in the spotlight as well. I can also bring that authentic expertise (horticulture) into my own subjects with students.” (Ingrid)
“On Twitter I spread information of my hobbies as well, namely blogging about music and concerts.” (Patrick)
These moments of
inspiration by the wider community are mostly not problem-centered. The inspiration through Twitter is a kind of infusion of ideas
into the mind. Twitter enriches the entire professional identity in an ongoing, rather invisible and
organic process of inspirational triggers (tweets).
Quotes by participants on the inspiration through Twitter:
“I pick up a lot of broad knowledge on Twitter, new insights and even second opinions. I also use it in other domains than education, I learn a lot from Human Resources people, or from tweets about Public Relations. Twitter is kind of a collective brain.” (Heidi)
“I was able to find members for my students’ jury presentations. People from entreprises and firms that want to sit in the jury. I really can connect to other experts.” (Heidi)
“The main purpose why I use Twitter is exploration of the likeminded.” (Leen)
“Twitter offers me broader perspectives on education.” (Kris)
“I pick up up-to-date educational information from first hand on Twitter.” (Patrick)
Remark on the transfer to their actual practice: it seemed mored difficult to consciously illustrate the actual transfer to the classroom practice. See this videolog on knowledge about practice. This can be regarded as an area of further research and investigation.
During the individual interviews and focus group session there was some debate on the power of sharing in general. All participants expressed an openness to share their expertise but often encountered resistance to sharing with colleagues. Sometimes teachers plainly refuse to share learning materials. Although these were interesting conversations, the reason why people resist sharing goes beyond the scope of this case study. Participants pointed into the direction of 'fear for the unknown' and a kind of protectionism towards their own learning materials. I argue that this relates to the ability to open up and a willingness to show your vulnerabilities. This would need more study and research.
“People do not always share because they see their learning materials as their own. ‘It is my material and I’m not going to simply share something I’ve put a lot of effort in.” (Katrien)
“People sometimes do not share because they have fear of disapproval of their materials.” (Leen)
“In my school culture, there is a general willingness to share materials.” (Leen)
In contrast to the work of Davis (2015) where American educators engaged in #edchat sessions, the participants in my case study did not express to interact a lot on Twitter. Some participants engage in Twitter chats and discussions (Leen, Heidi and Kris) but the focus clearly was on the level of (lifewide) inspiration.
See the following videolog