AERA 2019: The Promise and Peril of Social Media in a Post-Truth Era
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AERA 2019: The Promise and Peril of Social Media in a Post-Truth Era

All right everyone! Welcome, and thank you so much for coming today to discuss the promise and the peril of social media in a post-truth era. We have a fantastic set of panelists, and we’ve set up the session to have lots of different opportunities for interaction, both online, and in person. My name is Emily Hodge. I’m an assistant professor at Montclair State University in New Jersey, and I organized this session together with the rest of the social media committee of Division L, which is the division of AERA that focuses on education, policy and politics. We’ll be live tweeting today using the hashtags #AERA19, as well as hashtag #PostTruth. #PostTruth is what you see on the right side of the screen up here. That is what’s called a Twitter back-channel. So, when you ask a question, and you include the hashtag #PostTruth, it will show up here as we’re talking today. Similar if you include the hashtag #AERA19. It goes to a page with all of the tweets that use that hashtag, so that everyone at AERA can see what we are talking about in the session today. We have four fantastic panelists, each of whom offers a distinct view on the potential of social media to build a stronger democracy, or the danger of social media to sometimes break it down. The organization of events today is that each panelist will speak for about 5 minutes. And then during that time, comments and questions should be tweeted using this #PostTruth hashtag. And, then our panelists will have an opportunity to engage with your questions. We also have built in two opportunities for small-group interaction and conversation, so that we have a chance to talk through some of these issues together. So, we’re going to have the first small group conversation after our first two panelists, and then the second one after the last two panelists. Before we begin, I want to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to participate via the Twitter back-channel. Raise your hand if you are on Twitter now, and you are planning to tweet during the session. Keep your hand up, please. All right. If you do not have your– Keep your hand up a little longer, because if you are not on Twitter, or you’re new and you want help, take a look around, and we’re going to pause for a second so you can move. Move and make sure you’re sitting next to somebody who can help you ask questions. We’re going to pause for 30 seconds. Our first panelist is going to get set up. And, again, let us know, ask around, make sure you’re sitting next to somebody who can make sure that you can participate in this way. All right. Thanks for coming! Is everybody okay? Nobody moved. (laughs) (people laughing) You tell me when to start. I think we’re good! Okay. Okay? All right. Good afternoon?
Morning? Morning! Good morning, everybody! We’re going to start out with the perils, I think, and then we’ll move to the promise. So, get the perils out of the way. I’m Jon Supovitz from the University of Pennsylvania. I did a study that came out in 2017 called Hashtag Common Core. It was an analysis of… We looked at over a million tweets over 24 months on Twitter, at 190 thousand actors who were tweeting about the Common Core. And, they were using various hashtags to tweet about the Common Core. Really the story that I’m going to tell you is one part of a larger story. We told a story that had 5 pieces, but I’m just going to focus on one, which is the central actors, here. This is a picture of one of our social networks of the communicators around the Common Core. This is a structural network. We didn’t move the nodes or change anything. But, this is basically the communication patterns, and the way the people connect to each other behaviorally. How they choose to tweet, retweet, and follow each other. This is just a picture of a network. But, when we looked at this network, we saw patterns that connected people together. The first thing that was kind of funny, is that this group out in red, who’s not connected at all to the rest of the network, it turned out that in Costa Rica, the Social Security Administration is called the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, CCSS. So, they were using the hashtag #CCSS, at the time that we were tracking hashtag #CCSS, so they show up in our network, although they weren’t talking about the Common Core. But, there were three groups that were talking about the Common Core, and when we looked at the content of their tweets, we saw that there were supporters of the Common Core, who were mostly homophilic, who were connected more tightly together than to others. There were educators who opposed the Common Core. And then there were outsiders, who were tweeting about the Common Core, and mostly to oppose it, but they weren’t educators. They were trying to hijack this issue for larger political purposes. So, as we dug in, this is sort of the four networks over time, and we did four six-month segments. As we dug in, we started to see that this conversation about the Common Core was being essentially taken over by the opponents of the Common Core from outside of education. That looks kind of like this. These are percentages of folks from those sub-communities. You can see it kind of like PAC-MAN. The yellow group is gobbling up the conversation around the Common Core. When we looked even deeper into the opponents of the Common Core from outside of education, we noticed something even more interesting. There was this group called the Patriot Journalists Network. PJNET. And they would often, but not always, it’s hard to surmise, use hashtag #PJNET in their tweets. They had a set of techniques that they used, and we identified two. One was called botnets, and the other was hashtag rallies. What they would do, is they would bring folks together, on hashtag rallies, they would bring folks together, and they would have a prefabricated set of tweets, and folks would show up at a particular time for a couple of hours for a hashtag rally, use their pre-designed tweets, and essentially increase the volume of content about a particular sub-component of whatever issue they were focused on. You’ll see in a timeline, I’ll show you in a second, how this showed up in changes in volume. Another strategy that they used was something that we call botnets. A botnet was a technique that they used where a follower could essentially turn their Twitter account over to PJNET, and PJNET could synchronously send out a whole bunch of tweets from seemingly separate accounts that were reinforcing the same message. So, if you didn’t look carefully, it would look like all these people were spontaneously tweeting and re-tweeting these messages about a particular issue, but they were really one force behind that group. So, these were strategies that PJNET used. I should say that PJNET was a grassroots, Christian conservative group that was run out of a church in Tallahassee, Florida. We interviewed the guy who ran it. And the Common Core was just one of multiple issues that they were involved in. So, they were trying to use social media to influence a variety of issues. The Common Core was just one of the multiple issues that they were focused on. Second amendment rights, pro-life movement, Blue Lives Matter, those kind of things. So, this is activity of PJNET, or this is just activity in the Common Core, over the four six-month periods that we looked at, and you can see here that PJNET caused a lot of these spikes in activity. So, when we start to look, we start to see how their hashtags, how particular opposition to Common Core in certain places was being driven by their activity. Another way of looking at that, this, the yellow line here shows overall activity on the Common Core, and what I’ll show you now, is activity driven by PJNET. Early on, they were not influential at all. Over time, they were increasingly co-opting, and taking over the conversation. This got a lot of play, needless to say, in newspapers. This was kind of the thing that journalists picked up. It turned out that this was kind of like shining light in the darkness of Twitter a little bit, because about eight months after our study came out, PJNET got shut down by Twitter. At least, journalists attributed that, in part, to the work that we had done. Of course, that’s not the end of the story, right? Because, like whack-a-mole, little PJNETs, PJNET-lets, have shown up across the country, in states, trying to influence state policy, even around education issues. This may be a by-product of ESSA, right? So, moving down to state. This stuff is not gone. It was just shifted. Some important things about this story. Just some take-a-ways, and then I’ll finish up. Some take-a-ways are, number one is that, we can’t turn the clock back. Social media is changing the politics of education that produces educational policy. So, we have to be aware of that, and diligent, and vigilant about that. A second take-a-way is that, as this story shows, this all happened before the 2016 election. Our data went right up into the primaries, and Trump even tweeted a little bit in our data set. We can see some spikes associated with Trump. But, this notion that education is not immune. So, all of this activity is going on in our little corner of the conversation about public issues in public spaces. And then, the third thing that I would say is that things like social network analysis, and we use psychological analysis, those can reveal a lot of the hidden things that are going on, and really make visible a lot of the invisible things that are happening. So, I’ll pass this on. Now that we got the perils out of the way, we can talk about promise. Your next job is to stay here and answer some questions. Oh, okay! Yeah, you’re still on the spot. Can I have a little water? Yeah, of course. Okay, questions! Am I looking at Twitter for questions. Yes, we’re looking at– Oh, my God! I’m just responding to this guy. Yeah, give me the pitcher. So, we have our hashtag over here on the right, with both some observations and questions that have come up, as well as this hilarious gif of Andy from Parks & Rec. Question from Molly Sanders. Molly, where are you? Molly asks, “How did you determine whether tweeters were educators or outside of education?” There were a lot of… One of the big, within-education movements, if you know kind of the social movement around education, is a teacher group called Badass Teachers. I don’t know if anybody has heard of the Badass Teachers. Bad-ass Teachers are an affiliation of teachers who viewed the Common Core as something that was taking away the professionalism of teaching. What we did to identify who were within education, is basically, we used, two things. One is, we looked at a random sample of accounts and identified that folks were affiliated as educators, in some shape or form. Then we used, in the larger social network, there were sub-community routines that separated folks by who you affiliated with. Good question. It looks like on the back-channel right now, a lot of people are using it to make comments, rather than ask questions. Which is also a totally valid use. We have some kind of take-a-way points about how social media is influencing policy-making, and social network analysis can review hidden structures and incidents. That’s a great comment from Vo-Dong-Shen. Where are you in the audience. Yeah, thank you for that! I agree 100%. Yeah, any other kind of comments on how social media might influence policy-making? What’s interesting is that when we survey current policy makers, they’re not exactly social media literate. I think that generations are changing, and so folks are increasingly seeing the power and influence of social media. I have to say that all of this stuff that we did was before Trump was using Twitter as a soap box, and there was a lot of question about, “Is Twitter just an echo chamber, right?” Is it happening totally divorced from reality, and reality is over here, and, you know, whatever happens here doesn’t really matter. I don’t think we ask those questions anymore. I think that one of the powerful things that this story tells, is that it was happening pretty much right under our noses without anybody being aware. It was also coincident with the increasing partisanship of the Common Core, and all the state movements to move away from calling things the Common Core, and using their, you know, like the New Jersey State Standards, which were essentially the Common Core State Standards. All right, we have a lot of great questions. Thank you so much for participating via this Twitter back-channel. We have a question from Meg Blanchard. Where are you Meg? “So, what can we do on Twitter, or what can we have our students to do to have a positive impact on social media?” I think that’s going to be a great question for a small group conversation, especially. Here’s one, Tear-ou Cla-vell. Thank you for asking this question. “What do you say to all those parents who jump on the ‘I hate the Common Core, too’ bandwagon?” First off, it wasn’t my job in this study to take a position on the Common Core, right? I’m trying to reveal how the conversation was being influenced by folks who are using social media as a way to try to influence others, or to elevate their view above others. If you go to the website, there’s a lot of psychological analyses, where folks have really used a lot of the tools that have been around for time and memorial, right? This story is really as old as Madison’s argument about how we have to make sure that we balance factions against each other. We’re just bringing it into a new realm. So, we have to see that these are old struggles playing out on new platforms, in a new medium. All right, and just one final question. Kind of a combination of two. “So, is what we’re doing now, could this be considered a hashtag rally? What are the components?” That was from Thalia. Another question from Paul. “Should educators be thinking of these tactics as a way to influence policy?” To answer the first question. No, this is not a hashtag rally. A hashtag rally would be where we’d have a united message that we’re trying to get out and to raise the profile of. If we all tweeted the same tweets, and we got that to spike activity around an issue, that would be a hashtag rally, okay? The second question was? Well, even if it’s not a hashtag rally, but should educators be using something similar, or should we be using hashtag rallies to communicate our points of view? This is a particular effort to influence people’s views and ideas. I think that’s what educators are trying to do. We’re trying to create influence. I don’t view, necessarily, the effort of this group as negative or positive, but I do think that school leaders who are trying to use Twitter to communicate with their constituencies, they’re trying to influence their constituencies. They’re trying to share stuff about what’s going on that they think are positive. I think that the medium is kind of neutral. It’s the people who are using it as a force for positive change, or a force for negative change. All right. Well, thank you so much for your questions! Thank you to John for being on the spot. We really appreciate your comments. Next we’re going to hear from Sonya Horsford about her role in creating the Black Education Research Collective. All right. Good morning, everyone! How many of you are new to Twitter, or maybe at the novice level? I’m your representative on the panel. (people laughing) I’m an associate professor of education leadership at Teacher’s College, Columbia University. I have two Twitter accounts that I manage. One is under my name, and I even struggle with its use in terms of how I present myself, right? My personal interests, my professional identity. So that’s one thing that I continue to wrestle with, in terms of what I tweet out, what I retweet, etc. The other account, which is the one that I’ll focus on today, is the Black Education Research Collective. This project is just something that I’ve launched at the university through our Institute for Urban and Minority Education. My research focus is really around black education, school desegregation, critical race theory, and urban school leadership. Oftentimes, the work around black education can often be marginalized, or there are scholars who are doing this work, and students are interested in the work, but we’re oftentimes kind of dispersed across institutions and different places, or different units and programs throughout the institution. This had been a vision of mine since I was a doctoral student, and finding a way to help connect individuals who happen to share research interest and agenda. So the collective is something that we started. We have meetings, convenings, do some mentoring, and just bring people together in a very organic way. Nothing terribly formalized at this point. But, I thought, hey! Twitter might be a great vehicle to kind of connect people not only in the physical space, but in a virtual space. So, I just created an account. I can’t even remember the password to it. I had to pull it up on my phone. (laughs) Just created this account, and began to follow individuals who were educators that seemed to have similar interests. Research faculty that I knew that were also studying black education, over the course of several months. We have about 583 followers now. It’s just been an interesting way for me to experience how this tool could be used in more promising ways, not perilous yet, to connect individuals with shared interests. The purpose of BERC is to represent a collective of scholars focused on research at the intersection of black history, culture, politics, and education. We have everyone from practitioners and research faculty, and hopefully in the future policy makers who also will be a part of any dialogues or conversations that we could have on Twitter. That’s about the extent of it to this point. I am a bit terrified about the perils that Jonathan shared. In terms of recognizing that there’s so much we don’t know about these platforms, and that there are so many people who are so much more sophisticated and strategic in delivering those messages. So, the collective is really, again, an organic way to hopefully leverage the positive aspects of building community through social media. And, who knows, maybe even using that… It’s funny because we actually had a thread that was generated that ended up suggesting a conference, at one point, around a particular set of issues around choice, and neoliberalism, and education, and its impact on black education, families, and communities. I see great possibility in that, and being able to connect scholars, and engage in conversations. Even this notion of the hashtag rally as being a possibility of really being able to focus on an issue or policy agenda, and using that as a way to bring people together to advance it. So, that’s my story. I’m happy to answer any questions, or even invite suggestions on how we can make this an even more robust opportunity for individuals. You are followed by the Badass Teachers Association. Well there it is! (people laughing) We’ve made it! The BATs. The BATs. Yeah, so take a second to generate your questions. We have one here from Paul. Where are you Paul? Thank you for… You’re a great tweeter. There’s a question for Sonya about, “I wonder whether Twitter is self-selective? Are we missing researchers, I guess either just in general, or from across the social media ecology?” Thank you, Paul!
Awesome! I think that’s a great question. I think it’s a parallel. Maybe it’s two different sets of communities, because BERC is, you know, we really started as this physical network of individuals at Teacher’s College, and some senior scholars from other places. This was more secondary, in terms of our outreach. I do think in the Twitter space, it’s self-selective. A lot of researchers just don’t use Twitter. It, I think, provides an interesting opportunity for inter-generational connections and conversations. Thinking about, I’m Generation X, so I’m kind of in this interesting space where I feel like I’m oftentimes liaising and translating between Millennials and some of the older generations, who may not feel as comfortable with social media. That’s part of why I’ve entered this space, as well. In terms of being able to speak a language that I think can help bring individuals together across generation, across interest, and across space. Also, a question here that deals more with the peril than the promise. Liz-ette, where are you? Liz-ette. Liz-ette asked a question about how women of color received the most trolling on Twitter. How can we strategize to protect them? That’s probably beyond my pay-grade, but I think it’s, again one of those issues that we have to be sensitive to. I even kind of anticipate sometimes some of the fights that can begin to emerge when people have very strong opinions. It’s very limited when we have… How many characters do we have? (laughs) 280, which I think can make that challenging. But, I think that’s certainly a concern, and something that we need to think about, but I don’t know what the answer to that is. We also had another question from Paul about how you navigate your personal posts, and if you can speak a little more about how you have figured out what to post where. Very unintentionally, at this point. It’s interesting, too, because my personal… I’m a mother. I have three children. I have a spouse, who is very active on Twitter, who is in politics, and so it’s interesting to see that kind of play out in a virtual space as well. It’s something that I’ve always contended with, kind of in our own professional lives, but that may be being amplified in particular way. Social media has honestly been something that’s been challenging for me. I have very strong views. As does he. And, so how that even is interpreted by others can be challenging. I change my profile pic constantly. I often change my bio. Right now it has “mother, author, and education professor”, sometimes it’ll be “partner to my spouse”. I’m constantly kind of negotiating, depending on my mood, (laughs) what I want to retweet or express on my Twitter feed. I think that constantly changes. I think that’s also something that I would like for us as researchers to talk more about. Particularly professors and faculty. To what extent are we representing our institutions, and our programs? To what extent are we representing ourselves. I know that people often include a disclaimer, saying that these are personal tweets, but still at the end of the day, it’s very difficult sometimes for us to disentangle our personal opinions from the units, the programs, and the institutions that we represent. Thank you so much to Sonya for sharing your personal and professional experience on Twitter. We are going to take a pause now for our first small group conversation. We’re going to take about 10 minutes for you to pair up with about 3 or 4 people sitting around you, and just talk about what you’ve heard so far. What are your reactions? What perils of social media have you personally experienced, if any? Engage with the question about how to make Twitter a safer, and less troll-y space. Or, even think about how we might mitigate some of those perils, and amplify the promises. I have to say, I’ve never felt more on-task, to be on my phone during an AERA presentation, which feels a little weird. We’ll come back together in 10 minutes, and just enjoy that opportunity to interact with each other. Introduce yourselves, and engage with these questions, or others that strike you. All right, wonderful! I’m glad that you had the opportunity to hopefully make a new friend at AERA, to chat together in a small group. Before we turn it over to our next two panelists, there are more questions that have come up on the Twitter back-channel that I thought might be nice to give our panelists an opportunity to engage with. For example, a question from Jack Jo-er-tee there in the blue. Oh, yes, from this wonderful group back here. “Should we discourage our students, colleagues, or campuses from posting on social media platforms that promote discrimination?” Example: Facebook. I don’t know if you all have any thoughts on different platforms, and the ethics of social media engagement. I’ll move the mic up here. So, I haven’t really given this a lot of thought, to be honest with you. I think that’s part of one of the biggest problems of any of these platforms, right? Facebook, Twitter, etc., is that it can be a playground, right, for lots of unethical behavior. So, for me, obviously, I think about doing what is ethical when I post something, when I engage with something, but I think that if I am working with students, be it undergrad or graduate students, I’m thinking about what is your role? What do you communicate? And, trying to help them think through what they do when they run up against those kinds of interactions. Even if it’s a personal, right, a personal attack against them, or something that sort of makes their way into a conversation. I don’t know if I would abandon the platform completely, because I think we have an opportunity to transform it into being something that works really well for other people. But, there’s always going to be these issues that pop up that we’re going to have to contend with, so I don’t know. One thing that people might be interested in, we just funded a– Do you want the microphone? Can you guys hear me without it? No. Okay. I’m always thinking about what empirically we might be able to draw from the answer to these questions. And just one thought that I have is we just gave a small grant to the University of Virginia, associate professor No-elle Heard, who has been looking at the sort of hate messages on social media, various platforms of social media, and thinking about how to get white students, an intervention with white students, to get them to intervene on those platforms with their fellow white students. And, I thought it was kind of an interesting approach, to thinking about how to intervene on some of these general platforms. And then how white students can help other white students. Yeah, interesting. And that gets to another question from the audience about how people can think about engaging with Twitter safely. So, a question about how scholars at various career stages might navigate the social media space differently. And there was another question about trolling on Twitter, and what to do when you experience that, or maybe if you’re from a certain demographic category, you’d actually stay away from Twitter, because it feels risky to you, but then your work is not as visible. Any thoughts from our panelists about how to protect yourself? All right. I will pick this one up again. So, I think in a moment when I share what I do on Twitter, what I do doesn’t really lend itself, has not lended itself, to people trolling me, or people trolling each other in the kinds of conversations that might emerge from what I share or promote on Twitter. But, what was the question again, sorry? I didn’t do a good job of asking a good question. The question was, number one, how can people engage on Twitter differently in different career phases. But, I think it’s more just in general, if you’re from a group that historically receives more discrimination, social media can be an unsafe space for you. But then you’ll lose out on the opportunity to convey your ideas in that broader format. Yeah, so– So, how do you decide what to do? There are very serious things that happen to people, particularly on Twitter, where people find out about their families, or they find out where they live, or they find out where they work, and they make threats against them. I think if you feel like you’re at risk for that sort of thing, or you’re scared that that’s going to happen to you, or it’s already happened to you, then I think it’s important to take a step back, and think how you want to repre… If you want to be on there at all. I think there’s valid reasons for saying I don’t want to be on there at all. Because it’s a huge… I’ve never experienced it. But, I’ve experienced other things like that outside of social media, and it’s a huge emotional and psychological drain on you, and it can really wreck your life. But if you want to be on there because you want to share, you want to interact, then it’s really, I think, and I don’t have experience with this, so, if you do, then I would encourage you to add to the Twitter feed on this, I would think about having a more anonymous kind of an account, or even a private account, where you have to approve who follows you, and who can see what you’re tweeting, and interact with you. Those are some safeguards that are there. Like, I might not put my name up there. I might not put my picture up there. But, I might put something that sort of representative of the work that I’m doing that I want to share, but make it a little more anonymous and more private. It’s extremely serious. Yeah, Jon. So, I think that social media is a element of a bigger phenomenon that’s happening in our profession. Which is that researchers are not limited to just the production process, right? Part of our role is expanding to using our production to have influence in the fields that we want to have influence. And, social media is one mechanism to do that. This is becoming increasingly part of the foundation expectation for folks in our field. And so, I think that we’re all grappling with what does that look like? Not only from the researcher perspective, but from the perspective of the folks who are judging our quality, to give us promotion, and tenure, and all that kinds of stuff, right? My students come up to me, and they think that the number of Twitter followers they have is a factor in their getting academic jobs, and getting tenure. And, I say, “No. That has nothing to do with it as far as I can tell.” I think that that’s an indicator that these worlds are blending, and that we’re grappling with things, and that these are the issues that we’re grappling with, as media is really decomposing into who has the authority to share knowledge? It used to be the official media, right? The New York Times, and stuff. But now we’re all New York Timeses, and we all have some authority to share media. The world in which those are being critiqued and pushed back against are breaking down, and much more fluid and dynamic. Thank you, all right. Now we’re going to switch gears, and hear from our last two panelists. Next we’ll hear from Vivian Tseng from the WT Grant Foundation. More about the role of foundations on social media, and thinking the use of research evidence. I’m going to talk from two perspectives. One is as a foundation, who has initiative on studying the use of research evidence in policy and practice. We actually turn this “how does research get used” into an area of scientific inquiries. We’re actually funding people to study the use of research evidence in policy and practice. Part of what I’ll talk to you about are some of the things that people who study this stuff are learning about the role of social media, and Twitter in particular, in terms of research evidence. And then I’ll also speak just a little bit from my own experience of using Twitter as a medium for promoting this initiative for the things that we’re funding out of this initiative. I want to say that if Sonya feels like she’s just a beginner, I’m a super, super beginner. I consider myself a neophyte when it comes to the use of Twitter. So for those of you out there who are just getting started, I hope you’ll feel encouraged to jump in. Even if you don’t know all the vocabulary, and the ways to think about this work. What I wanted to share with you is a way of thinking about social media that I’ve gotten from two communication scholars that we have funded, Matthew Webber and Itzhak Yan-a-vit-ski. They have been thinking about using social media as a lot like brokering knowledge, in general. So, if you think about that as a framework for what it means to use Twitter. Like good communication scholars, they think a lot about, it depends on how you do it, how you engage in this stuff. It depends on what your intended impacts are, right? So, what is it that your goals are? And then on which audiences? So, you see on here intended impacts on intended audiences. And in their knowledge, brokerage framework, they talk about different kinds of goals that you might have for something like Tweeting, but you can think about it for other forms of communication, too. You might just be trying to build awareness. You just want people to know what’s going on. You might be trying to make information more accessible and readily available. Your goal might be more around engagement, which is more that you want people to care. Not just to know, but to care about something. Your goal might be linkage. Maybe you want to link different groups of people around some common ideas. Or, maybe your goal is mobilization, which is really trying to move people past information, past caring, but towards some kind of action together. And then, I think for folks in this room, we can think about different audiences that we might be interested in. They might be researches like you, right? I think in some ways it’s a great way, you can build community of people who are like you, or doing work in your area. You might want to be connected with researchers who are not like you, right? You might be wanting to connect with policy makers who are working on a specific issue, or issue area, that you care about. Or, similarly, a group of practitioners working on an issue area that you care about. I think all of this can be really important. Not in this study, but in other studies we’ve funded, by Chris Lou-pee-en-ski, Janelle Scott, and Liz De-Bray, they have found an echo chamber effect. Both through social media, but also offline, in terms of what gets cited. So, they’ve studied policies like school vouchers, and charter schools. And they find that if you find a pro camp, and the anti camp, the pro camp tends to cite a certain body of research. The anti camp cites their own body of research. There is very little research that both camps cite. So, what you have then is an echo chamber of people who cite and reinforce different bodies of work, and there’s not much interconnection between them. And then when they look at the same, or similar processes on social media, they find similarly that when people are tweeting, they’re often tagging, or tweeting to, people who are already within their coalition, who are already pro or anti. There’s a reification of this echo chamber offline and online. That’s what it seems like. So, then, thinking about what the goals are, I think, of tweeting, and what you’re trying to do. Are you trying to link different communities? Or are you trying to build a stronger knowledge or will within a community? For us, and this is where I think about my own use of Twitter, one of the things I started a Twitter account to do, was just to promote more knowledge and awareness. Really, I was just focused on awareness, about this work we were supporting on the use of research evidence in policy and practice. It’s kind of a new-ish feel that we’ve been trying to revive, that kind of went dormant since the ’70s and ’80s. So we’ve been trying to revitalize it. A lot of it was just like, I just wanted awareness out there. I was tweeting a lot about the US researchers we were funding, working on use of research evidence. As I learned more about the international scholars that were working on this issue, it was a lot around linkage, and trying to link the international scholars working on these issues with the US researchers working on these issues. So, doing a lot of tweeting out things that were happening from the London School of Economics impact blog, for example, and tagging researchers here in the US who I thought would be interested. So, trying to bridge some of these communities. And then as we started thinking more about the policy makers who were working on evidence-based policy, or evidence-informed practice, thinking about how to bring them into, sort of, this sort of larger community of understanding the work of the scholars who are studying the use of evidence. What can those people who are putting in place policies and practices to draw on evidence learn from those folks. Doing a lot of that, again, linkage, to try to link those two, those different communities. We’ve also been very supportive of research practice partnerships. This is a really promising strategy for bringing researchers and practitioners together. Using Twitter, similarly, a lot around linkage. Just trying to link different communities. Increasingly, for example, there’s a group of environmental science researchers and policy makers that are also very interested in things that are like partnerships. So, trying to link them with the folks in education doing partnerships. A lot of this linkage work. We haven’t done as much around mobilization, but I think that’s probably the next frontier, is figuring out how to harness this shared understanding, as we become more and more of an online community, or a community that has an online presence, to mobilize them toward some shared action. For example, some of you might have seen, we’ve been trying to get people to sign on to a set of principles on democratizing evidence in education. So that’s at least starting to move people towards some unified action. Let me pause there! Great, thank you! Thank you so much Vivian, and thank you all for your questions while she was speaking. We got the question from Jonathan Bar-tells. Where are you Jonathan? I think this is a great observation. The echo chamber isn’t unique to social media. We can often see the same thing in research. Who cites whom, or what idea, and what are you citing? So, thanks for that observation! Any thoughts, Vivian, on the echo chamber effect of research use? Yeah, I think that’s absolutely right. And I think that’s such an important point to make. Is this just another mechanism by which we are reproducing some of the similar dynamics that occur offline? I think that’s an important point. It’s useful from our perspective to study these things, so you can actually see them, and then hopefully think about how to intervene on them. It is troubling for me as someone who works in an organization that supports research, that research can be a way of trying to build stronger understandings and consensus, or at least negotiation around a common set of ideas. That becomes harder to do when there’s this sort of polarization, whether it’s within the scientific community, or within certain political communities. In my own behavior, when I learn about Chris Lou-pee-en-ski’s work, what I try to do is make sure that I’m not only tweeting, and only following people who think like I do, and try to at least have a more diverse set of people that I follow, and that I tweet at. And that’s just my attempt to try to keep myself honest in some of these ways. Okay, thank you. I just wanted to highlight this very pointed response from Kate in the audience about how even right now, or on the AERA19 website, some of these kinds of echo chambers could be happening, and for us all to think about who we are, tweeting and retweeting today, and being attentive to that. Thanks for that observation. In the interest of time, let’s move to our last panelist, Leigh Hall, who is not only a full professor at the University of Wyoming, but also has an amazing site called Teaching Academia. Do I just navigate this with uh… Yeah, I think it should work. Okay, we’ll find out if it works! All right, hi, everybody. So, I want to start off, before I get into social media, and what I see as the promises, and how I use it, I want to tell you a little bit about me, because my backstory actually feeds into why I do what I do. So, I am a first generation college student who got incredibly lucky. Somehow I ended up with a PhD. I’m not sure how that happened. I’m not sure how I navigated all that. I’m not sure how I figured it all out. I know a little bit at the end how I figured it out, because I had a really great mentor, but up unto that point, I didn’t even know that getting a PhD, being a college professor was a job that was available to me that I could have, and how you even got that in the first place. So, like I said, first generation, very lucky, started off in community college with very supportive parents who knew that it was important for me to go to college. They said, “You need to go, you need to do this. And that’s all we know. Good luck.” Right? And it was sort of up to me to navigate it, and to make my way through. As I progressed, from bachelor’s degree, to master’s to eventually PhD, I ended up with a very incredible mentor. My academic advisor when I was getting my PhD is retired now, but it was Dr. Victoria Purcell-Gates. We were a really good fit for each other. She would be very open with me to help me understand the process. Not just of getting a PhD, but also that process of having the career that I wanted to have. So, she really listened. She helped me make sure that I got set up properly. She helped me think through, and transition to being a PhD student, into an assistant professor. And when I got my job, and was an assistant professor, one of the things that I noticed was that a lot of people around me did not have that same kind of academic mentoring experience that I got with Vicky. When I started talking to even other people that had gotten their degree at my same institution, and just getting to know other assistant professors, who had gotten their PhDs at a variety of institutions, some of them obviously had great mentoring experiences. A lot of them had mediocre experiences, or very poor experiences, and sort of felt like they were struggling and floundering a little bit. So, that sort of gets me down to this equal access point here that’s really one of things you’re going to see that I’m striving to do here with this is to really try to give people access to information so that they can have the careers they want to have and learn how to navigate academia. So, if I want to go forward, what do I need to do here? Okay, why don’t you just do it? We’re going to get it. There’s two of us. We’re going to figure it out. So, I have a website and a YouTube channel, and both of them are called Teaching Academia. And the purpose of this website and the YouTube channel is to really help mostly graduate students, and also it’s relevant for beginning assistant professors, to navigate higher ed. What kind of career do you want to have? What kind of information do you need, right? How can I make these invisible processes more visible to you, so that you can have that kind of career that you want to have? A lot of stuff… And I’m going to show you some examples of videos and materials that I have in a minute. Some of these might seem very basic, and some of these might seem like things that people should already know, but actually a lot of people don’t know. I can get feedback on the most basic thing. I recently did a video on “What is a temporary advisor”. Somebody thanked me for that, because they had recently entered graduate school, got a temporary advisor, had no idea what that was. Had no idea that the word temporary meant temporary, right? Just helping people understand these different roles. So, we can go to the… Thank you. So, these are some examples… Really, I couldn’t think of good headings, to be honest with you. All of these videos are meant to be supportive, but I really just wanted to flag the top three most popular ones so that you can get a sense of what they are. How To Give An Amazing Academic Job Talk has, I think it’s over 5000 views? Which isn’t a lot in YouTube land, but makes me feel pretty good about myself. (people laughing) So, people really want help on that, right? They want help on learning how to write. Anything on academic writing. Any kind of secrets, tips, tools that I can give to sort of help demystify the process. I try to be very explicit, very direct, very to the point. Do this, not that kind of a thing. How you make effective presentations? Some of these, I bring in other scholars, so I’m constantly looking for other scholars that want to come on the channel, that want to share their experiences, that have a really good idea. I recently connected with Dr. Row-more-ah, who is a professor in Columbia, who wants to talk about… I did a series on mystifying the dissertation process. What does a dissertation defense look like? And he said, “You know what you really need to do? Now you need to talk about when you’re finished with your defense, now what do you do to get published? What are the different ways to communicate your work and get it out there?” We’re going to start making a collaborative series around that. So, I’m always looking for people that have different ideas, different views that want to bring them on that will help beginning and emerging scholars be successful. All right, we can go to the next one. When I think about how I find these topics, ultimately, really what I want to do is break this process down for people. When I’m on Twitter, I am sharing videos, I am sharing blog posts, I am sharing questions, I am asking people what do you want to learn? What’s a struggle for you? Where can you use more help and support? And letting them feed me the questions and issues that they have that I can then turn into a video series or blog posts. I’ve been reaching out recently to people that have experiences that are very different from mine to write guest blog posts that we then share on Twitter. Recently we did a series where somebody called the Junior Prof, who wants to remain anonymous, but you can actually find this person, I think it’s at the Junior Prof on Twitter, I’m not 100% sure, shared her schedule. How she plans. I’m looking for a graduate student right now that also would like to do that. I shared my schedule for the week as an endowed chair. What does that look like? Because it looks very different from the Junior Prof’s schedule. We had an assistant professor write a post that shared, she’s a blog called Toddler on a Tenure Track. I don’t have a toddler, right? So, what does your weekly schedule look like? How do you plan when you have a toddler? We had all these three posts. People with different experiences, different backgrounds, different time points, sharing how we plan, manage, and the kinds of things we have to balance over different points in your career. So, really trying to make all of that visible, right? I’m always looking for people that have got different experiences. If you’ve got something, and you want it shared, I would love to hear from you, because I would love to be able to include that. We take questions from students. I’m always asking students to give me feedback, information, input on how I can provide material that’s going to be relevant and useful to them. Also looking at what are common struggles that I see on a daily basis that graduate students typically struggle with, that they could need help on. Some of this, when you’ve been around for a while, might seem very basic. And I think that sometimes we forget to communicate that to students. I think it’s very relevant and important, because when we do that, we break down these walls, and then we make things that are invisible, more visible. We give more equitable and equal access to the academy for anyone who would like it. So, that’s what I do on Twitter! And YouTube, and other places. Yeah, questions! I have to read this before I answer it? (laughs) I can’t read it. This says, “Will the university eventually succumb…” It’s not so much about mentoring, specifically, but it’s a very interesting question. “Will the university eventually succumb to the piecemeal education of the variable and untested quality of social media bytes.” From Heather. Where are you Heather? Yeah! Will the university… Can you tell us a bit more about your question? Yeah, I wasn’t… You’re right. It wasn’t a direct– Yeah, but I think it’s kind of a nice general… It was a question about all these bits and pieces, and education and, pseudo-education available on variable, different social media. Yeah And, just how, I mean, there was the initial thing I think Jon had said about the merging of universal knowledge, and social media in terms of what counts as knowledge. It’s just sort of a sci-fi question. Do you think university will respond you-know-five-winks safe contribution to pressure of all these little bits and pieces that are on social media that call themselves education? I think it’s a really interesting question, because there are certainly a number of people out there that have courses on “How Do You Write a Dissertation”. There’s support for finding academic jobs. There’s people that have whole companies around this, that might provide courses, or might provide some kind of one-on-one tutoring or mentoring. I don’t know to what extent the university would eventually succumb to that? But, I think it’s important to pay attention to that. I know recently, that I have a graduate student that was working on her academic writing, and was trying to find some extra courses, because there are extra courses on other online platforms that you can take on anything, right? Like baking, photography, whatever. But they are also exist on academic writing, and they’re fairly cheap, and I said to her, “That’s fine, but I don’t know the quality of these courses. So, I said I can’t vouch for what you might be purchasing, and I can’t know to what extent it’s really going to help you, so there’s that, too. Can I just go up and say that if people find your stuff, you will be accredited to a university. Right. Your bonafide. That’s quite different from somebody working in their basement. We actually did a study where we found some guy working in his basement in England or somewhere, where he had this whole branded presence and everything. We were looking at this branded thing, and it turns out that is a kid! A teenager working in a basement somewhere. Yeah. So that’s a very different thing from what you were talking about. Right, right. And then it becomes… Let’s use my graduate student as an example, right? Then how is she supposed to spend that kind of time to sort that out, right? Yeah. I think it gets really hard. Thank you so much, Leigh. So, we have one final opportunity for small group conversation, now that we’ve heard four different perspectives on the promise and peril of social media. It’s 11:40. We’ll come back together in five minutes at 11:45, for our panelists to reflect one last time on any of your final questions, and to wrap up. Again, just interact. If you want to switch it up this time, that’s fine, or talk with the same people. What have you heard? What did you think about what you’ve just heard? Any other observations on social media and research use, or mentorship. All right, everyone, let’s pull it together one last time. (group chattering) Looks like some really dynamic and animated conversations. I’m so glad that you all had the chance to chat with each other in these different formats. All right, so as a way to wrap up today, I’m just going to give our panelists one last opportunity to share or answer any questions that they would like to answer. Vivian also has a brief announcement. If any of you are interested in studying the use of research evidence, or methods for assessing whether research is being used, and how it’s being passed around, like these kind of network methods, we have a monograph. I only have a small set that I can hand out to you, written by Drew Ja-Tome-ers. It’s fresh off the presses. If you want one, and I run out, they’re also available free for download on our website. Or, you can give us your address and we’ll send it to you. But, I have about 8 here. Thank you. All right, so I just wanted to highlight a few last comments and questions, and give our panelists a chance to say anything else they’d like to say. We got a comment from Liz-ette. Where are you Liz-ette? Oh, yes, thank you. “Based on my work, and my participants, I think that social media can be a means for liberation. We need to be careful that we do not look at ‘expertise’ through a deficient lens. And we also need to be cognizant of how and why social media is being used. Who does it privilege?” Any thoughts on that? I think that that’s great. If people are interested in studying that phenomenon… You know, we do have theoretical perspectives on that. Like critical race theory. You could bring that to BAY-ER, and then actually empirically study the ways in which it plays out. And then, hopefully study ways of disrupting that. We can turn our skill sets as researchers to bear on that as a problem. The kinds of social network diagrams that are being used to map Twitter, either just through the Common Core hashtag, or who is citing whom, or that kind of analyses on journals, who is citing whom. Those visualization strategies can be very powerful tools for illuminating that kind of power and capital. Are there any concluding comments from any of the panelists that you’d like to make based on what you heard today? I would just encourage folks, if you’re not on Twitter to get on Twitter. (people laughing) I actually… I found it very intimidating when I first got on Twitter. And for the most part, when I first started on Twitter, I was just observing, and reading for a long time. I have found it to be a wonderful way of just consuming information. I think sometimes Twitter gets a rap of “It’s all about your latest opinion on X, Y, or Z.” Which, it is. It’s a good form of exchange. But I think it’s also quite useful as a tool for consuming information. But, I would say that when we want to do it more strategically down the line, we can use these COMS framework, you know, the knowledge-brokerage framework, to really think more carefully about what is our intended goal, and what are our intended audiences? And that will help us be more strategic and hopefully more impactful in the ways in which we use social media. I want to add something. So, I just want to give one more plug. If you have any ideas, or things that you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. You can connect with me on Twitter, and then we can move it over to email, or whatever. I am open to featuring your content. Things that you want to share that would help demystify the academic process, via a blog post, or if you want to make a YouTube video. All of that gets promoted, and shared, and discussed on Twitter. Or, if you have graduate students that have questions, issues, things that they would like to see discussed, that sometimes I’m just not aware of, they are more than welcome to reach out to me on Twitter, or email, or however, and let me know what those are. Content is slowly produced, but I do listen to it. It does get incorporated, and over time it eventually makes its way out. Or, we can just have a chat over Twitter about it as well. I just hope that as faculty, in particular, we continue to have conversations about how we use Twitter, and think about our personal and professional identities. Even if there’s even more structure around how we use our Twitter handles, and the extent to which they represent our institutions, versus our own personal interests, and it being a really useful tool to have inter-generational dialogue. And to collect individuals who may not physically be in the same space, but share a lot of interests and experiences. Follow @berc_tc. I think that what I’d like to say is that this makes the work that we do more important than ever. Because if you go to school when the kids are leaving, and see how much they’re plugged into their phones, and that this really is a calling to us to try to introduce veracity. And, how do you know that something is real, versus something that somebody just shared with you, that you can spread on. The antidote to darkness is lightness, and I think that what we need to do, is we need to make people more sophisticated consumers, so they’re not so readily accepting of things at face value. I think that that makes the work that we do so important. Thank you. Thank you, John. Thank you to all of our panelists today for sparking such a great discussion. Thank you all for coming. If the role of social media and education is of interest to you, there’s another great session on this topic on Monday at 2:15. Look for that. Thank you again for coming and taking the time. We hope you have a wonderful AERA. (people applauding)

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