I was just reading this little article and something in the first paragraph jumped out at me.
If you’re not familiar with Twitter then you might want to be because there’re a lot of smart people posting comments about and links to a lot of interesting stuff on the web. However, I won’t get into all that in this post. No, my point of this post is a connection between the format of Twitter and the basics of academic referencing.
I’ve taught EAP for a couple of summers now and as any of you who have worked in this area will know, one of the biggest problems is getting the students to understand, accept and adopt the academic referencing systems that English-speaking universities and colleges use to protect again plagiarism. Regardless of whether it is Harvard or Vancouver or whatever, the systems all aim for the same thing; making sure that credit is given where credit is due and that ideas and intellectual property are not stolen.
The reason that this is so difficult is that many students we teach do not some from academic systems that work this way and they simply don’t get what’s wrong with copying. Often there is no malevolence or intentional deception when we spot these mistakes. The simple problem is that we are asking our students to fundamentally change the way they look at data, information and ideas.
Now I’m not posting about showing the learners how to reference. Learners already have excellent websites to help them puzzle through that; Andy Gillett’s UEfAP website and Portsmouth University’s Referencing@Portsmouth site are both excellent places to send the learners for this. However in terms of getting the learners to know when to use it, I think Twitter could be a very useful tool.
So looking at it very basically…
So Twitter is a site where you send little messages to a website (called twitter.com). Those messages have your name on it. People will “follow” you if they like what you are messaging about. As an example here, I follow fellow teachers, teaching organizations, resource sites, etc. When they post something, I see it.
Okay. So I then have a few options. There is the retweet facility that can simply copy a message I like and send it out again. That way everyone following me sees that I think it is interesting, even though it is not mine. They know it is not mine because the start of the message has “RT @name” where “RT” stands for ReTweet and “@name” would be whoever sent the message originally.
We can liken this retweet to a direct quote in a piece of academic writing.
There is also the opportunity to take the information or the link and reply to it or say it in your words. Courtesy on Twitter means that you say something like “Thx @name” which means “Thank you whoever sent this post”. You then make your comment about the subject.
We can liken this @name mention to a simple reference of somebody else’s work.
It’s amazing that I didn’t see the similarities before. Check if any of your EAP students use Twitter regularly and if they do you might have a couple of allies in your struggle to implant understanding of this foreign concept among your students.
It doesn’t deal with all the nitty gritty, but I reckon it would work as a means of getting a general concept across.