Top 5 Reasons Why I Do Twitter Chats

I am co-moderating and co-organizing three academic Twitter chats this semester–#Lingchat, #FYCchat, and the newly minted #SFLchat. It’s a lot to do in terms of social media engagement and planning. But I enjoy it–I told a colleague it’s my way to “productively procrastinate.”

Kidding aside, there are some good reasons why I do academic Twitter chats and have been doing them since I joined Twitter in 2013. And I think those reasons might resonate with some people who already participate in them–and they might encourage others to join in.

  1. They are convenient. Any academic who wants to contribute to their field or wants to keep up with developments in their field has several options. They can read or publish in journals in their field. They can attend conferences. They can join professional organizations. They can participate in webinars. But each of these has limitations. Journals are periodic and only allow delayed communication. Conferences are annual.  Professional organizations might offer listservs or newsletters, but most forms of communication will be  asynchronous. Webinars are great, but might cost money and sometimes are just a presentation. Twitter chats are weekly or bi-weekly, mostly synchronous, and free.
  2.  They help me understand my field of study. I’m early in my career–just two years out from my dissertation. Even then, I only know my subfield–genre theory in Systemic Functional Linguistics–fairly well. But the larger field of linguistics, or even the larger field of Systemic Functional Linguistics or genre studies, are still something of a mystery. Sure, I know our general disciplinary narratives. I know big names. But I still have big questions: Where are we going? What are we doing? Why are we doing it?  What I have always loved about the academy was the ability to think and speak freely in order to better understand the world. And while the halls of the academy–or the local watering hole–are good venues for this kind of informal academic discourse, Twitter chats enable it on a broader scale, exposing their participants to the unconventional view or the new idea. It is what I value most about academic Twitter chats.
  3. They improve my teaching. Obviously chats like #FYCchat are expressly designed to support professional development of teachers. And they do a great job of doing that–it’s why Trent M. Kays and I revived #FYCchat after it went on hiatus. We share resources on these chats and discuss important issues in our practice. I have used some of the ideas I’ve gotten from those chats. So there’s the explicit aspect of the chat that promotes the sharing of pedagogy. But on another level, even the more theoretical chats like #Lingchat and #SFLchat are spaces for me to practice my teaching–because sometimes mine is the unconventional view or the new idea. And I have to explain it to people who haven’t heard of it. In 140 characters. It forces recontextualization in a way that mirrors, in some ways, the classroom. Any time you get to practice teaching, like any craft, you get a little better. And Twitter chats give you a space to do that.
  4. They provide me with a community of colleagues, mentors, and mentees. We meet around a hashtag. That hashtag is our common idea, our focal point. That’s why we are there, initially. But then, as you participate more, you build what Karl Maton calls “sociality.” The community forms through the sharing of ideas and practices, through the support of each other, and through the resolution of disagreements (more later). As we learn more about each other, we develop relationships of different kinds. I have many colleagues on these chats, but I’ve also been mentored by people and mentored people myself through these chats. And those relationships have extended beyond the Twitter timeline, to long emails, conversations, and presentations at conferences. That community matters to me. And I’m personally and professionally grateful to have them in my life.
  5. They are challenging. I’m argumentative on Twitter. Sometimes too much so, and that gets me in trouble. But even if you’re not, Twitter chats will challenge you because they attract voices and views from literally all around the world. Most chats develop as supportive communities, but sometimes there are disagreements. And like any community, those disagreements can only be resolved by the members themselves. Fortunately, most (if not all) of my disagreements have been resolved well, and I learned something, and I like to think the other person did as well. But for me, what has mattered is that those debates have continued to influence my own thinking and research. I regularly think about how so-and-so from the chat would respond to some idea I’ve had. And sometimes that has changed my view or practice. I am–at least I like to think–more open-minded towards views because of the challenge that Twitter chats offer to my own views.

Like many things in life, Twitter chats are what you make of them–so your experience may vary. But these are the reasons why I spend some time every week on Twitter talking to people around the world about linguistics and teaching writing. If you haven’t participated in a Twitter chat, I encourage you to try one out. Here’s a good list to start from–or ask someone who participates about dates and times. Hope to see you there!


In Defense of Academic Writing: A Response to @sapinker (Part 1)

In Steven Pinker’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Why Academics Stink at Writing,” Pinker argues that academic writing suffers from a number maladies, including self-conscious stylistics, a “curse of knowledge,” and a lack of “incentives to write well.” I want to address each of Pinker’s points in detail. This first post will focus on the “self-conscious style” argument.

“Self-Conscious Style” Features Serve Functions Other Than Indexing The Author’s Membership in Academe

Pinker, drawing from Thomas and Turner’s style typology, asserts that academic writing is “self-conscious.” Academic writers, Pinker argues, are marked by a goal of “not so much communication as self-presentation—an overriding defensiveness against any impression that they may be slacker than their peers in hewing to the norms of the guild.” Pinker favors an alternative style, which Thomas & Turner call the “classic style.” In describing this style, Pinker says, though not explicitly, that the style has as its underlying ideology a correspondence theory of truth: a statement is true if it ‘corresponds’ to or matches something in reality. This theory of truth is not consistent with  many schools of thought in the humanities, such as Reader-Response theory, or the philosophical paradigms informing some social sciences, such as Social Constructivism or Critical theory. It’s not even consistent, as Pinker later notes, with post-positivism, which many physical and biological scientists espouse. But, according to Pinker, it doesn’t matter: classic style is clearer than the self-conscious, and that is why academic writing stinks. (more…)

Why @derekwebb Should Come Back To Twitter

It started with this:

And then this:

And that was it. Derek Webb was done with Twitter. (more…)

#AcWriMo Day 3

1. What did I accomplish?

Yesterday I completed a submission to a journal of a book review I had completed awhile ago. I had initially selected a certain journal, and I formatted my text to meet their word length requirements. But then I found out that they did not have open submissions for book reviews, so it took some time to find another journal that did have open submissions for book reviews. After that, I set up my account with the journal, wrote a cover letter, wrote an author bio, and then hit submit. My first single author pub is in the review process.

I have accomplished one of my goals already–which means that I can now focus more on my prelim and book chapter. I also read some of my current article, but because of the focus on the book review, I did not meet my 2 article requirement. I’m now considering limiting my daily reading load to 1 article a day–this seems more manageable because the amount of time I have each day for reading varies widely–but one article is always possible.

2. What can I do better?

Tonight was my night out with friends. I don’t regret this choice, as I think it’s important to do, and it is often difficult to schedule around our various responsibilities. But the result is that I won’t get any writing done tonight. It is not a good start. I admit that. But given the unpredictability of scheduling these biweekly outings, I’m willing to chalk this up to an anomaly. I will have to make up for it tomorrow by doubling down and reading more (and faster). My goal then will be to have read three articles by the end of the day tomorrow. I’ll be reading some tonight to try to get a jump on tomorrow’s big reading day. I’ll also take a stab at the book chapter as well tomorrow evening.

Overall, I’m feeling like #AcWriMo is starting off well–with one goal down, I can narrow my focus and energy to really get something done this month.

#AcWriMo Day 1

Following posts in ProfHacker and PhD2Published, I will be participating in Academic Writing Month, or #AcWriMo. Following the prompts from both sources, I’m going to go through the process of deciding what I want to accomplish in this month.

    1. Decide on your goal. The goal, like NaNoWriMo (which I did as an undergrad and failed miserably at), must be ambitious. The goal in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is to write 50,000 words in a month. This goal is not particularly meaningful for academics–publications matter more than wordcounts. So here is what MUST be done by the end of the month whether I do AcWriMo or not:-A co-authored book chapter (approximately 3000 words)

      -An abstract for an international conference (approximately 500 words)

      -A presentation for a regional conference (approximately 500 words)

      I have preliminary examinations in January, and for the most part I have been taking my time reading while working on a research project, but this is a good motivator to kick it into high gear so I am done writing on time. Therefore, I will be adding to my current projects these goals:

    2. Declare it!
      • One prelim question complete (approximately 12000-15000 words)
      • One book review submitted to a journal (mostly edits and formatting)
      • One scholars fair proposal (approximately 250 words, but I did it last night, but it still counts)
      • Two substantial blog posts (approximately 1400 words)

    4. Draft a strategy.While this list does seem a little light on the protein, it’s really all I can manage with the holidays and a regional conference travel scheduled near the end of the month. Managing it, of course, will take some consistency. I have blocked off Fridays for research and writing, as well as a few hours every evening and, of course the weekends. I don’t take that schedule too seriously, and I think that is a problem. But changing that will take some kind of enforcement mechanism. One thing that helped me with my Masters Thesis was blogging about my progress, so I think I will revive that strategy as a way to manage the schedule part. I may adjust the schedule because, looking at it, it makes me a little nauseous. We’ll see how it goes.

      Strategy: Blog every other day on my progress, answering these two questions.

      1. What did I accomplish?
      2. What can I do better?


    6. Discuss your progress. I’ll be doing this through the blog as a way to keep on track. I’ll also be keeping a running update on Twitter at the #AcWriMo hashtag and the Accountability Spreadsheet

    8. Don’t slack off. I know a few of you read my posts, and so I would appreciate it if you could drop me a line if you sense your BS meter going off or if you want to offer some positive encouragement

    10. Declare your results. I’ll be posting my accomplishments regularly, but I will do a recap post at the very end of the month as well to review which of my goals I accomplished.


    Let’s do this.

#CWCon from Afar: Gee’s Affinity Spaces & Situated Learning Interrogated

I have been following Computers & Writing Conference this week on Twitter at the #cwcon hashtag. Among the most livetweeted talks was James Paul Gee’s keynote, “Writing in the Age of the Maker Movement.” Gee, famous for research on gaming and literacy, spoke broadly about teaching writing from a situated learning perspective. In his talk, he emphasized the need for “goal-based action” in learning to write, where students see writing as a way of “doing” something. He advocated learning situated in “affinity spaces,” where a group coalesces over a “common endeavor” (Gee, 2003, p. 192). I have Storified the livetweeting of the talk here.

Before I respond to the talk, I want state a caveat: I wasn’t there. I am relying on livetweeting, and therefore my comprehension and interpretation of Gee’s talk is limited by the points that were livetweeted. I could have missed points in his argument, which would then skew my interpretation in an erroneous direction. I apologize in advance if I misinterpreted Gee.

I want to respond to a few key claims livetweeted, so I’ve selected the first tweets I could find in the #cwcon stream that documented each of these claims. I have embedded them below. (more…)