The influence of policy and context on teachers’ social media use

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6 Scopus citations


Research on teachers’ use of social media has typically assumed that it is a) driven by a need for professional learning and b) best understood in terms of individual motivations. In this study, we use a dataset of nearly 600,000 tweets posted to one or more of 48 Regional Educational Twitter Hashtags associated with 44 U.S. states. To explore the influence of local contextual factors on hashtag- and account-level activity in these hashtags, we use an analytic approach heretofore uncommon in social media-focussed education research: generalised linear and multilevel modelling. At the hashtag level, higher numbers of teachers within a state, proportions of students receiving subsidised meals, student-to-teacher ratios, and amounts of state spending per child are associated with more activity within a regional hashtag; by contrast, more left-leaning state governments and citizenries are associated with less activity. At the account level, more experienced accounts and accounts in more right-leaning states contribute more tweets to these hashtags. These findings reinforce established understandings of Twitter as a site for teacher learning; however, they also underline the importance of acknowledging other important purposes of teachers’ Twitter use, including receiving emotional support and engaging in activism. Practitioner notes. What is already known about this topic Many teachers use Twitter (and other social media platforms) for professional purposes. Teachers have identified professional learning—among other purposes—as motivating their use of Twitter. Regional Educational Twitter Hashtags are diverse learning spaces for teachers and other education stakeholders. What this paper adds Local context and policy factors help influence teachers’ use of Twitter. Teachers may turn to Twitter because of a lack of emotional or political support—not just a lack of material support or professional development opportunities. Individual and idiosyncratic factors remain important in explaining teachers’ engagement with social media. Implications for practice and/or policy Informal spaces like social media may supplement formal support mechanisms for teachers. Teachers’ use of social media may help administrators and policymakers identify existing gaps to be repaired in those formal support mechanisms. Support for teachers should be conceived holistically and include emotional and political support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2020-2037
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Educational Technology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported in part by a Southeastern Conference Visiting Faculty Travel Grant.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 British Educational Research Association


  • Twitter
  • educators
  • professional development
  • social media
  • teachers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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