An investigation into the use of a microblogging technology in school trips to museums

Charitonos, Koula (2015). An investigation into the use of a microblogging technology in school trips to museums. PhD thesis The Open University.



School trips to museums are an important means of introducing young people to museum collections and may have a long-term learning impact (Falk & Dierking, 1997). At the same time, activities in museum spaces can be challenging for students who are engaged in complex learning processes. The thesis considers the use of a microblogging technology (Twitter) by a Year 9 History class (13-14s) from a secondary school in Milton Keynes during a trip to the Museum of London ( It draws on the view that mobile technologies can create a continuity of the learning experience despite changes in the physical and social context (Sharples, 2015) and contributes to the body of research on how such technologies can best support young people’s visit experience and extend it beyond the museum.

The thesis is informed by sociocultural perspectives of learning with a focus on mediating artefacts in the development of understanding in situated learning activities. It draws on the Contextual Model of Learning which views the visit experience in relation to meaning making and situates this in visitors' personal, physical and sociocultural contexts (Falk & Dierking, 2000). This research employs a case-study methodology and adopts a research design that involved a pre- and post-visit approach. Evidence of students’ activity in the museum and the classroom while using Twitter is considered. The findings are based on video analysis (Ash, 2007), analysis of questionnaires, interviews and personal meaning maps (Falk et al., 1998).

Evidence reveals that the use of microblogging reconfigures the museum space by creating an ‘interconnected space’. Evidence also shows that the content generated by the students was ‘designed’ for an audience and offered opportunities for new ways of engagement with objects within the context of a semi-formal visit. The analysis illustrates that prominent practices in the museum were ‘live’ communication, documentation and sharing, while in the classroom the microblogging supported the students to connect to meanings made in the museum by providing prompts for reflection and recollection. Learners were able to weave everyday informal practices related to the use of Web 2.0 technologies with formal museum visiting practices. However, the analysis also points out that learners faced some threats in the continuity of their experience and the development of their trajectories of meaning making as reflected in the three types of visit experience: the ‘focused’, the ‘hybrid’ and the ‘floating’.

Drawing on this evidence, the thesis makes a distinction between ‘microblogging as a tool’, ‘microblogging as a space to create, review and share content’ and ‘microblogging as a practice’. The thesis also points to three intertwined areas of consideration for designing learning activities across contexts. These areas include: the technological properties of the tools in use, the types of activity the tools support and specific practices associated with the tools and the contexts. This work essentially contributes to the contemporary discourse around studying ‘seamless learning spaces’ (Chan et al., 2006) and has implications in designing approaches for technology-enhanced learning in museums.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions