CLS on Twitter, 2013 Edition

CLS-on-TwitterWith all the year-end reflections, New Year’s prognostications, and two-week check-ins on how you’re doing with your resolutions anyway, it seemed like a perfect time and place to think out loud about where the CLS has come on its primary social media outlet, Twitter, and where it might be headed. For me, it’s not just a casual interest, since I’ve fairly recently inherited tweeting responsibilities from colleagues who have built the CLS’s presence there since 2007. It’s a fascinating venue for gleaning information about language-related events both near and far, learning about professional development opportunities, catching up on hot news topics, and building professional networks. I’d be happy for @YaleCLS to continue to grow as a resource for those interested in language teaching and learning, as I knew it to be before I came to Yale. And now that I’m here, the little bird chirping on my shoulder makes me wonder…are we doing the best that we can do? Am I?


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So, where has the CLS on Twitter come in the last year? To answer this, I started by looking at some of the many analytics tools out there–tools that can help you get a better sense of what particular Twitter users and networks of people are doing over time. Eventually, I took media theorist Lev Manovich‘s recommendation to his Spring 2013 Big Data, Visualization, and Digital Humanities class at CUNY and checked out Twtrland and Twitonomy, in addition to Twitter’s own analytic tool. Having these tools scan through the CLS’s behavior reveals, for instance, that of the approximately 1300 users that now follow the CLS, approximately 76% are from the U.S., while 23% are located in New Haven. One can also see interesting facts about the content of what we post: over 70% of our tweets have links in them, while just 14% are straight text, and so on.

There’s of course much more fine-grained analysis that can be done automatically through sites like these, often with colorful charts and maps as their output. But to get a real sense of what kinds of things the CLS has tended to tweet about–and to think in detail about where we go in 2014–I basically reverted to the old-school techniques of reading and note-taking, post by post, from the January 3 2013 tweet reminding readers of the January 9 deadline for submitting proposals for the recent ACTFL convention, to our “Happy New Year” tweet of December 31st (jumping the gun, perhaps?).

Here’s what I found:



Well, our ‘virtual closet’ is starting to look pretty emptied out. And seeing all this stuff again out in the air gives rise to some ideas about where we might need to go in 2014, this year we’re already two weeks (and 34 tweets, as of this post) into. Key questions on my mind include:

  • Do our tweets do justice to the intersection of interests and character of the CLS, on one hand, and those of our audiences, on the other?
  • How do we gain a better sense of who our (other) audience(s) are?
  • How can we tweet in a way that makes for meaningful content and dialogues with more than one audience? Specifically, how can we speak locally, regionally, and to more distantly located audiences? (and how desirable is increased dialogue with Twitter users outside the U.S.?)
  • As a language center tweeting and re-tweeting the news, how should we better select which items to pass on? Should we be doing more? And how much interpretation/editorializing should we do, as opposed to tweeting “just the facts”?
  • Should we tweet more language-specific content?
  • Should we tweet more (language teaching, linguistics, other) job announcements?
  • How can the CLS on Twitter help scaffold language instructors’ use of Twitter and other social media platforms for: 1.) identifying target-language and target-culture news, media, and other resources; 2.) professional networking and development; 3.) teaching and supporting students’ learning of languages (“How can I use Twitter in my language class?”)

As time goes on, I’ll try to add a few more questions to this list. But before I write any more, I’d like to put these questions to you, dear reader: Where do you think the CLS should go from here?

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