News / Calgary

#abpse: Post-secondary education in the Twitter age

When Alberta’s deputy premier Thomas Lukaszuk started using Twitter more than a year ago, he was skeptical.

Today, he has tweeted more than 8,000 times and has nearly 6,300 followers.

Several times a day, when he has a free five or 10 minutes, Lukaszuk pulls out his iPhone and scrolls through Twitter, browsing through feeds that are of interest, conversing with Albertans and sending information to students, stakeholders and media in an “unfiltered” way.

“It serves the purpose that I choose to use it for,” said Lukaszuk.

As students head back to class and institutions continue to grapple with budget cuts, more Albertans are turning to Twitter to discuss post-secondary education.

Data analysis demonstrates use of the Alberta post-secondary education hashtag (#abpse) has grown in recent weeks. Lukaszuk, the minister of enterprise and advanced-education, said he’s noticed more people, both students and academics, engaging with him on the site, particularly staff spending an “extraordinary amount of time,” tweeting him between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Mount Royal University political science professor Duane Bratt said in addition to high levels of engagement with Lukaszuk, the #abpse hashtag is being used amongst professors from different departments and universities, who wouldn’t normally be talking to one another, to share information.

“It’s very different. It’s an interesting dynamic that we’re seeing,” he said.

Bratt said there are professors who have created Twitter accounts simply to vent to the minister.

“I don’t think it’s had any impact on a policy but I think it has on dialogue,” Bratt said.

At almost all hours of the day Lukaszuk receives tweets from students and staff, including professors who list their job titles and full names alongside their account as well as anonymous users who tweet under pseudonyms. And not all of those tweets are nice.

“There are individuals on Twitter who simply choose to be obstructive or insulting or demeaning but you know what? My skin is a little thicker than that,” Lukaszuk said.

Lukaszuk said while he takes constructive criticism to heart, much of which he receives by direct message and e-mail, he tries to stay away from the “backyard bullying” and name calling that has become commonplace on the post-secondary hashtag.

Bratt doesn’t expect the #abpse hashtag to lose steam anytime soon.

“There’s new stories coming every day,” he said.

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