, Volume 62, Issue 5, pp 501–508 | Cite as

Tweet, and We Shall Find: Using Digital Methods to Locate Participants in Educational Hashtags

  • Spencer P. GreenhalghEmail author
  • K. Bret Staudt Willet
  • Joshua M. Rosenberg
  • Matthew J. Koehler
Original Paper


Although researchers have discovered a great deal about who uses Twitter for educational purposes, what they post about, when they post and why they participate, there has so far been little work to explore where participants in educational Twitter contexts are located. In this paper, we establish a methodological foundation that can support the exploration of geographical issues in educational Twitter research. We surveyed 46 participants in one educational Twitter hashtag, #michED, to determine where they lived; we then compared these responses to results from three digital methods for geolocating Twitter users (human coding, machine coding and GPS coding) to explore these methods’ affordances and constraints. Human coding of Twitter profiles allowed us to analyze more participants with higher levels of accuracy but also has disadvantages compared to other digital—and traditional—methods. We discuss the additional insights obtained through geolocating #michED participants as well as considerations for using geolocation and other digital methods in educational research.


Digital methods Geolocation Educational hashtags Hashtag Social media Twitter 



We would like to thank Ben Rimes, Mary Wever and everyone else who helped us reach out to the #michED community.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Spencer P. Greenhalgh declares that he has no conflict of interest. K. Bret Staudt Willet declares that he has no conflict of interest. Joshua M. Rosenberg declares that he has no conflict of interest. Matthew J. Koehler declares that he has no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications & Technology 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information ScienceUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  3. 3.Department of Theory and Practice in Teacher EducationUniversity of Tennessee, KnoxvilleKnoxvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special EducationMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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