Wednesday, April 20, 2016

EDU 568 Post: Twitter Chat Recap

Twitter chats are something that I’ve been participating in for a couple of years now. I was introduced to the concept back at ACTEM a few years ago, and I’ve been running with it ever since. I’m really pleased with the inroads that Twitter has made in developing a statewide PLN of educators in Maine, but a lot of progress still needs to be made. As it stands right now, there are more students on my 5th grade student tech team with Twitter accounts than teachers in my entire district with Twitter accounts. Outside of southern Maine, there are only small pockets where Twitter has any traction as a PLN tool, and my area simply isn’t one of them. I’ve touted the awesomeness of Twitter as a PLN tool (including some of the reasons I outline in another blog post) to my colleagues when I can, but there just doesn’t seem to be any interest.



I participated in three Twitter chats today. All three of them are chats that I’ve participated in before. #ruraledchat is a chat devoted to discussing issues concerning (but not necessarily limited to--today’s chat was on showing appreciation to everyone within a school) education in rural areas. #gafechat is mostly about using Google Apps for Education tools, Chromebooks and Android devices in education, although the topic of conversation this week was about Project-Based Learning. Finally, I checked in on the #personalizedPD chat, which is actually based on a book of the same name (which I hope to read soon) and is focused on, well, personalized professional development for staff in schools. I don’t really have a lot to reflect on these chats that’s different from any other Twitter chat that I participate in, but I do want to share my thoughts on how the size of the audience (audience? Participant pool? What’s the term that I’m looking for here?) matters in whether Twitter chats work for me or not.


One of the things that make for an ideal Twitter chat, in my mind, is that either the target audience or the specificity of the chat provide for a large enough audience to ensure expertise and enthusiasm in the chat (because let’s be honest, Twitter chats are a hassle when only two people show up and you feel obligated to post something, anything), but also small enough so that following the chat doesn’t become overwhelming. #edchatme has been just the right size for me for a long time, but is almost teetering toward becoming hard to follow because of how many people are participating now. That was definitely the case with #gafechat tonight. Just by itself, I had a hard time following the pace of the chat, and that’s usually not a problem that I have (and I was trying to follow two other chats, too). The other thing about Twitter chats with large audiences is that I feel like it can lead to a lot of grandstanding, of people saying things “at” you instead of “to” you, and while I hear a lot of grand themes and big ideas (and people trying to sell their eBooks or Teachers Pay Teachers wares), I don’t hear as much when it comes to substance and the nuts-and-bolts of how to put those big ideas into action (I fully admit that I am guilty of this myself). #edchatme has always had a more personal feel for me, knowing a lot of the participants personally, and I think that leads to my enjoyment of that chat over some others. Sometimes Twitter chats just feel impersonal and distant, and not being able to respond personally to people because the chat is flying by so fast contributes even more to that feeling. So, with exceptions (like the last #scratchchat I participated in, which was fantastic even with the fast pace), I feel like there is definitely a “just right” size to a Twitter chat that’s somewhere in the middle between too large and too small. At least based on how the chats went tonight, #gafechat might just be too big for me to be involved in regularly, although there were some useful resources posted that I need to explore.

Why I Love Twitter Chats, and You Should Too!



Twitter chats are something that I have been familiar with and enjoy participating in for a couple of years now. There are a bunch of reasons why I love Twitter chats, and I hope that you’ll try some out and love them too.

1. Twitter Chats Keep You Connected.

I work in a district with one elementary school and one middle/high school, with one technology integrator for each building. At last check, there are more fifth graders on my student tech team with Twitter accounts than staff in the entire district with Twitter accounts. For many reasons, working where I am can feel isolating at times; there just aren’t a lot of us geeky folks running around! That void is what Twitter helps to fill. Social media allows for professional networks that extend beyond the walls of the school, and facilitates connections that can be tapped at any time instead of just when everyone is in the same room together (which isn’t often).

There is no shortage of awesome teachers willing to share their secrets and insights on Twitter, either. What I like about Twitter is that you can learn from some of the best and most innovative teachers without even interacting directly with them. Through the use of hashtags, teachers are sharing stories from their classroom like CRAZY! This creates a rabbit hole of archived resources to chase in the pursuit of new things to try in your classroom. The best Twitter chats will leave you with a browser window so chock full of open tabs that you might not even be able to view the title of the page in the window.



2. There’s a Twitter Chat for Everyone and Everything

While I would say that tech and tech-savvy people do a lot to drive the conversation in many of the Twitter chats that I participate in, by no means do these chats have to be centered around using technology. Twitter chats are lot like shopping on Amazon; if it exists, there’s probably a Twitter chat for it. In fact, as this website shows, at the same time as the #gafechat that I participated in on Tuesday is a Twitter chats for using Hip Hop in education (#hiphoped), a chat for teachers and schools using the PBIS framework for behavioral interventions (#pbischat), and a chat for elementary music teachers (#elmused). There are chats for content areas, chats for individual grade levels, and many that are special education-oriented. Are you a fan of the book Teach Like a Pirate? Yep, there’s a chat for that too (#tlap)! There’s even a Twitter chat for teachers who are new to Twitter chats (#nt2t, or “New Teachers 2 Twitter”). Many Twitter chats (including #edchatme) also archive their chats on external websites so you can always check back on the most important stuff that you may have missed). No matter what you’re looking for, there’s a Twitter chat for you.

3. There’s Nothing That Can’t Be Done on Twitter

Now, this is not to say that I label everyone with differing viewpoints as a “curmudgeon”--far from it. In fact, one of the things that I don’t like about Twitter chats sometimes is the lack of disagreement and debate in chats, at least the ones that I’ve been in. Twitter chats have a tendency to function like echo chambers, since they are often topic-specific in nature and lots of like-minded people flock to them. Sometimes I feel like I don’t hear enough perspectives on the pitfalls or things to watch out for when discussing certain topics. This by no means outweighs the many positives that Twitter chats offer, though.


One thing I DON’T like about Twitter chats.

Now, this is not to say that I label everyone with differing viewpoints as a “curmudgeon”--far from it.  In fact, one of the things that I don’t like about Twitter chats is the lack of disagreement and debate in chats, at least the ones that I’ve been in.  Twitter chats have a tendency to function like echo chambers, since they are often topic-specific in nature and lots of like-minded people flock to them.  Sometimes I feel like I don’t hear enough perspectives on the pitfalls or things to watch out for when discussing certain topics.  This by no means outweighs the many positives that Twitter chats offer, though.


My Favorite Twitter Chats

Here are some chats that I’ve participated in that I’ve really enjoyed:

  • #edchatme - Obviously!
  • #pstmaine - a chat connecting Pre-Service and Service teachers in Maine. I especially like the “slow chat” format they use, asking one question every day instead of an entire chat in one hour.
  • #1to1techat - a chat for teachers in 1:1 device schools, although I’ve found that, since I’m not in a 1:1 school, there is more than enough to discuss for me too
  • #ruraledchat - not one I’ve participated in as much, but a great chat focused on education in rural schools
  • #dtk12chat - This is one I definitely need to spend more time in. A chat centered around Design Thinking in education.

One More Awesome Thing About Twitter

Similar to Twitter chats, hashtags at conferences are awesome!  They help provide a backchannel for all of the great conversations that are going on.  Oftentimes, I feel torn about what session to go to when there are two or three I am interested in happening at the same time.  Following the conference hashtag allows me to archive and view resources from the sessions I missed at a later time, so I don’t miss out!  This weekend, I’ll be attending #edcamphmw (EdCamp HMW or “How Might We,” focused on design thinking) in Bangor, and I’ll be sure to keep my Tweetdeck running all day!