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.

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