Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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!

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