Thursday, July 18, 2013

Summer Learning Series-Twitter Chats For Learning

This is the fourth post in my Summer Learning Series. These are short posts with tools, tips and resources for you to try something new this summer or something you can take to the classroom in the Fall. First was Collaborative Learning With Edmodo and then we followed up with Learning With Hashtags. Then we looked at TED Talks. Today we are diving deep into Twitter chats, looking at #edchat and other chats worth your time. 

If you remember back to my post on hashtags we talked about how hashtags can be great sources of learning. When you begin to look at hashtags you will find some end it "chat." That means there is an actual Twitter chat that goes along with that hashtag. 

What is a Twitter chat? 

In it's simplest form, its a set time where folks get together and all post using the same hashtag. Most times there are moderators and set questions. Each chat works a little differently. But the basics are all the same. 

As one of the founders of #edchat I get a lot of questions about the what, where, when and why. So here is everything you need to know (or wanted to know) about #edchat.

The History
#edchat started out of a series of conversations between myself, Tom Whtiby and Shelly Terrell. Tom is a bit of an instigator and likes to push people's thinking about various topics in education. One day he was asking several of these though-provoking questions and he was getting comments from all angles. He turned to Shelly and I for help. Afterwards, he suggested we needed a hashtag to make sure we didn't miss anything. Shelly suggested a weekly format where anyone could participate and I suggested we have the community vote on what we would talk about. And thus, #edchat was born. We had our first real chat in July 2009. And we have had one every week (except for a break at Christmas) ever since. 

The Basics
To participate users need only add #edchat to their tweets. We have organized chats every Tuesday. The main chat is at 7pm EDT and lasts an hour. Another chat for our friends in Europe and beyond is held on Tuesdays at Noon EDT. Polls are posted by me (@web20classroom) on Sunday afternoons and voting ends Tuesday mornings. The highest vote getter is discussed at 7pm EDT and the second place is discussed at Noon EDT. Participants are welcome to suggest topics for discussion by filling out this form

Following Along
You will need a way to follow the conversations. Many folks use a third-party Twitter client like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and have a column set up to search for #edchat so they see all the tweets during the conversation. Others use  services like Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to follow the chats. These work every well and will auto include the hashtag when tweeting, which can be handy. 

The archive is usually posted by the next day and it includes all the tweets during the hour time span. Archives of all chats are up at and are viewable any time. (To be honest, I usually have to go back to the archive to read up on everything that happened.)

You can't follow every conversation during #edchat. We average about 200-300 active participants a week and over 1500 tweets for the hour. (Most of the time those numbers are much, much higher.) So following everything is nearly an impossibility. We recommend tossing out an idea or two and see who latches on. Or just engage with someone(s). Everyone, for the most part, who comes to #edchat is open minded and wants to discuss what the topic is and offer up their thoughts on it. So push someone's thinking or better yet, have yours pushed back. 

#edchat is just a small part of a greater education community that regularly engages in conversations to make learning better for kids. We are big believers in action after the chat and encourage our participants to go out and do something as a result of the chat and blog/tweet about it and share it with the world. The chat is our opportunity to engage and think and share but it means nothing if we don't do. So thats why you regularly see people use the #edchat hashtag during other parts of the week to share what they are doing or thinking or saying.

So what about other chats? There are lots and lots. You can see on this spreadsheet just how many there are. You could spend just about every waking moment on Twitter engaged in a chat. But there are a couple for educators that you should definitely check out.

#SSchat-Mondays 7pm EDT- This chat for Social Studies teachers has some of the brightest minds on Twitter that participate. Their topics, while centered around social studies, range from portfolios, to PBL to Understanding by Design. Whether you are teaching Kindergarten or AP American History, this is a chat worth your time.

#Edtechchat-Mondays 8pm EDT-While new on the scene this chat is quickly becoming one of my favorites to follow and lurk on. The topics here center around everything Edtech and learning. Past topics have included curation of digital resources, iPads for learning and doing more with technology PD. If you have an interest in anything educational technology, definitely check out #edtechchat.

#Engchat-Mondays 7pm EDT- This chat for teachers of English does some very interesting chats and often has special guests and moderators.

#PTchat-Wednesdays 9pm EDT- This is one of those chats that has seen a lot of changes. Now that my friend Joe Mazza is heading it up, it is finally doing some good. Joe is trying to bridge the gap between parents and schools and in this chat he invites parents to talk about issues with education from their perspective. It is a chat that gets bigger and bigger every week and one that I enjoy lurking in on.

#NTchat-Wednesdays 8pm EDT- Another chat I love to lurk on is this one from my friend Lisa Dabbs. They share topics and resources for New Teachers but you don't have to be new to participate. They share such great stuff I always have something I can share the next day.

#Elemchat-Saturdays 6pm EDT-For teachers in the lower grade levels, this chat is always a good time. The stories they share in addition to the resources are great for anyone that sits in here.

Remember, there are tons more chats worth checking out. Find one, lurk for a while. Get a feel for the flow and when you are ready, jump in!

photo credit: quinn.anya via photopin cc
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