Thursday, June 1, 2017

Summer 2017 Learning Series-Making The Most Of Twitter Chats

For the next several weeks I’ll be sharing posts that you can use for your summer learning. School may be out for many but the learning we do as educators can last even outside the classroom. To start we will look in-depth at Twitter chats and how you can participate in real time or whenever you want. Next we will examine some ideas on how to get the most out of any conference you attend this summer or beyond. We will then move to some non-educational books that you can use to grow as a learner and a professional. Then I’ll give you some ideas on how to better engage parents this upcoming school year. Finally we will finish the series by looking at some new and exciting tools to try in your classroom. Each post will offer up some basic information along with several learning challenges you can undertake. Happy Learning!

Making The Most Of Twitter Chats

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, it’s 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 and chats in general. 

The History of #Edchat
#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 thought-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 (or another chat hashtgag) to their tweets. We have organized chats every Tuesday. The main chat is at 7pm EDT and lasts an hour. Polls are posted by me (@web20classroom) on Sunday afternoons and voting ends Tuesday afternoons. The highest vote getter is our topic for the week. For other chats the moderators or participants will post the the topic and all the questions ahead of time. 

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 a service specifically for chatting like Tweetchat to follow the chats. These work every well and will auto include the hashtag when tweeting, which can be handy. Another awesome service is the Twitter Chat Dashboard from Participate. But more on that in a moment. 

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 here and are viewable any time. (To be honest, I usually have to go back to the archive to read up on everything that happened.) Archives are a great after the chat. Don’t just tweet and not read the archive. You can’t see all the great ideas and resources that are shared when you are chatting. So the archives are there for you to go back to and grab those when you need to. 

You can't follow every conversation during #edchat or any chat really. We average about 200-300 active participants a week and over 500 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. 

Summer Challenge

  1. Head over to the Official Twitter Chats Calendar at Participate. There you will find 100’s of chats, broken down by day and time and a description. Before you participate in the chat, check out the archives of these chats. What have they been talking about? Is there anything interesting to you and your learning?  It’s a good idea to do some investigative work ahead of time. 
  2. Find a Chat to participate in. The beauty of using Participate is you can jump in right there from the calendar. Once it’s the day and time of the chat join the conversation. 
  3. Visit the archive of the chat you participate in or other chats that may interest you. Look at past topics and questions. What did they talk about? Can you find anyone new to follow? What resources were shared that you could use in your classroom next year? 

Fast chats not your thing? Looking for something more laid back? Slow chats are gaining in popularity. The concept is the same. There is a hashtag that everyone follows and uses in their tweets. But instead of everyone getting together at the same time folks participate when they can. No need to have a special Twitter client or anything. Just send your tweet when you feel like adding to the conversation. Slow chats are great for busy folks who still want to learn but don’t have the time to take part in the real-time chats. Book talks, reflection questions, planning for next year are just a handful of the ideas for a slow chat. Don’t find one you like? Start your own!

Twitter chats and hashtags hold a tremendous amount of learning that you can’t really find anywhere else. There are so many topics and ideas that anyone can find something that can help with their learning this summer. Take some time and take part in a real-time or slow chat!

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