Social media always has the same knock against it.
“I’m already so busy. I just don’t have time.”
Twitter chats — and Twitter itself — seem to be the same, which is too bad.
For me, participating in Twitter chats is like breathing air. The resources and ideas are what sustain me through the school year.
What are Twitter chats? These chats occur at a preset time and day of the week. Teachers use Twitter to participate in the chats by following the chat’s hashtag (hashtag: a word/phrase preceded by a hash/pound sign (#) that helps people find tweets on a certain topic). Chatters post to the chat by including the chat’s hashtag in their tweets.
(Need help getting on Twitter? Check out my “Twitter for teachers” screencast.)
They’re organized around a specific theme: a content area (English, social studies, fourth grade, etc.), an educational focus (1:1 initiatives, standards-based grading, etc.) or a geographic location (most states have an official educational chat). (Cybraryman.com keeps a running list of educational Twitter chats.)
What’s going to happen at a Twitter chat? Here’s what to expect:
1. Discussion. The moderator, who runs the chat, often asks discussion questions. Participants answer and then engage in digital dialogue with other chatters (reply to someone by including his/her Twitter name — mine is @jmattmiller — in the tweet).
2. Resources. Websites. News articles. Blog posts. PDF documents. Links to great content online are a staple of Twitter chats. Sometimes they’re relevant to that hour’s chat. Sometimes they aren’t but are worth sharing.
3. Ideas. How do I teach this? How do I engage students? How do I create this? Twitter chatters are often full of ideas. A simple question in a Twitter chat can yield many great ideas to try.
4. Personal experiences. If you want to try something new, there’s a good chance someone in the Twitter chat can say how it has worked for him/her. If not, someone might check out a chat the next day (chats often are archived) and share experiences then.
5. Connections. Simply put, you meet people in Twitter chats. People you’d probably never meet otherwise. Add them on Twitter and build a relationship there. When you meet in person, it feels like you’ve connected with an old friend.
6. Philosophies. There is a wide variety of them in education. Educators are passionate about their beliefs. Twitter chats will let you examine yours and push you to consider new ones.
7. Fun. What would a gathering of people be without some humor? I love seeing funny made-up hashtags pop up in chats just to make people laugh. Put teachers together and, eventually, hilarity ensues.
8. A 24/7 home for the topic. The hashtag for a Twitter chat is often used throughout the week. It’s a home base for discussion related to that theme. Pop in to a chat’s hashtag any time for some of the above.
9. Support. Educators don’t have to endure hardship alone. Tough times, from a rough class period to struggles with the profession in general, can be shared so others can give some guidance or a virtual pat on the back.
10. Growth. In the last year, Twitter chats — and Twitter alone — have helped me grow more as an educator than all of my years of teaching combined. Twitter really is the most powerful tool for growing and developing as an educator.
What else happens at a Twitter chat? Share in a comment below!
Or, if you’d like to get involved in Twitter or chats but need help, I’m your resource! Post a comment and I’ll be glad work with you.
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