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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Twitter Chats: An Hour Well Worth Your Time

By Peter DeWitt — January 19, 2014 4 min read
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It’s hard to explain the process if you haven’t participated in a chat on Twitter, but I’m going to try it any way. These chats, which take place every day, and involve participants from all over the world, are really beneficial to educators. It’s not that educators may learn something new, although that will likely happen, it’s just that they are like a powerful session with a great counselor.

I’m not talking a counselor who sits back while you lie on the couch and complain about your problems...

I’m talking about that type of counselor who will question your beliefs, and make you reflect on what you have done, at the same time they provide feedback on what you can do differently as you move forward. There have been many times I’ve left a Twitter chat session feeling very inspired and ready to take on a new day.

Keep in mind that Twitter chats are not like a television series that you have to watch from the beginning of the season to understand. Whether you are jumping into a chat for the first time right when they start, or you are jumping into one that has been going on for 30 minutes, chats on Twitter don’t require any prerequisite reading...they simply require passion for, and an understanding of, education.

And unlike state and federal leaders who think educators don’t have expectations that are high enough, Twitter chats involve educators who have really high expectations, both for the topic the moderator chooses, and the level of involvement of other educators.

THAT is a chat on Twitter.

#edchat, #satchat, #nyedchat and Beyond

Tom Whitby, Steve Anderson and several other leading connected educators created #edchat, which takes place on Tuesdays. Click on this link for more information about #edchat. Tom Tweets out a link to a survey the day before, and the day of, #edchat to see what educators really want to discuss. People on Twitter vote for their favorite topic, and the winning topic is chosen for the #edchat discussion for the week. The survey is brilliant because educators really feel as though they have a voice in the discussion topic.

#satchat is also amazing. It’s quickly becoming more and more popular to the point that it is often trending on Twitter when the discussion takes place. Trending means that there are so many Tweets going out with the hashtag (#) that it becomes one of the top five discussion on Twitter, and aren’t we all just a little thankful that the Kardashians can catch a break from trending on Twitter when #satchat happens at 7:30 (a.m.) Eastern Time?

#edchat and #satchat are definitely global. At the beginning of a chat people are asked to Tweet introducing themselves, and they mention where they are joining the chat from. It’s simply amazing to see the parts of the world that are represented on a Twitter chat. In addition, it doesn’t matter whether they are teachers, counselors, school leaders, parents or students...they all have something important to add to the discussion.

One of the elements of these chats which are both intriguing, and sometimes annoying, is that it’s done online so people don’t have to worry about being so polite and kind that they can’t be real. The annoying part is that some people use anonymous names, and enjoy Tweeting comments that are inappropriate. However, that doesn’t happen often.

Individual states (like Maryland and New York) have educators who have created chats that focus on the issues in their states, and Joe Mazza created one that engages parents through #ptchat. Although anyone can join the discussion, it’s kind of nice to see educators who want to talk about state issues, and great to see a virtual way to engage parents. So often, within our own districts, educators do not always feel as though they can speak up, so these chats sessions allow educators to have a voice, and helps them see they are not alone in their ideas and thoughts.

How to Join a Chat

A friend contacted me the other day and asked me how to join #satchat because she really wanted to experience it. It’s easy to join...but sometimes hard to explain. First and foremost you need to have a Twitter address, so go here to get one. Secondly, you need to find the chat you are most interested in. Jerry Cybraryman has by far the best explanation of each chat.

Make sure you give yourself a few minutes before your favorite Twitter chat starts. Very often the moderator will start Tweeting that the chat session will take place in one hour, then 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes...you get the point. Either click on the hashtag link (for example #edchat) or just use the hashtag to find it on your own search.

Here is a Screenshot:

After a few seconds, you should have a streamlined approach to the Twitter chat you are trying to follow. Here’s another screenshot to illustrate what it will look like.

In the End

For the first few times you join a Twitter chat, you may find it hard to follow, but it’s like one of those Magic Eyes...after a few minutes your brain will get it. Take the time to adapt because it is well worth your time. Keep in mind that you get out of chats what you put into them. Many educators may follow and not contribute, but the real power is in the conversation you join and the connections you make while you’re there.

2 ½ years ago I never thought I would be highlighting Twitter from time to time, but I always learn something new while I’m on a chat session. The educators who join will quickly become a part of your Professional Learning Network (PLN), and you may find yourself talking with them more and more. I am constantly connecting with my PLN through Twitter and Google Hangouts, and it has been an inspiring learning experience where I have found new friends.

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.