Over the past year, I have begun a journey into the world of twitter chats, starting with #edchat, moving into #mathchat and then slowly into other, more specific chats like #tlap, #cachat, #ptchat, #ntchat, #sbg, #21stedchat and finally #bcedchat. All these continue to grow both my PLN (professional learning network) and new ways to ‘do school’. These chats are like an ocean of resources and ideas waiting to be explored, explained and discussed. I watched tentatively, at first, as the boats went back and forth, sharing ideas on the current trends in education.
From my vantage point on the shore, I yelled out a few tweets, not sure if the boats heard my thoughts, but felt safe on the shore. Then, I got a few responses, retweets, and favorites from the constant flow of boats on the twitter ocean. They pulled me in, toe dipping gently into the water and onto my own little inflatable kayak as I made my way into the flow of the conversations.
I floated behind some impressive educational leaders as they navigated the currents of conversations, following them out to the sea of ideas, sharing links, posts and people. My little kayak was traded up to a larger ship, as my conversations grew (I even ventured onto the pirate ship for the #TLAP conversations (teach like a Pirate)).
This past summer, I even co-piloted (with the aid of the very able @MsVictoriaOlson) the lead ship of the #bcedchat, a local, British Columbia chat around issues of education and leadership on our west coast. During these conversations, I thought that we needed more ships on this vast sea and wondered why more educators were not sailing around, looking for new coasts to discover.
From this thought, I decided to share some hints and tricks to the twitterchats from my own experiences:
- Join Twitter! Turn your egg into a picture of yourself (or some other personalised version of your beliefs/thoughts) and start to follow a few people. I would recommend following a few of your colleagues, and a few more outstanding educational leaders (@gcouros, @courosa, @MsVictoriaOlson, @ChrisWejr, @kristenswanson @benjamingilpin are excellent first follows to get ideas: they retweet some great thoughts and have their own great thoughts, as well). Slowly, your PLN will grow, but give it time: you can’t pilot a frigate before you learn the ways of the sea.
- Find a chat that interests you. @thomascmurray and @cevan5095 have put together a great list of chats and when they occur. You will need to be signed in to Google docs for this to work: if you aren’t try this copied version.
- Follow the chat, introduce yourself and follow through the conversation. Jump in with a comment whenever you feel comfortable (it might be the following chat or even after the chat has ended)
- I currently use Tweetdeck, but started out with simply my browser version of twitter (and my smartphone version). I find Tweetdeck great to follow the conversations, but sometimes they move too fast during large chats. I usually open a back channel to follow certain people (like the moderator, or a friend). For the beginner, I might suggest Hootsuite, as I need to reload or refresh the chat which allows me to follow the conversations at my own pace.
- One thing I have also learnt is that you can’t follow the entire conversations/discussion. I often scroll through the chat, stopping randomly on a portion and reading and responding to what I see. It can get too daunting to try and read every tweet. Many chats (if not all) have a summary of tweets at the end of the chat (many on storify). Check them out and respond to tweets that interest you at your own time.
Those are just my suggestions, as you venture out into the vast ocean of ideas on educati