Twitter and Educational Chats

Thanks to Aurora Meyer for inviting me to write this guest post for the MSTA blog!

Have you just begun your PLN (Personal Learning Network)? Are you new to Twitter? There’s a lot of conversation, collaboration, and sharing happening in 140 characters or less. It can be difficult to figure out where to start, and feel somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it can feel a bit like drinking out of a firehose. I want to share with you some Twitter tips, a little bit about #EdChat, and also ways to find excellent subject specific conversations happening on Twitter.

Twitter Tips

So, you’re all signed up for Twitter. Now what? Well, first you need to take care of the basics. Get your profile created, including a picture of yourself! I promise it’ll be OK. 🙂 We want to be able to put a face with the tweets. If you have a blog or classroom website, share the link to it (there’s a spot for this in your profile settings too). Lastly, fill out your bio. Share with us what you teach, why you’re here, etc. These are all necessary basics in building your personal learning network.

So after you have your Twitter account all ready to go, what’s the best way to start building your network? Well you have to start following people. That means you visit their Twitter page and click the Follow button. The address to my Twitter page is http://twitter.com/kylepace. You can look at who I follow and you can in turn follow some of those same people, look at who they follow, etc. and before you know it you’ve got a nice little stream of information, resources, and conversation coming across your tweetstream. You can pick how many people you want to follow. Those teachers will be notified that you have started following them and they can follow you right back if they choose. This should give you a nice start to those that you are following and those that are following you.

Another great place to find other teachers to follow is the Twitter 4 Teachers wiki. It was created by my fellow Missouri educator Gina Hartman. What’s great about this wiki is that you can find teachers in a specific subject area to connect with. Are you a math teacher? There’s a whole page of them. Science teacher? Same thing. I don’t think there’s a curricular area that’s not represented there. Be sure to spend some time there finding more great educators to connect with.

Once some have started following you you’re ready to jump into the conversation. Watch the tweets of those that you’re following, see what they’re sharing and the kinds of conversations they’re having. If you want to jump in, click Reply to one of their tweets! It’ll automatically throw the “@” symbol and their Twitter name in the tweet box and you can begin typing your reply. To see their reply to you, you have to check what’s called your “Mentions”. This is where you can see anyone that has mentioned you in a tweet whether it was a reply to something you said or just mentioning you for some other reason. If you’re on the Twitter website just click on Mentions in the right column. If you’re using a third-party program like Tweetdeck (free), you can organize your Twitter stream into columns and this is one of the standard columns you will see. I would highly recommend using Tweetdeck once you’re comfortable with using Twitter.com. You’ll have a much better experience.

Twitter Chats

Conversations and sharing can happen on Twitter any time. There are, however, some scheduled education related chats that happen at specific days and times either weekly or bi-weekly. One of the most popular ones is called #EdChat. Anyone that is participating in edchat will include the edchat hashtag (keyword) in their tweets. That way, anyone following this keyword can see your tweets even if they aren’t following you. If you’re using Tweetdeck you can set up an edchat column where you can follow anyone tweeting with the edchat hashtag. A hashtag (keyword) can be made out of any term by putting the “#” symbol in front of the word. It doesn’t matter where in your tweet the hashtag is placed. I typically place it after my thought when I’m participating in edchat. Edchat is a weekly chat that happens every Tuesday at two different times. There is a noon edchat and a 7pm edchat (EST). Each time has a different topic. There is a poll that is tweeted out every Sunday afternoon for everyone to vote on the edchat topic each week. The topic with the most votes is the 7pm topic and the 2nd most votes is the noon topic.

Edchat can feel pretty fast and furious. Kind of like trying to get a drink from a firehose. 🙂 It’s best to pick one or two individuals to engage with during edchat. There’s no way you can talk to everyone. It’s like being at a big party. Lots of conversations happening around the main topic and it’s impossible to get to everyone.

If edchat isn’t for you, there are lots of other education related chats happening every week on Twitter. My friend Jerry Blumengarten, a retired NYC teacher now living in Florida, has an awesome website of teacher resources that can be found at http://www.cybraryman.com. His Twitter page can be found here. This man has an amazing wealth of knowledge to share about education. You definitely need to follow him. His website has resources for everything. When I say everything, I mean everything! He’s awesome! One of those pages that Jerry maintains is a schedule of all the educational chats happening on Twitter. The page can be found here and lists the day, time, and hashtag for each of these chats. Math teachers? Give #mathchat a try. New teachers? Be sure to join in on #ntchat each week. Special Education teachers? Be sure to check out #spedchat. That’s a very small sample of the other types of education chats happening on Twitter. There are even chats for principals and administrators such as Connected Principals chat (#cpchat).

These chats are all moderated by some outstanding educators. The person(s) moderating the chat will always identify themselves at the start of the chat time. Be sure to reply to them and say hello and let them know you’re joining in! I’m one of the moderators for the 7pm EST edchat along with my friend Mary Beth Hertz so be sure to say hello to us if you join in the Tuesday evening edchat!

While Twitter is an essential PLN tool for me personally, I know it’s not the only PLN tool. Twitter and other forms of social media are giving teachers new ways to participate in self-guided professional development. They’re networking, collaborating, and connecting with other teachers in a way that wasn’t around several years ago. It’s an exciting time to see how this evolves and gives our profession a new level of connectivity to bring to our districts, schools, and classrooms together.

What educational chats are you participating in? How have they benefited you? Please leave a comment and share your story.

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13 Comments on “Twitter and Educational Chats”

  1. Lisa Dabbs says:

    Kyle, I love the chats that are developing on twitter!#Edchat was the first that I joined and it was fast and fierce! But…it inspired me to create New Teacher Chat and the hash-tag #ntchat. You are one of the most supportive educators in my PLN. I’m grateful to you for your resources and the way you reach out to help others. I want to thank you for your mention of #ntchat in your post. It is a work of the heart for me and my passion: to support new/pre-service teachers. Here is our wiki to share with your readers http://newteacherchat.wikispaces.com/
    It’s 2011! Let’s Chat On!

  2. Kyle, I have only been on Twitter for a few months and the learning opportunities are priceless.

    Thank you for your mentions of some great chats.

    Lately, I have really enjoyed #ecosys. It’s a much smaller chat that occurs on Wednesdays at 9pm EST. The topics are wide-ranging but primarily focus on strategies for changing the US education system.

    Mary
    @Edu_Traveler

  3. Good points
    I’d like to amplify the need for some sort of bio as part of the Twitter account — a link, a line, a connection — so that folks don’t think you are Twitter Spam. If you want people to follow you, this seems important.
    Kevin

  4. Dawn Adams says:

    Thanks for the blog post on Twitter. You are correct — #edchat can be overwhelming so focusing on smaller conversations is the way to go. I attended for the first time live today. I was a Twitter skeptic in the past (not sure why), but have come back to jump in to all of the useful information and contacts that are available through the use of Twitter. I am giving a workshop for some of my teachers next week and appreciate the information you have provided here. My theme this year has been developing personal learning networks so I am renewing a commitment to leading by example and utilizing these great tools. 🙂

    Dawn

  5. Lesa Haney says:

    I tried Twitter a year or so ago and really did not see the appeal. I ended up with lots of followers from porn sites. LOL! I never did quite get the hang of it and just ended up closing my account.

    My son, who is a public policy graduate student at UT convinced me to give it another try recently. He explained how it can be used for professional development. I have participated in a few of the chats you have mentioned as an observer only.

    As you mentioned, it is a bit overwhelming at first. I like your analogy of a party. In the past few weeks, I have learned a great deal. I really feel that this is an amazing tool for teachers to collaborate with other teachers from all over the world.

    • Kyle Pace says:

      Thanks Lesa. I hope you are now getting as much benefit as I am from the professional growth opportunities that exist via social media. Never hesitate to jump in and ask a question or give a little constructive push back. 🙂

  6. Excellent resources here. With SO much information everywhere, it’s more and more important for educators to streamline where they share it.

    I’m following most of the chats and Twitterers that you recommended. Thanks for passing on.

    • Kyle Pace says:

      Thanks very much for reading and hope you get as much benefit as I do! Don’t hesitate to tweet if I can help.

  7. This article was so helpful to me as a Twitter newbie. I am especially grateful for your calm & supportive tone with the numerous links to additional info.

    I am diligently working at creating a deeper/wider grasp of the potential of Twitter to find my niche, and offer my resources as an author/illustrator to the educational community.

    Thanks so much for your broad and kind tutorial.

  8. […] wrote a great blog post on getting started on Twitter and follow the chats.  You can read it here. The chat for fourth grade is held every Monday from 7 to 8 PM.  This is an opportunity to talk […]

  9. […] Kyle Pace (@KylePace) wrote a great blog post on getting started on Twitter and following the chats.  You can read it here. […]

  10. […] Professional Hook-ups Other Twitter-related Professional Development tips Hidden Value of Twitter Twitter as PD Twitter for Teachers Video: How One Teacher Uses Twitter […]


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