I finally did it, having spent 18 months using Twitter regularly to support my professional learning, sharing ideas and resources with fellow educators, I participated in a Twitter chat.
Having seen these chats advertised by some of the wonderful educators in my professional learning network, getting a sense of what they are and the possible benefits, I took the plunge just over a week ago and participated in not just one chat but three! I wanted to get a better sense of the learning experience and whether this is something that I would like to pursue further.
The benefits of Twitter for educators are immense and the connection that Twitter brings to educators is sensational. I have been inspired by the comments posted, the links to blogs, discussions, videos and other really useful ideas and resources centered on improving student learning and improving schools. Participating in a Twitter chat just seemed like an extension of that. Owing to time zone differences, where and when some of the chats are hosted, it took a student holiday week for me to become involved. I would like to thank all the participants and facilitators of Texas Educator Chat (#txeduchat), College Station (#CSISDchat) and #satchat for welcoming me to their learning community.
So what did I learn from the experience?
- Twitter chats make you think. I found the questions thought-provoking and useful for reflecting on both education and education leadership. The interactive nature of Twitter allows for quick reply to contributions, with educators adding to comments posted or questioning each other. The limit of 140 characters encourages participants to be clear and concise in what they say; a good thing in my view, as I can waffle-on from time to time.
- Twitter chats, perhaps, do not allow for deep enough discussion. The 140 characters may seem too limiting at times to discuss some of the ideas to the level of detail that they may merit. In saying this, the ability to link to resources, such a research papers can be done, which promotes the participant to dig deeper into something, if they so choose. Interesting to read, in the last week, that Twitter may expand comments beyond 140 characters. Though, if this happened, would this turn people off Twitter and would Twitter chats run more slowly and generate less engagement?
- Twitter chats use pedagogy that you can instantly use with your students: In one of the chats, participants were asked to respond to questions that were focused on an image. The different interpretations were great and really added to the conversation topic. I felt that it stripped away some of the jargon that educators are confronted and are not so sure of, which can lead to opting-out of the discussion. I instantly thought about using this approach of using images more to stimulate discussion about a topic with my students – you do not need Twitter to do this, but it is a wonderful way to build engagement.
- Twitter chats can really help affirm your thinking, give you support and both new and different perspectives. Both teaching and education leadership are challenging careers, there are issues that we all deal with that cause tension, angst and frustration. Many of the educators who engage with Twitter, do so positively and they are passionate about making a positive impact for the students in their classes and for the teaching profession, as a whole. I found many of the comments affirming of my own views but also, at times, certain tweets encouraged me to think differently and be open to new ideas and approaches.
- Twitter chats can be fast, so get an app that will better support you. While I have Tweet Deck, I have barely used it. After my first chat, I quickly understood that by trying to follow the Twitter chat using my browser, having different tabs open, clicking between them and refreshing my screen, I could have done this a whole lot better. Thankfully, there are some great resources that describe and explain what apps would best support us in being productive with Twitter and how to also use the app.
So, where to from here? I will be continuing to get involved in Twitter chats, provided the time difference works for me. I may not be able to be that weekly regular, but that is also a great thing about the education community on Twitter, it’s there when you want it and have the time to learn that little bit more. I, certainly, will be getting a small group of enthusiastic Twitter users in my school together to try the experience and see how Twitter chats can support their learning.