Teachers must be models of lifelong learning, but besides occasionally reading books and blogs and attending conferences and collaborating with a handful of colleagues at school, how can we extend both the reach and frequency of interacting with our fellow educators?
Twitter education chats (EdChats) are the answer for an increasing number of teachers and administrators who eagerly participate in these online sessions because doing so meets their professional growth needs, as well as their desire to contribute essentially to the education conversation. Building a strong and satisfying personalized learning network (PLN) through these EdChats can also become your own professional support system and reliable resource for the cutting edge in education—all in real time.
Once you become part of this global community of educators, your teaching will transform, your students will thrive, and your sense of professional camaraderie will help you through the tough times. Don’t underestimate what a small group of likeminded, enthusiastic educators can do for you, for each other, and for a great number of children.
Many of the most connected, compassionate, and creative educators regularly network on Twitter and congregate in chat sessions where they generously share their passion, wisdom, and experience with nurturing and educating children.
And they are eager for you to join their ranks!
Finding the EdChats to Grow your PLN
These Twitter education chats occur daily throughout the school year, as well as during the summer, generally in the evenings. Most have an overriding theme, or they focus on a specific subject or grade level. All EdChats feature different weekly topics consisting of a set of questions that the chat participants respond to and discuss. Chats are usually one hour, but you may jump in or leave at your convenience.
Visit participate.com/chats to easily find the current day’s EdChats that interest you and work with your schedule. There are a wide variety of weekly chats with many occurring during the same time slot. Some states even have their own EdChats, but anyone is welcome to take part in any chat.
(For a more detailed explanation of these chats and suggestions for how they can be improved, see my companion article, Improving Twitter Education Chats.)
Lurking, Learning, and Leading
There is nothing to lose and so much to gain by joining EdChats. You are even free to enter a chat without anyone else knowing you are there, so you can listen and learn at your own pace. This is affectionately know as lurking, and even experienced chatters watch from the sidelines on those occasions when they are unfamiliar with a topic or cannot devote their full attention to a chat.
Don’t be shy about introducing yourself at the beginning of a chat, though. Announcing that this is your first time in a particular chat or that you prefer to lurk is perfectly acceptable. Just don’t be surprised when you are greeted with open arms and encouraged to join in.
Another way to begin slowly is to simply “like” or “retweet” others’ chat responses to show support and to validate the ideas that resonate with you. The next step is to start commenting on others’ responses. Think of this as a relaxed, respectful conversation between colleagues.
Feel free to also follow those chat participants who you admire. They may not follow you back immediately; but once you establish your presence in this community, others will eventually include you as a member of their PLN. Keep in mind that it is not the quantity of followers one has but the quality.
Once ready, you can fully join the discussion. Whenever you have something to say, add your own answers to the current chat question and see which ones get reactions. You do not have to be an “expert” to participate. As a co-learner, your personal experiences, ideas, and opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s. There is also room for a range of responses, including levity, venting, questioning, and courteous debate—all synthesized into 140-character bursts.
If you strive to be an educational leader and to insightfully distinguish yourself, one suggestion is to avoid the obvious or trite in your responses. You need not answer every chat question, so try waiting until you have something impassioned or pithy to add. Focus on moving the conversation forward or deeper rather than merely repeating what most have already said.
In doing so, you will be viewed as a particularly valued part of the discussion. In time, you likely will also garner more friends than mere followers and may receive weekly personal invitations to participate in certain chats, a sure sign you have found your PLN—and that they have found you.
On behalf of all the educators on Twitter, we hope to see you soon in an invigorating, inspiring Twitter EdChat!
In the Comments section below, please share your experiences with Twitter EdChats.
This article was also featured on SmartBrief.
For more on attending to the whole child and how teachers and parents can be allies in education, read the latest book by Robert Ward, Talented Teachers, Empowered Parents, Successful Students.