After reflecting on it for a while, I have come to the conclusion that nothing has has a more profound impact on my development as an educator this year than my participation in #edchat (if you don’t know about #edchat click here and check it out). Although the chats themselves are quite stimulating, the more important thing to me has been the connections and relationships that have developed as a result of my participation. These relationships display what is best about Web 2.0 technologies, like minded people who share common passions are able to work together regardless of proximity. A few weeks ago I was able to act as a judge for a poetry contest (click here to see the winner of that contest) at a high school in Burlington, Mass. through an online interaction I had with Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal), in early June I will be making a presentation at a TeachMeet in Nashville, TN because of a connection that I made with Jason Bedell (@jasontbedell). I never would have been able to do these things had I not met these people, and I never would have met these people without the #edchat conversation.
That being said, the #edchat conversation can be quite overwhelming especially at first. The Twitter platform is an interesting place to hold any conversation because of it’s innate constraints, it is built for speed and economy. When I first started participating in #edchat I compared the experience to being in a gymnasium filled with educators shouting out there opinions about a topic. Sometimes I am able to hear individuals from out of the noise, then I would engage with those I heard. The #edchat community seems to have grown exponentially since then and the metaphor is more like a sports arena filled with educators shouting their opinions, but the previous philosophy still works.
So here are my tips for making #edchat a more rewarding experience for you.
- Pick a client program that works for you. I personally use Tweetdeck with columns set up to follow the hashtag and certain people. Others I know prefer to use Tweetgrid (here is a great tutorial), still others use the web interface. Use whatever medium works for you, the important thing is that it refreshes frequently to keep up with the conversation.
- More important than the client you choose, is HOW you participate, this is what I do:
- Follow the moderators! The moderators for the conversation will be announced before the chat begins. Pay attention to the #edchat hashtag before the conversation starts to learn who the moderators are. Follow the moderators by creating a search for them. The moderators do a great job of keeping the conversation moving by asking questions. When they ask a question reply directly to them with an answer.
- Pick a few people to interact with. Realize that you are not going to be able to interact with everyone in the #edchat gymnasium. Follow the conversation an pick a few tweets that you find particularly interesting and respond to them. If the person who sent the original tweet replies to your reply you have started a conversation. Likewise if someone replies to one of your tweets, reply back to them to continue the conversation.
- Don’t share links during the conversation. The #edchat hashtag has become more than a weekly conversation. It is used all the time to tag something that might be useful for educators. But speed is of the essence during the conversation itself and links slow the conversation down. If you take the time to find a link and post it you will miss something, if you click on a link during the conversation you are missing something. Save your links until after the conversation is over.
- Follow the people who you interacted with. This is a great way to build your PLN. You want to fill your PLN with people who are willing to engage with you and I have found this to be an extremely effective method of discovering great people.