When I began looking for twitter chats to attend. I started by looking for some that wood fall in my main content area of financial aid or financial literacy but there really wasn’t anything great that I came across. I found one which was #CollegeCash, which I barely caught the tail end of. From what I experienced it was very off topic and didn’t seem to have a moderator taking charge so I didn’t actually participate just sort of watched the tweets fly by for the last 10 minutes. This was a brief and not so positive introduction for me to Twitter Chatting. Next I tried to attend one called #CollegeChat that I heard about and it seemed to be dead at the supposed time it was to be held. There were some old tweets of people sharing links but that was about it. After that I tried to attend what was supposed to be a financial literacy themed chat and it was literally people talking about how to make Halloween costumes on a budget and people raffling off discount codes to their websites or mailing lists so I quickly bounced out of there.
With these experiences behind me I ultimately decided to try and attend some of the education focused chats from the “Weekly Twitter Chat Times” spreadsheet provided too us as a resource. This finally lead me to discover some great chats, with the only issue I came across being a start time that was not accurate. There was a chat I missed by an hour because it actually started at CST rather than EST as listed.
The first chat I attended was #caedchat. The focus on chat for this night was on connected learning and being a connected educator with participants being educators from California. The forum used the widely accepted Q:1&A1: format for questions and answers, which made the chat very organized. I learned that many people have various perspectives on what being a connected educator is. One of the interesting experiences in this first chat was that before starting everyone did a good job of introducing themselves, this actually led me to learn one of the participants was a principle of an elementary school 15 minutes from where I lived. I ended up doing a bit of backchannel communication by introducing myself and letting her know she had a new contact at the local community college if I could help her students in any way.
The second chat I attended was #sigml. This night the topic was actually Minecraft in learning so it was not what I expected going in. As I have recently developed an interest in Minecraft however it was very informative. People shared great links to projects their students had done in Minecraft and I was surprised to find how some people used it for teaching students as young as kindergartners.
I learned was that there are also many ways Minecraft can facilitate learning in subjects you wouldn’t normally think of. It was widely agreed by participants that the creative aspect of Minecraft causes students to come up with learning experiences their teachers never would have thought of from the get-go.
The third chat I participated in was #patue. The focus for the night was Copyright & Fair Use issues in relation to educational technology. One interesting aspect of this chat I participated in was how someone took on the responsibility of logging all the links being shared by participants to some of the questions. They did so using a website called www.livebinders.com and shared a link with everyone. This was nice for two reasons, I didn’t have to try and keep track of all the links being shared myself and also learned about a new and useful site.
If there was one issue I encountered with this chat it was that some people didn’t stick to the Q:1&A:1 format for typing their tweets. Also some people sort of broke off into side conversations, which lead one of the moderators to have to remind people that the chat itself wasn’t the backchannel. My key learning moment here was the importance of strong moderation and netiquette in making one of these chats as successful as possible. I think it is important to keep off-topic discussions or 1:1 interactions to backchannels or it detracts from the experience of participants as a whole. All in all I still got some great links and resources out of this chat and there was some excellent and focused discussion by key participants.
The 4th Twitter Chat I attended was the #Smartee chat. Going into this chat I wasn’t sure if it was going to be focused entirely around SMART boards or not as the name implied. I learned through some other people’s questions before the chat started that this wasn’t the case (or wasn’t supposed to be at least). Instead this chat was supposed to be about being a smart teacher and how to teach in smart ways. To quote one of the participants “SMARTee stands for SMART exemplary educators! We chat about everything, mostly our growth and tech!”. The moderator then made a point to let newcomers know that the chat was “not specific to the SMART Board or any other device but just about sharing best practices as a PLN”. Then a funny thing happened, which was that the chat became entirely about smart boards for the first 45 minutes. So the moderator’s statements were kind of contradicted. I felt awkward because I couldn’t even participate in the subject until the 4th question. This was my least favorite chat because of how little I could offer to the conversation. I did get a good introduction and advanced peek into SMART board technology usage regardless.
I feel that Twitter Chats can be a good networking tool, a way to hear or learn new perspectives, and a nice means of sharing links to resources. I do however think they are hard to locate and hard to follow. I think perhaps if you were a very experienced “Tweeter” you might have a different experience, but for me it was overwhelming. The only way I feel I managed whatsoever was through using the amazing TweetChat website to help facilitate the process for me. I think if Twitter itself want’s to embrace chat through their site and expand their audience they need to come up with an internal/integrated mechanism for finding and participating in them. I found a couple chat listing sites including http://gnosisarts.com/index.php?title=Tweetchat_Wiki/By_Day and http://tweetreports.com/twitter-chat-schedule/ but nothing I would recommend to people. In the end I have mixed feelings about this sort of real time professional development but it is something I will explore and give another chance in the future.