Twitter Chats — my new obsession — 5 hints for fellow newbies

Tweetchat Beginning screen
Tweetchat Beginning screen by Anne Adrian: a great interface for Twitter chats

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I had heard about Twitter chats, but I just had not gotten around to trying them. Then I saw an idea in one of the sessions at FETC (sorry — I can’t remember which one!). The idea was to set up a projector in the teacher’s lounge at your school during lunch and have a Twitter chat running on a live feed. It sounded like a great idea to me, but I figured I had better try it out myself first.

Now, I have been doing chat room review sessions for my students for 15 years, so I have a pretty high tolerance for the fast paced, chaotic nature of a crowded chat. Still, when I logged on for today’s #edchat, I experienced a bit of a shock. Luckily I had researched the topic ahead of time so I knew what everyone was talking about. I also knew I would need a running feed, and that the regular web interface would not work, so I tried HootSuite. I quickly realized that manually refreshing the feed was going to be a problem, so I frantically googled for solutions. Finding nothing better (monitter.com wasn’t any better than HootSuite, and twitpipe.com just didn’t make any sense to me) I turned back to HootSuite and hoped for the best. As my eyes desperately scanned the feed for a thread to grab onto, I noticed that a few posts were via tweetchat.com. I tried it and I liked it. You can set the automatic refresh rate to be as short as 5 seconds or as long as you like, and you specify the hashtag when you log in, so that any tweets you enter are automatically hashtagged. It was really a great interface.

Once I got the hang of tweetchat, it didn’t take long for me to find a thread to grab onto. Before I knew it, I was connecting with teachers from all over the country and the world! I liked it so much, that I participated in the 7pm chat as well. Now I have added more teachers to follow and connected with teachers in Germany, Finland and Bulgaria! I am pretty sure we solved some of the biggest problems in education today, so luckily the whole chat is archived for us to peruse at a later time. There is even an Ed Chat Radio Program at bamradionetwork.com where some of the experts discuss the whole session for anyone who is interested.

Here are my hints for newbies, followed by a link to an excellent resource from @cybraryman1, which I wish I had read first!

  1. Research the topic ahead of time, or better yet, VOTE on the topic ahead of time! I just signed onto Twitter at about 11:45 and searched for #edchat topic. Someone posts a like to a poll every Sunday, so you could also search for #edchat poll. The poll had closed by the time I found the link to it, but at least I could see what the topic was.
  2. Go ahead and set up your platform of choice and fasten your seat-belts! Like I said, I found Tweetchat.com to be great, but there may be better platforms out there.
  3. Don’t be afraid to jump in a conversation! It can be intimidating at first, but soon you realize that everyone in there is an educator of some sort, and we are all just trying to do the best we can. Even if your tweet is misinterpreted, it is easily fixed with an apology and a smiley face. People get it and everyone is there for their own betterment.
  4. Don’t miss out on all the feelings you have during the discussion — it is a rare opportunity to experience the same feelings many of our students have: self-doubt, confusion, elation, excitement… it is all there.
  5. Realize that you don’t have to (nor could you possibly) read it all. Just pick one or two threads of conversation and stick with that. As you get more comfortable, you can do more if you want. Surely you will pick up something interesting or meet a new member of your PLN!

Now for the good stuff:  check out http://cybraryman.com/howtochat.html for a thorough list of everything you will need to get started. If you become a complete addict and need more Twitter chats, check out this page for a schedule of others. I am anxious to try some of these because they are not as busy at #edchat.

Just this morning, Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby) sent me another great resource for newbies: http://tomwhitby.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/edchat-revisited/

Now we Newbies have plenty of great resources. If you know of any more, please let me know.

I loved my first #edchat. See you at the next one!