If you’re an educator, looking for a reason to get up to speed on Twitter, take a look at Edchat. This is a live event that happens each Tuesday at two times – 12pm EST/ 5pm GMT and 7pm EST/ 12pm GM - on Twitter. Educators from all over the world chime in with their answers to a question, proposed by the organizers, Stephen Anderson, Tom Whitby, and Shelly Terrell.
Here is Shelly’s blog post, describing Edchat. Each week, the Edchat topic is voted on by the group. You can send suggestions to Shelly, Tom or Stephen and then, on Monday of each week, they post five possible topics. The topic with the most votes becomes the Edchat topic for that Tuesday. Any Tweet that bears the hashtag - #edchat – will appear in the stream. You can either search on the hashtag to pick up the stream, run it through an RSS feed, or if you’re using Tweetdeck (a sort of dashboard for Twitter), you can set up a column just for that steam. Here’s a video tutorial on how to use Tweetdeck to monitor the stream.
If you have questions about how it works, you can get in touch with the moderators. For the 12pm EST #Edchat the moderators are @ShellTerrell and @Rliberni. For the 7pm EST Edchat the moderators are @MBTeach, @KylePace, and @TomWhitby.
People pose questions and answer them. They contribute suggestions, links, anecdotes, and arguments. It’s a very lively bunch. In addition to the quality of the Tweets (mostly quite high), what struck me most was the power of the medium. Here I was, in my own home, listening to 1000′s of smart, savvy educators – from all over the world – chime in on a conversation about a topic that interested me. It’s the kind of experience you live for when you attend a national conference – that chance meet up in hallway or over a beer, where a group of interesting professionals gather for a few moments and exchange really helpful ideas about something important. But this “meet up” was scheduled and it included 1000′s – and I didn’t have to get on a plane to listen in. A global brainstorming session, with (according to “what the trend“) 3500 contributions.
I was also struck by the courtesy of the group. People responded to each other, supported concerns, and thanked each other for suggestions. No flamers here – what a welcome change.
Of course, it’s not perfect. During the hour that I sat, scanning my Tweetdeck stream, I found myself getting irritated over the number of retweets (people forwarding on a Tweet they liked), resulting in bombardment with the same Tweet over and over again. As you’d expect, there are a few spammers or advertisers that get in there (not too bad). There are a few ridiculous comments that don’t bear mentioning. But, on the whole, there’s some extremely good stuff. I would say that, over the course of the hour, I learned a large handful of things I’d never heard before, laughed over a few very poignant stories, linked out to at least 50 different web sites (most of which were extremely useful), and choose 4 or 5 new people to follow in my regular Twitter stream. There were teachers taking polls (trying to get a feel for opinions or patterns), teachers trolling for ideas (first day suggestions, how to use classroom blogs,
Fortunately, the organizers have developed a wiki site to accompany their Twitter live event. There, you’ll not only find a directory of all the active Edchat participants (including their email addresses and interests) but a complete transcript of each Edchat session, listed by date. Here’s the transcript from this week’s Edchat session, “Should teachers have students write blogs, develop class web sites/wikis, create student PLNs?”
To help with the retweeting problem, I turned to Paper.Li, which is a nifty online tool that turns a particular Twitter stream into an online newspaper, complete with categories and highlights. You can read more about Paper.Li in this blogpost of mine, from a few weeks ago. This was a great way to read the #Edchat stream because it eliminates the redundancies, promoting most mentioned items to headline status. Great way to see all the videos together as well. Here’s what this week’s Edchat looks like in Paper.Li:
The organizers have also started a Personal Learning Network (PLN), using Ning, for those educators who want to continue the conversation. On the Ning site, I see that some educators have formed subgroups to start projects at their own schools or carry on a conversation about a related topic. Nice. And here’s where I get to repeat a frequent (not-original) conclusion of mine – these participatory media tools are so much more powerful when they are used in combination with each other. In this case…. Twitter, a Ning site, and a wiki. Magic.