How Do You Participate in a Twitter Chat?

It is Connected Educator Month. One of the most common events happening are chats on Twitter. I have found that there are three levels of participation when engaging in a Twitter chat. In fact, these are the steps that I took, from being introduced to this online tool, to becoming a more connected educator.

Lurking

This sounds sinister, but it really just means watching tweets go by during a chat. It is actually a great way to become familiar with the process of the moderator(s) posting questions, others responding to the questions, and many learners getting involved in related conversations on the side. Twitter can be very kinetic, and it may take a few chats to get the feel for it. That’s why I like using TweetDeck for these discussions. I can see what is happening within that chat’s hashtag (i.e. #edchat) while still following my home feed, as well as keeping an eye out for any notifications or messages.

Acknowledging

Once I felt comfortable talking about a topic for the chat, such as walkthroughs for #educoach, I would start to make my present known in three ways. First, I would reply back to someone’s response to a question, with an affirmation (“Nice idea!”), a retweet, which means sending out their tweet by reposting it on your timeline, or simply favoriting the tweet.

Screen_Shot_2014-10-08_at_10_44_08_AM

Even though I am now more visibly active in these chats, I sometimes don’t mind just sitting back and reading the stream of thinking, with the occasional acknowledgement. When everyone is talking, who is listening?

Engaging

At this point, you feel like an equal in terms being able to hang in with the rest of the group. You’ve got your sea legs, so to speak, in that the process of chatting on Twitter fades into the background so you can focus on the discussion at hand. To start, you simply respond to the moderator’s question (“Q1”) with a response (“A1”). If you are not sure what to say, then don’t. Maybe the question was poor, or you lacked background on the specific topic. Twitter chats are not standardized tests; you don’t get penalized for not answering every item. Sometimes, the responses from others will prompt you to reply to them, with a note of agreement or a clarifying question.

Conversation during #irachat
Conversation during #irachat

One of the limitations of Twitter is that the chats rarely run deep. They really aren’t designed to have in-depth conversations. However, Twitter chats are one of the best ways to make new connections because of the structure. The Q1/A1 is an effective protocol for organizing this fast-paced discussion and allowing the participant to multi-task. If you like someone else’s thinking in the chat, because they share interesting ideas and/or they challenge you, you can follow them. Being followed back by someone you followed is very affirming. This can lead to learning partnerships with that person in other online spaces.

The best chats will archive the conversation using tools such as Storify for later review. This is nice in case you couldn’t make the conversation, as they happen in real time. The moderators for these chats usually house their archives on a website, blog, or wiki that serves as their home base.

If you have never participated in a Twitter chat before, consider following these three steps to acclimate yourself to these excellent professional learning opportunities. Pretty soon, you will be moderating a chat yourself! Ah, but that is for another post…

For more information about Twitter in general, check out this recent post by The Two Writing Teachers, or consider taking this free ecourse from Heinemann on using Twitter as an educator.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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