So a teacher from China, a Principal from Spain, a Headmaster from Praug, and an educational consultant from Texas walk into a bar…not quite sure what happened at the bar…however the 1 meeting that is more likely to happen than these folks walking into a bar is logging into an Educational Twitter Chat. This simple act allows folks from across a district, county, state, country and the world to share ideas, lessons, ‘war stories’, and most of all a little bit of inspiration, connection and calm in an otherwise stormy sea of education.
According to the data visualization site Statista (https://www.statista.com/), as of the 1st quarter of 2017 Twitter averaged 328 million monthly active users. Now obviously all those users are not teachers or related to education…however, imagine if 5% are…or maybe 10%…that’s a LOT of ideas, lessons, stories…basically a LOT of brainpower.
Twitter has been and continues to be a powerful platform for educators. The connections made through twitter can lead to some much both personally and professionally just by simply following others in the field and liking and retweeting what you read and learn. There are folks out there (like Erin Miller & Tim Smyth) who, in large part due to Twitter & Blogging, had mid career reboots and fell in love with teaching again.
Outside of consuming and creating on Twitter, another amazing feature is using twitter as a platform for chats. Creating and hosting a chat on Twitter is an easy way to grow connections, learn new ideas and be encouraged to try something new.
Below you will find simple and easy steps to hosting your first chat.
Choosing a Hashtag
The hashtag is key to a successful chat as it drives the entire flow of your chat..
First, choose a hashtag for your chat. The hashtag should be short enough for people to remember but also something that is not already being used in Twitter. We recommend searching the hashtag on Twitter prior to deciding what to use. To keep it simply you may want to use the year (example: 17 for 2017) and the word “chat” at the end of the hashtag along with a word or words that represent the purpose of your chat.
Assigning moderators and their role
If you are hosting, find two other members of your group to ask as moderators. Moderators for the chat are essential to making sure you greet and/or respond to members of the chat. A moderator’s role should be the following:
- Like & Retweet the question with the hashtag
- Post a response with the hashtag
- Like & Retweet others’ responses with the hashtag
- Respond to others’ responses- answer questions, etc. with the hashtag
- Keep an eye out for 1st timers.
Developing and Determining Chat Etiquette
It is important to develop and determine chat etiquette. There isn’t a need for a long list of rules and etiquette but simple reminders that would be helpful to a chat member. Most importantly, chat members need to know that his/her tweets are not private and still come up in their feed for anyone to view. Below is a simple list we use and members find most helpful. It’s important to post your etiquette at the beginning of the chat especially for first-timers so then understand the flow of the chat and what to do throughout the chat.
- Retweet and/or reply to other’s tweets
- Try to stay with the flow of the chat. It’s ok to catch your breath by simply reading, liking and retweeting
- Be sure to use the #hashtag in any replies and/or retweets
- After the chat, take the time to follow those who took part in the chat
- Make sure your Twitter account is not private
Creating Questions for your Chat
When deciding on questions for your chat determine the purpose of your chat and what you hope a viewer could gain from the chat. For an hour long chat we would recommend no more than ten questions but eight seems to be the right number. You want to allow time for viewers to answer the questions provided as well as time for others to comment, retweet and like responses. Some of the chats we have been a part of have had the questions post every 5-7 minutes on average. Viewers should be able to answer the questions in 140 characters or less including the hashtag. Questions can be created in Google Slides, Keynote, Prezi, Powerpoint, Canva or other platforms you wish to use. Below is a list of how-to’s to prepare your slides to be posted in Twitter.
- Choose a platform you wish to use
- Create your slides starting with a welcome slide and etiquette slide to follow
- next , create a separate slide for each question and include the hashtag in each question to remind viewers to retweet, respond and like with the hashtag
- Once you have created all your slides, simply screenshot (click here to learn how to take a screenshot) each one and save them each separately. It is helpful to rename the slides the number in which in will post in your chat. (For example: Our first slide was our welcome slide, it was saved as slide 1 in our file.)
If you are targeting a specific group for the chat, you may also send the questions out ahead of time.
Using Buffer to Post your Questions
Buffer is a web platform that allows you to create a free account and schedule your posts ahead of time. This is extremely helpful for a Twitter chat because the pace of the chat is quite fast and the flow of the chat is important. There are 4 easy steps below to schedule your posts ahead of time.
- Create your free account here
- Select Content from the top toolbar
- Type your #hashtag in the box provided, then select the camera icon to add an image (in the case it will be your questions you prepared)
- Select add to queue and schedule your post by selecting the date and time you wish to post
Promoting your Chat
One of the most important parts to a successful Twitter chat is taking time to promote your chat. As soon as you have a time and date for your chat you want to begin to promote it. Promote using social media and be sure to include the #hashtag in your promotion post. Other helpful tips for promoting your chat, are creating an invitation for your chat and personally inviting others to your chat.
Below is a great video resource for participating in a chat:
Between the two of us, we have participated in 15 Twitter Chats, moderated 3 Twitter Chats, and officially hosted our FIRST Twitter Chat last week. A full transcript can be found here: https://storify.com/mrgabriele/june-20-ita17chat-on-twitter
Was it perfect? No. Would we change some things next time? Of course. Was it a valuable and meaningful way to spend our time connecting and learning from educators across the Globe? Absolutely.
Big thanks to @mrsjdevine (you can also check our Julie’s Blogs here: http://jdevineonline.com/ & here: http://techcoaches.blogspot.com/) for co-hosting the #ITA17Chat and for co-authoring this post!.
As always thanks for reading!