Expanding Your Professional Learning through Twitter Chats (Summer Is A Great Time to Dive In)

By Stoney M. Beavers
Assistant Director
Alabama Best Practices Center

When you think about water and its many metaphors for life (smooth sailing, in over your head, rough waters ahead, floating, swimming in the deep end, and many more), it can often be seen as a comparison for how we approach certain experiences in life.

Do we wade in gradually, jump off the high dive, or just choose to float on the surface? I don’t always jump in head first, but when it comes to Twitter Chats, I’ve definitely been slow to even dip in a toe.

Like so many of you, I’ve used this time of sheltering to try some new things. As the pandemic pushed me more and more online and I found myself checking in with Twitter more often, my curiosity increased.

✻ How do Twitter chats work?

✻ What are the topics?

✻ What is the depth of learning and networking?

✻ How do you get started or participate in one?

Answers began to pop up in my feed from people that I follow. Feeling a need to connect with others outside my home, I decided to sit in on a chat and see what it’s all about.

Wading in

Luckily, I connected with Taylor Armstrong (@Taylor_does_IT), Assistant Technology Director for Vestavia Hills Schools, and he and his friends invited me in to their Wednesday evening #EducationNeverDies fast chat (8:30 PM CT).

During my first time out, I met many great people from all over and added several new people to my network. The chat was fast, and it was challenging to keep up with everyone. I found that using my phone and computer with both Twitter and TweetDeck open helped keep track of the flow and respond before others moved on to the next questions.

I have found that there is an art and science to Twitter Chats, and I’m still figuring that out as I go along, building my participation skills. I’m getting a little more confident to join other chats and am learning the chat norms and expectations.

If you want to give it a try

My recommendation would be to start regionally with some topics that you feel very comfortable with in the beginning. If possible, look at past chats if archived or search the chat hashtag (just put it in Google search – it will show up on top), look at upcoming topics, and if your first chosen chat posts questions ahead of time, do some prep work in advance.

Most chats use the Question 1: Answer 1 (Q1: A1) format and their hashtag to collect responses. Don’t forget to add the hashtag to your own tweets. That’s how the chat aggregates.

Here’s a sample showing the format:

Posts that move the conversation along and support others are well received. If you are anything like me, you will thoroughly enjoy your new connections, grow and learn in different ways, and probably gain some additional Twitter knowledge in the process.

If you want a safe space to hang out, lurk, and dip your toe in the water, please join the #EducationNeverDies PLN on Wednesday evenings from 8:30-9:00 P.M. CST. This is a great group to get started with. You’ll love the people and the ideas. Questions and moderators are posted in advance, so you have time to see if you are comfortable with the topic and to think about your possible answers – even though it is good to be flexible and responsive to the conversation in the moment.

Some helpful links

If you want to widen your personal learning network, then look for a chat that interests you and come on in. The water is fine. Here are a few additional links to help get you started:

Edutopia Article: Introduction to Twitter Education Chats

Education Chats Google Docs

Some Twitter Chats You Can’t Afford to Miss! – Root to Canopy Education

Sample chat string from #EducationNeverDies

Feature image credit: “Anatomy of a Twitter Chat”