Thursday, September 22, 2016

Stepping into TweetChat: Look Out World, I'm a Tweeter!

First of all, if you're already following my blog, you should connect with me via Twitter as well. My handle is @MissAnnaKron. I look forward to seeing you pop up in my notifications!

Take a look at a screenshot of my Twitter profile!

Now, onto my introduction into TweetChat. In case you're unaware, TweetChat refers to an experience in which Twitter users login and participate in a conversation using a specified hashtag. By simply typing an area of interest and "TweetChat" into your search bar, you can find calendars of dates and times when people will be using a particular hashtag to talk about that interest. Click here to view an example calendar of Education Chats. (Here's a tip: make sure to check the timezone for the time of the chat so you're prepared to tweet at the correct time!)

To make the conversation easier to follow, I participated by using After logging onto Twitter and entering the hashtag of the chat you'd like to view on, a feed will appear on the screen that shows all of the tweets that have used that hashtag (with the most recent at the top). This feed updates in real time, so the most recent tweets will appear at the top of the feed as Twitter users tweet with the hashtag. Also, if you tweet in the box at the top of the screen, your chosen hashtag will automatically appear at the end of your tweet. Notice that the page has other features too; from here, you can reply/retweet/quote/favorite other tweets, pause the conversation, hide retweets, and even enter a new hashtag to change chats. I definitely recommend using or something like it if you ever want to participate in a TweetChat because it makes the conversation much easier to follow.

Here's a screenshot of my window while using for the #6thchat

There is an old quote that everyone knows: if at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. That sums up my experience attempting to TweetChat. This past weekend, I wanted to participate in the #elemchat, so I set up, gathered snacks and a textbook to read while I waited, and plopped in front of my laptop 10 minutes before the chat was scheduled to begin. But as the minutes ticked by, no one tweeted in the conversation. 14 minutes after the chat should have started, I tweeted, "Trying to participate in the #elemchat but no one's tweeting... hello? Anyone there? #UNIDSM." I received two replies, but no conversations of substance took place. I waited until the start of the next hour to see if I'd just miscalculated by an hour, but no one appeared. Unfortunately, #elemchat was a failed attempt.

This was the extent of my attempt to join the #elemchat

However, I did not lose hope. On another day, I tried to join a different TweetChat, #kidscancode. But alas, this was also an abandoned conversation. Thankfully, @VisionsByVicky replied to inform me about this inactive chat so that I didn't waste time hoping for tweets.

The #kidscancode conversation was also less than fruitful

After #kidscancode, I searched through the education chat calendar and found a chat for 5th grade teachers using the hashtag #5thchat. I felt that this chat was applicable to me; even though I am not a classroom teacher, I will be licensed to teach K-6 when I graduate, so I figured that learning a little more about 5th grade specifically might be beneficial. As the saying goes, "The third time is the charm!" Though I was a couple of minutes early, this chat was already buzzing with recent tweets when my loaded. I was also buzzing with excitement to participate in my first chat!

The 9/20/16 #5thchat was led by @MathDenisNJ (a math supervisor and author) and was structured by the word "instant." The chat had 7 themed questions (one for each letter in the word "instant"). Each question was posted to the chat in a photo like the example below.

A screenshot example of how the questions in #5thchat were structured by @MathDenisNJ

The structured questions that were posted in the #5thchat were:

  • I = Infusing your life in your lessons
    • What are you most passionate about outside of school? 
    • How can this be a great opportunity to connect your students with your content?
  • N = Natural flow, follow the question
    • "We live in the worlds our questions create." - David Cooperrider 
    • How can unexpected questions lead to learning opportunities in your classroom?
  • S = Sudden changes to your surroundings
    • Over the summer, many of us experience a lot of change: new house, wedding, baby, prep for a new class.
    • What changes have you experienced recently that can become relevant learning experiences?
  • T = Television & pop culture
    • TV is a great way to connect with people.
    • What are you watching now that can make what you have to share relevant to those who are listening?
  • A = Awareness of your surroundings
    • Look around you right now.
    • What do you see that can inspire learning, discussion, writing, math...? Share a picture, description, or new idea.
  • N = National events and crazes
    • The Superbowl! Pokemon Go! The Ice Bucket Challenge!
    • Share examples of times you harnessed the energy of an event or widespread craze in your classroom.
  • T = Two or more content areas
    • Interdisciplinary education creates learning that sticks, for students and teachers.
    • What interdisciplinary lesson ideas do you have for this year? What do you need to get them up and running?

The discussions stayed on topic with the questions throughout the hour. The general theme (in my opinion, as it was never stated) seemed to be how to personalize your teaching so that students get a sense of who you are outside of your teaching role. However, the questions focused on different topics, so the discussion didn't flow well between questions; each question sent us down a completely different discussion path. While this was somewhat disjointed, I enjoyed having the freedom to discuss many different topics and ideas. Because the conversation was not directly related to experiences the teachers have had in the classroom, nor were they fifth-grade specific, I was able to still contribute to the chat despite my lack of experience. For example, for the "What do you see that can inspire learning..." prompt, I tweeted a picture of the photo wall in my room and said that students could be asked to write the story behind their most epic selfie. I received a couple of positive responses about that idea, which I thought was great because I had made it up on the spot!

The picture of my photo wall that provided the inspiration for my tweet

Another well-received contribution of mine was from the "How can unexpected questions lead to learning opportunities in your classroom?" question. I briefly mentioned that in my Level II field experience, a student asked me if I had "always been a ginger." I was able to answer the question respectfully ("Yes, I have always had red hair,") yet turn that moment into a discussion on inclusive language. I told the students that they need to be aware that the term "ginger" may not be taken as nicely by others outside of the classroom, but I also managed to curb the student's embarrassment by saying that the word "ginger" does not offend me personally. Considering that this conversation was held in my first full-class lesson, I'd say I handled that question fairly well!

A screenshot of my tweet to answer question 2, including the response I received from the chat moderator!

There were between 10 and 12 participants posting with the hashtag and participating in the discussion at any one time, though some folks were in-and-out of the chat and there may have been others viewing but not tweeting. Besides the moderator, I do not remember seeing any participants who were not teachers (though some participants were not 5th grade teachers specifically). After the conversations that took place, I connected with @teresagross625, a middle school literacy teacher who has participated in a lot of TweetChats and bonded with me over our love of the TV show Pretty Little Liars. I also connected with the chat moderator @MathDenisNJ because not only did he reach out and follow me first (I'm honored!), but he also replied to almost all of my tweets with encouraging or insightful comments. Lastly, after our conversation I followed @Hessler34, a K-5 talented and gifted teacher who was really interested in the WebQuest I created for Educational Technology and Design (one of my first EdTech projects... I was surprised she liked it because my work has gotten much better over the years!).

I was surprised at how well-received my WebQuest was, as I have made much better projects as I've continued in the Educational Technology minor!

I'm ashamed to say that I have been a member of Twitter for many years, yet I did not know TweetChats existed on such a large scale until my Using Digital and Social Media in the Classroom course! I loved participating in this TweetChat and even joined another immediately after this discussion was over.* I genuinely think that participating in TweetChats is something I will do not only for professional development, but also because I enjoy the experience! Time flies when you're tweeting!

*#6thchat, a chat for 6th grade teachers, was the one that I joined because it also had a lot of participants! Instead of giving a detailed summary of that chat, I will leave that task for Nick Smallwood, a classmate of mine who was also in the chat. If you're curious about our experience, ask him at @njsmallwood12.

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