Friday, September 18, 2015

Thoughts on Engaged Learning with Twitter Edchats

During the 2013-2014 school year, we launched #gfedchat for Grand Forks Public Schools educators and anyone else interested in chatting about educational topics.  I look forward to #gfedchat every week.  I have “met” and connected with more teachers across our district than I ever had in my career as an educator.  Our Monday night chats are lively, engaging and are a source of inspiration for me each week. (Thank you #gfedchat participants, you are all amazing!)  Similar to the numerous other chats, the format is a Q1, Q2 containing the questions followed by A1, A2 with the participants' answers.  Now, after 2 years of #gfedchat and personally participating in other chats, I started to think about the relevance of Twitter chats.

I appreciate almost everything about Twitter edchats.  There is a mutual passion and willingness to learn among educators participating in the edchats.  I have made numerous connections to other educators through Twitter chats, watched ideas shared and connections made through mutual collaboration, and participated in book studies led by authors.  Anytime, anywhere learning has made a tremendous impact on my professional growth.

On the other hand, some Twitter edchats feel like a rapid-fire event in which speed-typing the answers to the questions and trying to keep up become more of a frustration than a learning opportunity.  It often feels as if providing good answers becomes the priority over actually reading others’ responses, asking good questions, and having side-bar conversations.  Sometimes, the best learning takes place in those side conversations.  I appreciated the question George Couros recently posed to #satchatoc (What impact do you think Twitter chats have on student learning?)

Many indicated Twitter chat participants often provide shallow answers and chats become echo chambers, while others jumped at the chance to highlight the merits in Twitter edchats:

At times, Twitter edchats are contrary to what we know leads to deeper learning and engaged learners.  In Tom Whitby’s recent post, Twitter Chats for Learning, Easy vs. Hard, he posed some great questions about edchats:
  • Where was the thought?
  • Where was the pushback?
  • Where was the following of a progression of thought?
  • Most importantly where was the learning?

Is it good classroom practice for the teacher (moderator) to ask the questions and the students (participants) to just provide answers without any meaningful dialog?  Are we creating a learning environment for our students (participants) to be fully engaged in deeper learning?  

Here are my thoughts on how we can improve upon our own #gfedchat this school year.  

  1. We should remind and encourage our #gfedchat participants to be engaged learners. Recently, I provided a brief introduction at our middle and high school professional learning event and made the connection between students as learners and teachers as learners:

  1. Change the format once an awhile like #ndedchat did recently. The open format provided an excellent chat.
  1. Consider fewer scheduled questions in an hour on a particular topic to encourage side-bar conversations, allow ideas to percolate, and hopefully move ideas into action.
  2. Invite students to moderate.
  3. Encourage lurkers to JUMP IN
  4. I would love to hear other ideas to add to this list for improving #gfedchat and edchats in general.

Tom Whitby (Twitter Chats for Learning, Easy vs. Hard) highlights why participating in edchats matter:

“Although my personal preference is for the unscripted chat, there is no right way or wrong way of doing this. For some the only way they might be involved in any chat might be through the scripted chat. For many others the organic conversation that springs from the unscripted chat is the way they learn best. We are fortunate that any chats are now available to us as connected educators using social media for continuing professional development. Chats give transparency to education. We talk about our individual experiences on topics common to all. Chats are also a sounding board. Even more, they are a treasure trove for collegial sources, people who can help each other professionally. Participate in chats for all these reasons and to maintain relevance in a rapidly changing world.”

I am eagerly looking forward to another season of #gfedchat which begins again on Monday, September 21st at 8:30 pm.  Let it always be about STUDENT LEARNING.  All are welcome!

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