I was attending college in West Virginia when Marshall University’s football team went down in a devastating plane crash. The Movie We are Marshall has always had a special meaning for me as a result of that geographical and emotional connection. I was always moved by the community rallying to the support of the team and the University. As I remember, 40 years ago, the sense of community was as true in life, as it was portrayed in the movie.
The sense of community has a great deal to do with social media as I see it. There are no rules in social media. There are pockets of groups that are governed by a sense of purpose for a specific interest or a specific topic. This can be by an occupation, an industry, a family, a common disease, a hobby, a heritage, or any common experience of those who formed that community. What governs the group is its common purpose to advance its cause in a collaborative effort by the members.
There are some social media sites that establish rules for their site. They can also establish them to be private or public. There is but one final consequence for those who ignore the rules on a site. They are banned from the group. It is a setting on the site that group managers have.
Twitter is totally public. One may determine who to follow and even, to an extent, who will follow back. There is a setting for blocking followers from contact. These determinations are made by whom an individual wants to include in their personal network. Each tweeter sets his or her own standards for acceptance of his or her network members.
I, along with many other educators, have set up Professional or Personal Learning Networks, PLN’s. Our common interest is Education. Some educators narrow that down to specific subject areas, and some are generalists. Having taught in the K-12 world for 34 years and now Higher Education for the last three years, I consider myself a generalist with a leaning toward increasing technology as a tool for education. I have found technology to be a common interest of many educators on my PLN since that is what brings us together in this medium.
That is the backdrop for the facts about the formation of #EdChat. I think this needs to be recorded somewhere, so that those who join today understand what it is and not be confused by what others say it is. I along with Steve Anderson and Shelly Terrell are the founders of #EdChat. It grew from our experiences with Twitter and our PLN.
I often engage members of my PLN in discussions about education. The topic of choice is usually reforming Education to get it more involved with Technology tools for learning. For my PLN, this is the topic that binds us. Since some meaningful and substantive discussions were only visible to members of my PLN who were online at that time, I wanted more. Collaborative learning works best when you can collaborate. We had the subject, but we needed the people. Shelly suggested that we post out a discussion topic and we hashtag it so that anyone could follow. #EdChat was an unused hashtag so we put it in place. We soon found that others had ideas for topics. Steve Anderson contributed the #EdChat Poll.
Each week we place 5 topics on a poll for people to select a topic for discussion. Topics are suggested, or they are developed by popular discussions on the PLN that week, or they are topics that are being discussed by educators at various Educational conferences. Again, I remind you, many of our PLN members have technology in common, and it is a concern that comes to the surface often. This is how we started and developed #EdChat. These are the facts and not the myth. I believe we started in August of 2009.We have now grown beyond or own PLN. Our topics, however, have remained true to our objective. They are: general educational concerns, often Technology-in-Education concerns, reform topics, and general Pedagogical concerns.
We originally had one EdChat discussion on Tuesdays, at 7 PM EST. This was not meeting the needs of many of European members in consideration of the different Time Zones. We added a 12 noon EST EdChat to include them. This allowed more coverage of several topics and avoided duplication. We use the first topic choice for our largest group at 7 and the second most popular topic for the noon session. We try to recycle Topics not selected and we add new Topics from suggestions and discussions on the PLN or the EdChat discussion. We have archived most of our EdChats, but we did not do this at the beginning. Our EdChat archives reside on The Educator’s PLN Ning site, http://edupln.ning.com.
#EdChat has now become more than when we started. We have received national attention in more than one educational journal. We have been represented at a number of Educational Conferences. The hashtag #edchat is now tagged on to many educational tweets making it a 24/7 depository of educational tweets. That takes it beyond the 7 and noon use of the hashtag.
The community that is Edchat, determines the membership. Anyone interested in the discussion of the topic chosen by the community is welcomed to join. The value of members’ tweets is determined by participating members. If they want to engage another member they will. Often there are satellite discussions going on within an EdChat. It is like a great party where members can travel from one group to another and engage in a discussion that was prompted by the original Topic. We have hundreds of participants and over a thousand tweets in a one hour period.
EdChat is about an exchange of ideas. It has had an impact on the educational community based on references in Blogs, journals , and conferences. As one of the founders of Edchat I have laid out the facts as I know them. I hope that this dispels any misinformation that people may have about Edchat. It is a community of collaborative Educators whose only agenda is to improve education from their perspective of understanding. Often, but not always that is a perspective in the use of Technology.
It should be noted that this is a formula that was successful for us. It is also being duplicated by others who had specific topics that concerned their communities. We do not own the formula anyone can use it. There is a parent group chat and a gifted and talented chat there was even a Portuguese Edchat. Social media affords many ways that individuals may address their community needs. If Edchat is not meeting your specific needs please use the same strategies and tools as #EdChat to meet your needs.
That is EdChat as I understand it. That is as a founder, and a participant in all but a few of many EdChats conducted since August. You are free to comment here. I would hope that you will try to respond to what Edchat is, and not what others with far less EdChat experience say it is.