When Shelly Terrell and I first discussed the idea that spawned #Edchat neither of us had any idea what it would become. It started as a place to begin, conduct and record some thought-provoking discussions about topics in education that we had an interest to discuss. We created the hashtag, #Edchat, selected a time, contacted Steve Anderson for techy help, and we were off and running. We started with a few people who followed us and we discussed topics on the fly.
We began to involve more and more people, and soon needed more of a structure. Steve developed our #Edchat Poll and we began to publicize the established day and time of the chat. It truly was a case of “If you build it, they will come”. It was that simple. We were not building on other models. We were not pioneers, but more like novices on Twitter. We were in new territory, but we knew that we needed to develop strategies for success. We added moderators as we grew, and we needed to archive the sessions to accommodate those who were not able to attend live. Being educators we constantly assessed, reflected, and modified.
The hashtag, #Edchat, soon grew beyond a hashtag for a discussion. It was now a place for educators to shout out their ideas for education to an audience far beyond the limitations of their personal followers. Anyone following the #Edchat hashtag would receive those tweets. Additionally,we needed to create an afternoon #Edchat to involve the global Time zones. There are now requests for a third chat to involve more time zones. The chats grew from fifty participants to well over a thousand for every session. During an #Edchat tweets come in at a rate of about one tweet every second. We had a need to create a Facebook page to accommodate more people. We also created a Wiki Page to act as a depository for the #Edchat Archives. It has grown far beyond that which we originally discussed almost a year ago.
Considering the size of the chat, and the speed at which ideas fly in, participants need a strategy to get anything from #Edchat. The first consideration is to select a platform to maximize the flow of information. I use TweetDeck others use Tweetgrid. The last thing one wants to use is the Twitter platform itself. I need three screens. One screen follows #Edchat. That screen rolls by quickly with everyone’s #Edchat tweets. The second screen is for my Mentions. Anyone directing a tweet directly to me appears on this screen. The third screen is my DM or Direct Message screen. This is for any followers sending me personal messages during the #Edchat. Others have their own strategies, but this is what works for me.
There is no way for anyone to follow every #Edchat tweet as they roll in at a rate of over 3,000 in an hour. My strategy is to look at this as a very big party. I can’t talk to everyone, but I can pick and choose a few folks to converse with. I start by posting a few provocative educational questions pertaining to the topic. Usually, two or three responses will roll in and we are off and running. More and more people join in as we go. There are many discussions like this going on simultaneously in an #Edchat. The only way to see it all is to review the Archives which are posted shortly after the #Edchat conclusion. The official length of an #Edchat is one hour, but many people hang in longer to continue.
The Live engagement during an #Edchat creates a great deal of energy. Participants are usually enthusiastic and driven in their contributions and responses. The lasting effect of #Edchat, however, does not happen until after the chat is over. Almost immediately educators who participated begin posting to their blogs those ideas that were generated and expanded during the chat. Even more posts appear during the week that follows with more reflection and deeper thought on the topic discussed.
Beyond the great subjects explored during the #Edchat there are a few other elements that I appreciate about this weekly event. The ideas are the center of the discussion. Members of the #Edchat discussions are students, parents, teachers, administrators, professors, authors, and some people just interested in the discussion. These participants leave their credentials at the door and discuss the topic with their ideas and contributions evaluated with equal weight within the discussion. The ideas stand on their own to be reflected upon and evaluated based solely on their own merit without regard to who contributed the initial thought. Contributors do not seem to be limited or discouraged by the 140 character limitations.
I know this has all been said before and written about in a number of Educational Journals, as well as many Blogs, but there is always someone who is just joining us or creating a Professional Learning Network. We are even highlighting #Edchat to educators by conducting a large group participation #Edchat at the upcoming ISTE10 Conference. Anyone having questions may contact me on Twitter @tomwhitby.You may want to join us on The Educator’s PLN Ning at http://www.edupln.com. Visit the #Edchat Page on FaceBook at http://bit.ly/aN71KJ. Check out the #Edchat Archives of all the previous #Edchat discussions at http://bit.ly/c6yowP.
Your comments about this post or #Edchat are most welcomed here.