The Mysterious World of Twitter: Part Two

This post is the second in a three-part series exploring the role of Twitter in education today. The focus of this post is Twitter Chats.

By Dr. Mary Howard and Hollyanna Bates

Just for a moment, pause and consider professional learning afforded you in your own school. Are personalized learning opportunities sprinkled across each learning day? Can you readily engage in meaningful conversations with others who will enrich and extend your in-the-moment thinking? Are you given free rein choice for when, how, where and with whom you will learn? Do you have access to authors of professional resources? Can you find educators at any time of day who share your professional passion for joyful engagement in ongoing learning?

What if you could break free of the confines of your four walls and have instant access to all of this and more? Twitter chats make this dream world possible and places that world right at your fingertips for you to access whenever you choose to do so.  

Many of us have imagined that we could, for once, be surrounded by people who are
equally committed to their own learning: an environment where we can read the same professional books, engage with those who have strong beliefs about literacy instruction, draw energy from collaborating with colleagues and grow as educators. We find this utopian dream once a year at CCIRA, where we get to live with the experts and passionate literacy educators for three days each February.  And now Twitter has made it possible to enter this utopianScreen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.08.41 PM.png world every day, no matter how isolated we may be in our districts and workplaces.

A literacy-focused Twitter chat brings together positive, like-minded and knowledgeable literacy educators who can support and challenge our thinking. We meet for an hour using only our computers, a hashtag and all that we know about teaching and learning. Our Professional Learning Network (PLN) comes to life as the conversation begins. Literacy experts chat alongside enthusiastic and knowledgeable teachers. The chat is fast, like that powerful conversation that is cut short by the end of lunch recess or the morning bell that signals us that it’s time for school to begin. Yet we leave the chat full of insight, connections, new perspectives and resources.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.13.08 PM.pngOur PLN is a network cultivated in part, by participation in Twitter chats. The PLN connects us 24 hours a day to professional conversations, resources, and new perspectives. Forward-thinking educators push us to reflect on practices and refine our work –  and we experience mutual inspiration through this conversational interplay. We can’t remember a time we have finished a chat and didn’t feel on top of the world, ready to conquer the next day of hard work with new insight to share.  Gunnison Kindergarten teacher Jessica McNary, commented on last week’s blog:

The weekly Twitter chat, #G2Great, is one example of how virtual gatherings are re-sparking educational fires for professional learning in the company of others. #G2Great is based on Mary Howard’s book, Good to Great Teaching, and is co-moderated by Mary Howard, Jenn Hayhurst, Amy Brennan and Fran McVeigh. The chat was initially launched as a six-week book study but countless dedicated educators have kept the #G2Great fire burning brightly; the chat continues to trend on Twitter nearly three years later.  A Twitter chat is an informal conversation that revolves around a specific topic. Life-long learners gather enthusiastically at the designated time using the chat hashtag #G2Great. The chat moderators initiate questions that will guide the conversation; an example from the chat with Carl Anderson is below.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 9.14.59 PM.png

Once the question appears, anyone can respond to that question using the corresponding number (A1) and hashtag (#G2Great). One response inevitably leads to another and within minutes a lively one-hour fast-paced conversation ensues in a lovely domino effect of inspired learning. Participants can stretch the learning potential of these shared conversations by following educators, continuously expanding one’s circle of professional learning co-collaborators.

These conversations allow educators from across the globe to connect with others within and beyond their own grade level or educational focus. To make these professional gatherings even more powerful, those conversations often linger long after the chat is over and reappear on Twitter as more educators join the conversation in a never-ending growth cycle of learning.

Storify is an amazing tool that allows us to collect Tweets so that we can gather them into a Twitter paper trail that lives beyond the chat. This tool is shared after most chats to recreate the conversation from start to finish. Storify offers a virtual artifact that you can revisit again and again at a much slower pace the second time around. Here is the #G2Great chat Storify with Carl Anderson on 11/9/17.

Educators everywhere are embracing Twitter chats as a way to connect with others for the purpose of engaging in meaningful dialogue and collective learning. A chat creates a gathering space for these professional conversations with educators who are equally passionate about their own learning as we create virtual side-by-side collaborations. Of course, it is important to use a critical lens when you engage in any kind of professional learning and Twitter is no different. Become Twitter aware by reflecting on resources and suggestions in professionally responsible ways, selectively using only those things that reflect strong research.

We encourage you to find a literacy-focused Twitter chat using the table below or this extensive education chat calendar organized by hashtag, date and time. In the beginning, you might join the conversation by lurking, a positive term in the Twitter world. Lurking is an entry point for first-timers who want to join the conversation by viewing only and sometimes liking a post by clicking on the heart button.  After lurking, you’ll be excited to more actively join in a chat by sharing your best thinking. As you expand your PLN by following others, your Twitter audience will grow as you link with educators from across the globe.

Hashtag Chat Name Frequency Time
#FPliteracy Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Monthly Thursday 6:00 pm MT
#G2Great Good to Great Weekly Thursday 6:30pm MT
#ILAchat International Literacy Association Monthly Thursday 6:00pm MT
#RRchat Reading Recovery Monthly Sunday 5:00pm MT
#NCTEchat National Council Teachers of English Monthly Sunday 6:00pm MT
#TCRWP Teachers College Reading Writing Project Weekly Tuesday 5:30pm MT
#ELLchat English Language Learners Weekly Monday 7:00pm MT

Dr. Mary Howard is a national literacy consultant and author of Good To Great Teaching: Doing the Literacy Work that Matters; RTI from All Sides: What Every Teacher Needs to Know.  Mary co-moderates #G2Great weekly Twitter chat and blogs at Follow her on Twitter @DrMaryHoward or her “Slow Twitter” on Facebook at Mary C Howard.

Hollyanna Bates is a Past President of CCIRA and a Reading Recovery Teacher Leader/Literacy Coordinator in Summit School District in Frisco, Colorado.  Follow her on Twitter @hollyannabates

Helpful Links

The Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

Participate in Twitter Chats

Why Teachers Participate in Twitter Chats and What’s Coming Next


Author: CCIRAblog

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