#hashtags and #edchats; a primer

So, a couple of people have asked me to elaborate on what constitutes a Twitterchat. Especially as it refers to educational Twitterchats. I guess to put it simply, it’s a chat that occurs on Twitter! Too simple?

Okay then, a little history. In the Dark Ages of Twitter, the search feature was disastrous. It was almost impossible to find people with whom you wanted to chat. For that reason, someone came up with the idea of using hashtags (#). Now, if you wanted to search for a group or a particular subject you could just search the hashtag. If people remembered to use the hashtag, it was easy to find the conversation. Thankfully those days are over and the hashtags are not necessary. They do however persist and have taken on a new role. Hashtags now allow you to search and find a conversation even if you weren’t present for it. They also allow you to follow a conversation in semi-real time as well as participate in said discussion. It’s kind of like having a conversation with a large group of people on a common subject. Doesn’t matter if you know them or if you “friend” or follow them. Everyone is there to talk about a commonality.

Which leads us to #edchats or #educhats. The education community has run away with the idea of joining people of like minds to have conversations using hashtags. There are so many hashtags that  it would be insane for me to try to list them all. Luckily a Twitterer extraordinaire has done that for us. Jerry Blumengarten, who can be found @cybraryman1 on Twitter, has compiled a monster list of educational hashtags. (Don’t go look for it now! I’ve included a link to a livebinder site with all the info). I didn’t count them but there are way over 100. Everything from New teachers #ntchat to Australia education chat #ozchat. He has also but together a nice schedule, although not comprehensive, of when the chats are live – I’ve included that in the live binder.

So, here’s what you do. Most people who chat suggest that you use a third-party app. It is not completely necessary especially if you are using mobile devices but it does make it a little easier. I use TweetCaster on my Iphone and Ipad and TweetDeck on my desktop. There are others too like Hoot Suite and Seesmic. If you are going to participate live, put the hashtag in the search bar on your app. It will immediately take you to all the tweets with the same hashtag. For example, one that I like to participate in is #geniushour. I put #geniushour into the search and magically all the tweets are there. One thing that you will want to do if you find a chat that you like is to follow the moderator. This will allow you to know what the topic for the discussion will be prior to the chat. The moderator will be the person asking the questions. They will number their questions Q1, Q2, Q3, etc. You can just follow along or you can participate. If you participate, you should label your answers A1, A2, A3, etc. so that everyone can follow the conversation. Within a question there is always some back and forth between participants and a lot of retweeting.

If you happen to not make it to the live chat, no worries. You can search the hashtag anytime after the chat and see the whole conversation. Many moderators also archive the chat in programs such as Storify or on their wikis for access after the fact.

Some of my favorites are #geniushour, #abedchat, and #DENchat. Those are probably good ones to start with. When you start to build you PLN, you will see people tagging their tweets with different hashtags. Feel free to search that tag and participate in the chat. I have tweeted with Alabamians in #aledchat and Chicagoans in #iledchat as well as the great Canadians in #abedchat.

As you can see, as your PLN grows, the world gets smaller and smaller. I regularly tweet with a teacher in Australia. One of the teachers in my building met a woman in Texas whom she regularly tweets with and Skypes into the classroom for class to class discussions. One day I had George Couros respond to my tweet. I was pretty ecstatic.

I know this is quick and dirty so I’ve created a livebinder with a bunch more information on educational chatting on Twitter. Much credit should go to @cybraryman, Alan November(@globallearner), @EdTech_K-12. @CorMur21, and @teachthought.

If you have questions, ask below or find me @dogilicious on Twitter.

Hope to #edchat with you soon!

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PLNing!

Damn, now I’ve done it. I let the proverbial cat out of the bag! In my Teach and Facilities Management course we read about establishing a PLN. One of the challenges issued by the good Doctor was to start a blog to reflect on what it is that we do. For those of you who have read this blog in the past, you know that’s not always what I do. My narcissism was hanging out though! What could I do? The good Doctor was praising everyone who started a blog and I just blurted it out! “I’ve got a blog at http://www.40phor.com but it’s not new.” See what I;m saying. Now all of these people are going to stop by and read it! I’ve tried for so long to keep this quiet (and if you could see mt stats you would know what I’m saying!) and in the minds of complete strangers. Now I have to really work at it.

So let the PLN begin! I have been working hard to create a working list of followers and the followed on Twitter. I must confess, though, that a big pile of those educators are the ones who feel the same way that I do about the deleterious reformers and their little bubble sheets. My community of people that I learn from is smaller but powerful. I like to hit the #edchats whenever possible especially #geniushour and #abed (who knew there was so much progressive ed. in Canada) and the occasional #satchat.

Welcome to my little PLN and since I have resolved to write daily for the near future, I’ll try to ebb the flow of the politics of education to spend more time on educational reflection.

If you haven’t read my about page Ill give you a head’s up, this hasn’t always been a blog about education. It started out as me trying to find my way. It has settled fairly firmly on educational topics in the last year with a few minor digressions. Feel free to browse and if you are offended, saddened, disgusted, turned on, elated, I am glad that I instilled some type of emotion.