Sunday, June 22, 2014

Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are my favorite thing about Twitter, and it's definitely one of my biggest reasons for advocating for educators on Twitter.

What is a Twitter chat?

A Twitter chat is basically when a group of people agree to be on Twitter at the same time and date to discuss one topic. These Twitter users don't have to know each other in real life (IRL) or even "follow" each other on Twitter. All that matters is that they want to discuss the same topic.

How do you chat with a stranger that you're not following on Twitter? With a hashtag. {Click here to read my post on the hashtag.}

One of the beautiful things about Twitter chats is that you don't have to be on Twitter during the actual chat. Since it takes place online, there is a visible record of everything that was said during the chat. To find it, all you have to do is go to the search bar in your Twitter account and search for the hashtag of your choice; you can read the transcript of the entire "meeting."

Another beautiful thing about Twitter chats is that everyone wants to be there. I know we've all been in meetings where some people are having sidebar conversations in the back or checking their Facebook feed under the table, while others are just plain tuning out the speaker. Because it takes place outside of work, all of the people in a Twitter chat are passionate about the topic. It doesn't take long of me sitting in a Twitter chat to feel more energized and excited about education, either -- their passion is contagious.

Even if joining a Twitter chat sounds like the worst thing in the world to you, just promise to try it. I can almost guarantee that if you choose a topic that you're even mildly interested in and just read the tweets being sent by everyone in the chat, your spirit will be renewed and you will feel excited about doing great things in the classroom.

If you need further convincing that Twitter chats are something you need to participate in, please watch the following video:

What Twitter chats could I join?

This Google doc has a spreadsheet of the popular educational hashtags and when they typically "meet" for a Twitter chat. The hashtags are listed alphabetically, so just browse through until you find one that sounds interesting, and make a note of the time and date in your planner.

Most Twitter chats take place weekly, so you can set it up as a reoccurring event on your calendar and attend the chat when you can.

There are, however, some Twitter chats that take place sporadically -- such as only the 1st and 3rd Monday of the month, or only the last Thursday of the month. This website is a Google calendar that features all of the educational Twitter chats happening on each day. I find this a little more difficult to read than the above link, but it's a personal preference!

How do I join?

You don't have to have an invitation to join a Twitter chat -- just jump in!

At the time and date of your Twitter chat, log in to Twitter. You can do this by visiting their website on a computer or by simply logging in to the app on a mobile device.

From there, use the search bar to search for the hashtag of the chat you want to join. Once your search results come back, you'll be staring at a list of all the posts with that hashtag in them. It's at that point where you can start reading everyone's ideas and responding with your own opinions. Although it's totally okay to just go in and read everyone's tweets, I highly recommend joining the conversation -- life is always more fun when you participate. :)

The only thing you need to know about joining in the conversation is just that you need to include the original hashtag in every tweet you send out. That way, others who want to participate in that chat can see your tweets, too -- even if they're not "following" you on Twitter.

If you just want to read the conversation without joining in, you can always Google the hashtag + the word "archive." The link to the archive is usually shared at the end of a chat, so you can read everything later. The archives are a gold mine of information, so definitely check them out!

How do you keep up?

Just do the best you can. :) Depending on how popular your Twitter chat is, there could be new tweets every second, and it can be difficult to keep up with the changing feed and participate.

If you try to participate in a Twitter chat on your mobile device or through the website on a regular computer, you are going to do a lot of page-refreshing and/or scrolling up. Lucky for Twitter-chat enthusiasts, there is a website that can help make things easier: it's called TweetChat.

When you go to the TweetChat website, you'll see a screen that looks like this:

Go to the top, right corner and click "sign in." If you've logged in to your Twitter account recently, you'll see a screen that looks like this:

Click "authorize app." {If you haven't logged on to your Twitter account recently, you'll have one extra step, which is to log in. That screen will display right before the one shown above. Enter your username and password to Twitter to sign in, and then you'll see the screen shown above.}

The website will redirect you back to TweetChat. You'll know you're "in" when the background of the screen looks like the background on your Twitter profile, your profile picture appears in the top left corner, and you are greeted by name on the right side of the page. My welcome page looks like this:

In the search bar at the top {next to the words "TweetChat"}, put in the hashtag of the chat you want to follow. For instance, I typed in "edchat:"

Click "go." The website will then load all of the current tweets that have that hashtag in them:

When new tweets are available with that hashtag, you'll see a blue bar that looks similar to this at the top of your feed:

Click on it to see the newest tweets.

Part of what makes TweetChat convenient is that it automatically adds the original hashtag into every tweet you post. Normally, a tweet is allowed 140 characters, but the text box in the picture above says  that I only have 132 characters left -- as if I've already used 8. Well, I have, in a sense. TweetChat will automatically add "#edchat" onto the end of the tweets I send through this website. #edchat is only 7 characters, but TweetChat also adds a space so that nothing runs together. :)

When I first started participating in Twitter chats, I sometimes forgot to add the hashtag onto the end of my messages. TweetChat eliminates that worry so that you can just concentrate on connecting with others.

There are some other handy features about TweetChat, too:

  • If you want to include a link in your tweet, that will take up a lot of room. Normally, I use a service like to shorten links so that I can still type other things in my tweets. But if I use TweetChat, there is a link shortener built right into the website so that you have one less thing to worry about. 
  • You can highlight tweets from one or more particular users. {To do this, press the "highlight" button and type in the username(s) you wish to follow.} 
  • You can block any users quickly and easily. 
  • Clicking the "retweet" button so that an eye is visible allows you to see all the retweeted messages in the chat. The default is set with a slash through the eye, which means that you won't see retweeted messages. If you remember from our basic Twitter vocab review, a retweet is when you send out the exact same message as someone else, and you give the original user credit for their words. A retweet usually starts with RT @[username] and then the message that he/she originally tweeted. While retweets are great, if you're trying to stay on top of a Twitter chat, you don't want to see them because they'll just clog up your feed. 
  • You can also click "share room" to tweet a link to the TweetChat page you're using at the moment. This will let all your Twitter followers know which chat you're participating in, in case they want to join, too. 
Other helpful Twitter chat websites:
  • ChatSalad: Log in with your Twitter username and password. All the Twitter chat times will automatically be converted to your time zone, so you'll never miss anything. :) Be aware that this website lists ALL Twitter chats -- not just educational ones -- so you will see a LOT of information. But the home page lists all the upcoming Twitter chats by day and time; click the green "join button on the right to see a room similar to the one at the TweetChat website (which makes joining the conversation a little easier). Click the hashtag to see a page of more information about that Twitter chat. On that page, you can also click "subscribe" to receive text message reminders about that chat. 
  • TweetDeck: see the picture below to see some of its features.

TweetDeck also has an app for Mac computers. It looks like this when it's in action:

  • TWUBS: Follow hashtags, see archives easily, embed the hashtag feed elsewhere {could be fantastic if you want to do a class hashtag for parents and students... embed it on your classroom website!}
  • HootSuite: Has a desktop site and an app. Not only helps with Twitter chats, but makes it possible for you to schedule status updates across social media sites.
Good chats to join
Above, I gave you the link to the master document that tells when each educational Twitter chat takes place, but I know that document can get overwhelming. I definitely want you to know that there is a chat for everyone, so below are a few basic Twitter chats to get you started:

Grade Level Chats:
  • Kindergarten and early childhood education chat: Mondays from 8-9 pm CST. #kinderchat
  • 1st grade teachers chat: Sundays from 7-8 pm CST. #1stchat
  • 2nd grade teachers chat: Wednesdays from 7-8 pm. CST. #2ndchat
  • 3rd grade teachers chat: Wednesdays from 6-7 pm CST. #3rdchat
  • 4th grade teachers chat: Mondays from 7-8 pm CST. #4thchat
  • 5th grade teachers chat: Tuesdays from 7-8 pm CST. #5thchat
  • 6th grade teachers chat: Tuesdays from 8-9 pm CST. #6thchat

Encore & Pull-Out Program Chats:
  • PE teachers chat: Mondays from 6-7 pm CST. #pechat
  • Music education chat: Wednesdays from 6-7 pm CST. #edmusic
  • Music teachers chat: Mondays from 7-8 pm CST. #musedchat
  • Teacher librarian chat: Mondays from 7-8 pm CST. #tlchat
  • Librarian chat: Wednesdays from 7-8:30 pm CST. #libchat
  • Gifted education chat: Thursdays from 12:00-1:00 pm CST. #gifteded
  • Gifted and talented chat: Fridays from 6-7 pm CST. #gtchat
  • English language learners chat: Mondays from 8-9 pm CST. #ellchat

Administration Chats:
  • Elementary counselors chat: Thursdays from 7-8 pm CST. #escchat
  • 21st century administrator chat: Mondays from 8-9 pm CST. #21stadmin
  • School psychologist chat: Mondays from 8-9 pm CST. #psycchat

Subject Area Chats:
  • Math teachers chat: Mondays from 2:30 - 4:00 pm CST. #mathchat
  • English teachers chat: Mondays from 6-7 pm CST. #engchat
  • Social studies teachers chat: Mondays from 6-7 pm CST. #sschat
  • ELA chat: Tuesdays from 7-8 pm CST. #elachat
  • Science teachers: Tuesdays from 8-9 pm CST. #scichat

Educational Technology Chats:
  • 21st century educators chat: Sundays from 7-8 pm CST. #21stedchat
  • Flipped classroom teachers chat: Mondays from 7-8 pm CST. #flipclass
  • Educational technology chat: Mondays from 7-8 pm CST. #edtechchat
  • Web 2.0 tools for teachers chat: Wednesdays from 5-6 pm CST. #web20tools
Miscellaneous Chats of Interest:
  • New teachers to Twitter chat: Saturdays from 8-9 am CST. #nt2t
  • Texas educators chat: Sundays from 8-9 pm CST. #txeduchat
  • STEM chat: Tuesdays from 8-9 pm CST. #stemchat
  • Athletic coaches chat: Wednesdays from 7-8 pm CST. #coachchat
  • New teachers chat: Wednesdays from 7-8 pm CST. #ntchat
Below are other posts on this blog about Twitter:

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