One hour. That's all you get. But it's one hour jam packed with ideas, revolving around a specific topic.
Last night at two minutes to nine, I realized that I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to participate in a Twitter Chat. So I dove right in.
A Twitter Chat is a discussion, or "event", the time for which is predetermined, as is the topic (usually), and led by a moderator (again - usually). Last night's ELT Chat was due to be EITHER about using Twitter in the classroom, OR about Snapchat. The topic is usually democratically decided for this chat by taking a poll before the chat begins, but last night's topic was tied. In the end, it wound up being about BOTH, in a way. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the two different tools.
The discussion goes on fast and furious, and in order to keep up with the conversation, you need to be tuned into a hashtag. Does that sound like Greek to you? Hopefully it will make sense by the end of this post.
First of all you need a Twitter account, and it helps if you use a tool like Tweetdeck which can isolate the topics into columns depending on how you label them. For example, I have a column for any tweets that use my Twitter handle; another column for tweets that include specific hashtags. I add or remove columns as suits me. It's an easy tool to learn and use, with tons of tutorials out there (I made two in Hebrew, if you prefer).
Using Tweetdeck, I opened a column for the tweets that use the hashtag #ELTchat and a few minutes before it was due to begin, I grabbed a glass of water, logged in and hunkered down.
At exactly 21:00 (Israel time) the conversation set sail! If you wanted to respond to something someone said, you hit "reply", if you wanted to say something unconnected to what anyone else had said, you sent a new tweet. All interactions in the conversation had to have the #ELTchat tag, (something which I realized a bit late... I had thought that if I wanted to respond to someone, the hashtag would be included, as it were, from the person's comment which I was replying to, but I learned the hard way.) Although it's annoying to type it in each time, you can just copy it and then bang it in anywhere in your reply (beginning or end, usually) and your two cents will be seen by all those participating, thus keeping you in the conversation.
It wasn't always easy to keep up (and the moderator said that this had been a relatively "tame" chat ;-) ) but you can always read back (even now I am looking through the chat which can be found on Twitter any time, by going back to the hashtag and the date and time when the chat took place).
At 21:50 someone (the moderator, maybe?) called for people to start summing up the chat... and at 22:00 the window closed, and everyone logged out. WOW did I learn a LOT! I "befriended" some experienced and knowledgeable people, who I am now following on Twitter, and I took away some REALLY good resources for learning about Twitter and using it in the classroom, and even more importantly, as a PLN (Personal Learning Network) which is in essence, what we did in the Twitter Chat, itself. (I'll tweet the resources out over the next few days, follow me - @AdeleRaemer - and look for them via the hashtag #IsraEd).
So....are you ready to jump into the fray? All you need to do is to find a tweetchat that is interesting or relevant to you, at a time that suits you. They are going on, quietly, quickly, behind our backs in Twitterdome virtually 24/7 on practically any topic (not only digital pedagogy) you could ask for - and LOTS for EFL educators. Have a look here.
Hope to see some of you join the #ELTchat which takes place every Wednesday at 21:00 Israel time! If you want to be on the directory of educators on @ELTchat, get to vote for the topic and be notified of the next chat, you can register here.
Do YOU participate in tweet chats? If so, please tell us what they are about, which language they are in and what the hashtag is!