Having the Twitter Chat

I know, I know…this is quickly turning into Mondays with Twitter. I hope you are at least finding it interesting and useful. I think, with this post, I’ll have said all I need to say about Twitter chats for awhile.  Anyways, in case you are just joining, be sure to check out my previous posts on using twitter in class and taking it live in three easy steps. Today I want to talk about the actual event of going live.

It’s Like Chaos, But Not

The chat itself is like chaos but not all at the same time. It’s like chaos for exactly the reason you’d think it would be: everyone can talk how ever much they want whenever they want. This results in a stream of tweets that can vary in amount across time. Sometimes it’s dead or a little slow and then whomp! A whole rush of tweets pops up. In that sense, it’s like chaos.

twitter chatBut it’s also not at all like chaos. Because, as I said in my last post, you can give some structure to the event. We have check in and check out. There is a focus to the chat (and yes, people do seem to stay focused on the chat).  I do start and end on time. If people want to talk before or after the event, they are free to do so (I leave).

Expect the Unexpected

You have to be willing to roll with the twitter chat and go into uncharted territory (and so do your students). But great things can come from this. In our very first chat, someone noticed that people were sharing a lot of information about digital tools. Well, let me clarify, we were sharing a lot of links to digital tools. The topic for that evening was Digital Tools in Literacy Learning. Of course we were discussing it. Someone volunteered to cull the tweets and pull together a list of what had been used that night into a single document. I created a link for it on our class wiki (I’ll have to tell you about my love for wikis at some point). The beauty of it? Anyone can keep adding to it if they find a new tool that inspires them, and people have been adding to it beyond the initial twitter chat – myself included.

The great thing about the creation of this document is I didn’t think about it – a student did. And it was a student who volunteered to make the document. I simply supplied a place to officially link it to. I love it when things like this emerge within a class, and I love providing structures that allow such things to emerge.

Shut-Up & Mingle

As the instructor, you may have to learn to scale down your chatter a bit. If you like to talk/text/tweet, this is not the place to do an excessive amount of it. This is the place for the students to do an excessive amount of talking (so to speak). I talk some. I want to make sure people know I am there listening. But mostly I look for ways I can be helpful. Sometimes that is answering a question – or asking one. Other times it is retweeting. And other times it is knowing when to step out of the way and let the students dominate. But this is not a lecture. This is not a lecture from the instructor or any single student. It’s kind of like mingling at a party.twitter mingle

It Can Be Invigorating

Most students report that they are jazzed by the chats. They look forward to having them and believe they are getting something from them. Some do report feeling overwhelmed. Feeling overwhelmed makes sense. I get that way too, but I do think you learn how to manage the chats over time. Ultimately, the chats seem to be a nice way to further extend our discussion around a topic. I like that we have already explored the topic used in the chat previously in class. The chat gives students a way to ask questions/share ideas that have come up since we initially spoke about it.

Are you interested in using twitter in your instruction? Do you already use it? I’d love to hear how! Leave me a comment.

And be sure to check out one middle school teacher’s thoughts on how to use it.

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