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Getting started with educator Twitter chats from a Twitter skeptic

By Kimm Murfitt

I have a confession to make: I am a reformed Twitter chat procrastinator. Before you judge me too harshly, let me explain. When it comes to most new things in education, I am ALL IN. If it’s something that can improve my students’ growth, support my colleagues, strengthen my teaching… sign me up!

But for some reason when discussions moved to the topic of Twitter, I would go full-on educator shut down. Sure, I signed up for the account and played it cool. Have a Twitter account? Yep. I thought I would just wait it out until the Twitter phase burned itself out. To be honest, I think I had a neglected Twitter account growing cobwebs for close to three years until I finally decided I would give it a real attempt this time.

Well—let’s just say it’s been love at first chat.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions so you can get started with Twitter chats in order to grow professionally with ease and confidence!

What exactly is a Twitter chat and how do I know they’re happening?

A Twitter chat is an open Twitter discussion that is centered around a unique hashtag. The hashtag allows you to follow a discussion and participate in it. If you miss the chat, you can always follow what was discussed by using that unique hashtag.

You can search a unique hashtag on Twitter to find tweets, chats and user profiles that have used that hashtag.

Participate makes it easy to find when chats will be occurring by using their chat page. The easy-to-use format lets you see what day and times chats will be happening, and clicking on them lets you read more about the specifics of the chat. Simply click it and hop into the chat.

Another great way to join chats is by using Participate’s chat app for iPhone. If you’re like me, I always have my phone with me, but I don’t always have my computer. Using the app makes it possible for you to participate in chats while waiting at soccer practice, at the doctor’s office, at music lessons, etc.

So I found a chat I might like, and I jumped in. GULP! What should I expect?

This time is about you investing in yourself. So, there is no pressure to be or say anything. You can hang out and watch the discussion happening. That’s what I did at first and just doing that helped me gain a wealth of ideas. Jump into the discussion when you feel more comfortable.

Chats usually begin with an introduction and a quick icebreaker question. This will follow with a question and answer format as the host or moderator presents questions one at a time. You answer the question by typing “A” (answer) and the question number (A1) followed by your response. If you’re inside the chat on participate.com, it will automatically add the hashtag for you. You can also use another hashtag that may fit that response (#connections).

You can reply to another person’s response by clicking the side bubble to the far right. Don’t forget to add the Twitter chat hashtag and any other relevant hashtags when replying to a specific person. If you really like what someone has to say, retweet their ideas or quote their tweet and add your own thoughts. You can show support to other educators by clicking on the heart and “liking” their tweet.

The time in a Twitter chat goes quickly and the pace is usually fast, so don’t spend time overthinking your responses. Just be genuine. You’re in a supportive space. The Participate Chats feature allows you to pause the chat, so it’s another reason I love it. You can also take a slower approach to chats by following a slow chat which proposes a question that is meant to be answered over time. My favorite is #edchat, which organizes a topic for the week.

I’ve got the hang of Twitter chats, how can I get the most out of them?

When I first started using Twitter chats, I sort of shopped around. When I found one I liked, I visited that chat often. I began scheduling them on my calendar and set a reminder so I wouldn’t forget. Of course, you aren’t obligated to attend the chat each week—but since topics change, I found that attending regularly helped me build my PLN faster. I enjoy “seeing” people I am getting to know each week. On the other hand, I also try out Twitter chats that I haven’t been to previously. Connecting with new people is always a plus and provides me fresh things to think about. Don’t forget to follow the people you feel connected to so you can keep on learning from them outside of the chat. If you missed a chat, don’t forget to check out the chat archive.

If you’re still feeling a little shaky when it comes to Twitter, Participate offers a course centered on Twitter that can help you build more confidence. Looking back, I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to get started—I missed out on meeting so many amazing educators with a wealth of ideas and resources that have pushed my professional growth to a whole other level. Come join me and let’s grow together!

Kimm Murfitt has been an educator for more than 19 years and is an IB coordinator, curriculum writer, Participate Connected Educator and consultant, and a TeachSDGs Ambassador. You can connect with her on Twitter @kmurfitt1.