Jan 20

Participating in #EdChat

What is #EdChat?

Twitter has become a great resource to me and to many other teachers in the world. Not at all that it was designed for us, but it became a world in which so many people were getting together that teachers eventually just found each other, and not so much created #EdChat, as let it happen.  The original concept of twitter was strange (updating what you are doing from anywhere and at any time), but what it has turned into is an amazing resource.  Once teachers became involved with each other on twitter, they formed groups, and eventually started holding regular meetings to discuss and share with each other.  #EdChat (yes, the “#” is supposed to be there) is a chat created by educators for educators that takes place on Twitter using the hashtag #EdChat.

You can find out more about what exactly it is by watching the video below, and by visiting here. #Edchat takes place on Twitter Tuesdays from 11am-12pm and again from 6pm-7pm.

I am just starting out using EdChat, and so I had to figure out how to do it, and how to do it in the most productive and effective way.  I am still learning, but I thought I would put together this document for those like me who want to get involved but are not sure how.

How to be involved: The Basics

First, head on over to http://www.twitter.com and create an account (username and password).  Quick and painless, right?  Next, log in to your account on a Tuesday between 11am and 12pm or 6pm to 7pm Winnipeg time (CST).  Notice on the right bar there is a search box.  Type in that box #EdChat and press enter.  You are now in #EdChat.  What shows up in the search results are tweets that other twitter members have sent out that contain the exact word “#EdChat” (# included), sorted from the newest to the oldest.  At the top of the screen you will see a box where you can send out a tweet.  To make sure that others see your tweet, just include #EdChat somewhere in it (usually people include it at the end of the tweet).  Scroll through the list of tweets.  If you see one you like, a good thing to do it Retweet it.  This is when you tweet exactly what someone else wrote and give them credit.  For instance, if I tweeted “Math Rocks!”, and you saw this and liked it, you could Retweet it by moving your mouse over my tweet, and clicking on the Retweet button that appears in the bottom right corner of the tweet.  Consider this like giving a “thumbs up” to what someone else said.  If while scrolling through you see someone you would like to chat with, you can reply to their tweet.  Beside the Retweet button you saw above, there is also a reply button.  Lets say that again you saw my tweet “Math Rocks!” and you want to tell me how, “actually, Geology Rocks” (in a clever pun you came up with).  Alright, as soon as you click reply on my tweet, your screen will scroll back to the top, and now the box where you can tweet something will contain “@robertborgersen” followed by a space.  This is indicating you are tweeting a message to me.  NOTE THIS IS A PUBLIC MESSAGE, and including the #EdChat tag will ensure that everyone in #EdChat sees it as well.  This is the main idea: an open discussion with all those involved.  If you really want to send a private message, you can, but I wont get in to that here (look up a detailed tutorial on Twitter for that).

How to be involved: A little more advanced

Really all one has to do to be involved in #Edchat is just send out tweets with the hash tag #Edchat.  This is easy to do, but following the lively discussions that take place can be difficult, so I have compiled (and am compiling, as this list is dynamic) a list of ways to be involved and get the most out of the experience.

  1. HootSuite.  HootSuite is a whole twitter suite that sits in your browser window.  Once you log in, you can create columns for different searches that you want to see, all of which update automatically.  You can tweet directly from this site and create dynamic auto-updating searches (including one for the hash tag #EdChat).  You can schedule tweets to be sent at a later time/date, and even add in other social networks so you can update them at the same time (eg. facebook, and foursquare).
  2. TweetGrid.  TweetGrid is a website that allows you to interact with a particular hash tag chat in Twitter, including the ability to participate (to tweet) and an automatically updating window.  Very useful to watch just tweets for a particular topic live as they come in.  TweetGrid allows you to pause the feed whenever you want to take however long you need to read tweets.
  3. TweetChat.  TweetChat is another website to interact with Twitter, and in particular, with a certain HashTag.  Some of its nice features are: not having to insert the HashTag when chatting, allowing to temporarily highlight certain users (users you are chatting with) and temporarily block other users (users who you are not chatting with at the moment), toggle from large to small font, controlling refresh speed from 5 to 60 seconds, and to pause whenever you need to take some time to read.  One of the other features TweetChat has that is very useful in a lively chat is “smart pausing”.  This occurs when you scroll down the page and are reading tweets.  The site detects that you have scrolled down the page, and will stop updating so that the page stays still so you can read it.  This is a nice touch.
  4. WhatTheHashTag.  This is really just a twitter trending site that allows you to see how certain hash tags are being used throughout twitter.  However, a nice consequence of this is you can search for #EdChat and see some good stats for the last 7 days, including top contributors to this HashTag (which today are @rliberni, @doctorjeff, @olafelch, @teachingwthsoul, and @tomwhitby).  One additional nice ability this site gives you is to download a transcript.  All times are in Pacific time and so you will be looking for 9am and 4pm, but you can create a transcript and download all tweets for any given day.  Then you could copy them into an excel file and sort or search to your hearts content.
  5. Archivist.  Though I haven’t tried it yet, apparently this is a great program for searching and downloading recent activity on Twitter.  There is a nice review here.

How I Personally Get Involved

My favourite way to get involved in #EdChat is using TweetChat and Twitter’s main page.  TweetChat is great to show a scrolling view of the chat as it happens.  I put the font on small size, and feature some users (click on “User Control”), including myself, and it looks very nice.  Here is a screenshot:

Click to enlarge

The only problem with TweetChat is that you don’t necessarily see if someone responds to you, and it is hard to have chats with specific people if there are so many tweets coming through (and there are a lot when #EdChat is actually happening.  I personally use two computer screens (actually 4 now), and so on my other screen I will have twitter.com open to my interactions, and as someone mentions me in a tweet (“@RobertBorgersen”), I will see it and can respond on that screen, and have a conversation with them there.

Request for Comments

Please leave a comment below if you have any other suggestions.  I will update this list as time goes on.  Do you prefer one or more of the above programs?  Do you hate one or more of them?  Why or why not?  Please give some feedback.  Thanks!