March 1, 2017

Twitter Chats for Beginners

It's no big secret that I am a fan of Twitter. I've been tweeting for years now and have done everything I can to try and spread the word on how Twitter can be used as a tool for professional development.That being said, I'm not blind to the fact that I realize that Twitter can be overwhelming to people who are just getting started. This is especially true when it comes to Twitter chats.In this post, I will go over the basics of why Twitter chats can be beneficial to your professional development, how to join in such chats, and give you a list of Twitter chats you should consider adding to your calendar.Sound good? Let's do this!

Why Twitter?

Ok, first off let's talk about why you should even consider getting into the Twitter game (or upping your current engagement).Twitter is a free, accessible platform that can allow you to connect with incredible educators from around the world. It doesn't take too long to figure out and you can fit it into your schedule wherever it fits (e.g. in line at the groceries, over a morning coffee, on the bus).The power of Twitter lies in the professional learning network you can build it. Twitter allows you to always be a couple taps away from picking the minds of some of the best teachers of our generation. It also provides you with a sounding board to get feedback on your own teaching practice so that you can learn and grow faster than ever before.

The bottom line is that Twitter can help you fill out the gaps in between the professional development opportunities that are traditionally made available to educators. Doing so allows you to keep learning and growing every day, while helping you stay passionate about what you do.

How to get started with Twitter

Ok, so first things first, you're going to need a Twitter account. Don't know how to set one up? Fear not! I've got you covered (it's an older presentation, but it checks out):

Once you've got your Twitter account set up, it's a good idea to start following a few teachers so that you can get a real feel for the value that the online #physed community can bring to you each and every day. Not sure who to follow? Check out the "#PhysEd Must Follow List" (created by Spencer Barfuss):

? UPDATE: #PhysEd #MustFollow List V.4 now w/ 145 teachers‼️ RT to share with your followers! Can't wait to add more! #edtech ? pic.twitter.com/o3QWn1fi9k

— @PhysEd (@physed) February 23, 2017

Alright, so now that you have a better idea of the power of Twitter, your account is set up and you've started to connect with awesome teachers... it's time to learn about Twitter chats and how to join them.

How to participate in Twitter chats

Twitter chats are live, moderated, public conversations that take place on Twitter. Although there exists thousands of chats that take place every week on Twitter, all of these chats usually share the following elements:1. A Topic: what the chat will be on.Although there is usually a general, overarching theme (e.g. "physical education"), the topic itself usually varies from chat to chat (e.g. "net/wall games in #physed"). You can usually find out the topic for any given chat by visiting the chat's website (if it has one) or by finding the chat's topic card on Twitter. Topic cards are graphics that chat organizers share on Twitter to make it easy for people to figure out all of the chat's details. Here's an example of #pechat's video topic card:

Be sure to join in tonight's #pechat on "Taking #PhysEd Outside" w/ @JoeyFeith, @LovePhyEd & @terridr99. Learn more: https://t.co/k0PX8TsxIn pic.twitter.com/kABJlCLPk5

— ThePhysicalEducator (@phys_educator) February 27, 2017

2. A Time Frame: when the chat will take place and how long it will last for. When you see a time assigned to a Twitter chat, be mindful of time zones. Because Twitter is a global community, it could happen that a chat is being moderated in a time zone that is different than yours. That doesn't mean you can't join in though! All you have to do is figure out the time difference to know when you can join in. Here's a great tool to help you do just that.3. A Hashtag: how the chat will be organized. Hashtags are a feature that originated on Twitter as a tool to help users identify the topic of a tweet and make it easier for tweets to be discovered. Users "tag" tweets by including words/phrases that are preceded by the pound sign (e.g. #physed, #pechat, #throwbackthursday). When on Twitter, you can click on any hashtag to view popular/new/media-rich tweets that include that hashtag (the "latest" feature will be the most useful for chats).During any given chat, you can keep track of what's being shared by looking at the real-time search results for the chat's hashtag on Twitter. As people share ideas/thoughts/opinions in the chat (and include the hashtag in their tweets), their tweets will appear in the search results. In that sense, hashtags allow you to quickly discover the chat-related tweets you're looking for in the chaos that is the Twittersphere.[caption id="attachment_12659" align="alignnone" width="940"]

Tweetbot Columns

My Tweetbot setup has four columns: my feed, #physed hashtag search results, #pechat hashtag search results, and mentions of ThePhysicalEducator.com[/caption]Here's a pro tip: use a third party app to help you keep track of your favourite hashtags. Apps like Tweetdeck (which is actually owned by Twitter) or Tweetbot (which is what I use) allow you to create dedicated columns within the app to keep track of your favourite hashtags. Although this is useful all of the time, it's especially useful during chat times.4. A Moderator: who will lead the chat.This is usually the chat organizer, but sometimes chats have guest experts on topics moderate instead. Also, certain chats will have multiple moderators to cover different time zones throughout the day of the chat (this is the case for #pechat which has moderators for the 7PM Eastern, 7PM Central and 7PM Pacific Time slots).Moderators guide the chat by asking questions to the audience. In order to keep things organized, moderators sometimes use a number system to make it easier for people to follow the chat. For example, a moderator will start the tweet in which they ask the first question of the chat with "Q1" ("Q" for "Question" and "1" since it's the first one). Chat participants are usually encouraged to start their response tweets with "A" (for "Answer") and the number of the question they are responding too. This system makes it easier for everyone to better understand the context of the tweets they see appear in the hashtag search results.5. An Audience: who will participate in the chat. Since chats are public, this can be anybody. All you have to do is follow the hashtag of the chat you're interested in and share your responses to moderator questions while using that hashtag in your tweets!Although this may seem intimidating at first, my best advice would be to just jump into it. So many teachers have told me that they follow #pechat as "lurkers" (i.e. read but don't tweet) but never tweet. Although I'd agree that there is a lot of value in reading tweets shared by others, you'll get so much more value if you join in a chat by tweeting. Putting your ideas out there allows others to give you feedback on them and pushes you to go deeper in your professional reflection. Also, being an active participant in the chat helps you build stronger professional connections with fellow educators! People can't connect with you if they have no idea who you are, so get tweeting!

Twitter Chats For Physical Educators

So what are some good physical education Twitter chats you should check out? Here's are two chats to get you started:

#PEChat (The O.G. #PhysEd Twitter Chat)

Topic: You can find the upcoming #pechat topic on the official #pechat page.Time: Every other Monday from 7PM-8PM in moderated time zones (Eastern Time, Central Time and Pacific Time).Hashtag:#pechatModerator(s):Joey Feith (7PM ET), Jo Bailey (7PM CT), Terri Drain (7PM PT)Audience: All physical education teachers.

#ESPEchat (Elementary School Physical Education Chat)

Topic: Check out the #ESPEChat website for details on upcoming topics.Time: Tuesdays from 8PM-9PM Eastern Time.Hashtag:#espechatModerator(s): Changes from chat to chat (again, check their website to see upcoming moderators). The founding moderators of the chat are Rich Wiles, Ryan Csajko, and Matthew BassettAudience: Elementary physical education teachers (although everyone is invited!)

Wrapping Up

If you're new to Twitter, I hope you've found this post helpful! If you're already a current Twitter user and have been involved in a few chats of your own, could I ask you a favour: would you mind a) sharing this with a physical educator you know who might find it interesting, and b) would you mind sharing in the comments below your favourite chats and/or the reasons that make you love Twitter? I'd love to hear what's your motivation to tweet everyday!Thanks so much for reading and happy teaching!

Joey Feith
Joey Feith is a physical education teacher based out of Nova Scotia and the founder of ThePhysicalEducator.com.
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