Saturday, December 6, 2014

Five ways that edchats are more than just coffee with Colleagues

A few weeks ago I shared my journey into educational research and technology with first year doctoral students. I was invited by Ali Moeller (or here) a great colleague and an even better friend to talk about researcher identity and I chose to tell my personal journey. Towards the end of my talk I mentioned #nebedchat and #edcamp as exciting examples of the way teachers are using social media to develop, support, and grow.

Ali asked one of those questions/comments that stimulate my thinking and push me to define what it is I am thinking. The comment was: "we used to go out for a coffee and talk about our work. How is this different?". The indication was that it is not very new- and not very special. The comment has pushed to try and explore why I find edchats so great despite my everyday conversations with teachers and colleagues. The need for such a connection is important for three groups: teachers who teach in remote rural schools, teachers who are the only ones at their school to teach that topic (business, German etc.), teachers in schools without a supportive climate.

1. Twitter chats have a moderator and a topic. Casual conversations are less professional and often less supportive. Twitter chats, especially well moderated ones, have a direction and a s result enrich our thinking faster.
2. Twitter chats help rural teachers connect with like minded educators. Small schools often have excellent personal relationships but it is less likely you will find others interested in what occupies your mind at the moment. Teachers have different professional trajectories and finding an affinity group can be affirming and sometimes life changing.
3. Teachers in some schools can feel very isolated. The daily pressures of assessments, (sometimes) toxic administration, and collaborative styles of peers can make some teachers feel very isolated. Reaching out on twitter can provide an outlet and a receptive group of colleagues. It may very well be that we will find that edchats can increase teacher retention.
4. New ideas. The wide  local, national and international reach of the different chats really enhances the strategies, apps, and instructional ideas that we have. It is the ultimate self guided professional development.
5. Respect and crowdsourcing. Twitter chats are affirming because they are democratic, anyone can participate, post, and discuss. The ideas that float to the top are ones other find useful or enlightening and are highlighted through retweets and likes.

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