What if a group of people all Tweeted with the same hashtag and talked about the same topic at the same time? That, essentially, is what happens during a Twitter Chat, a public meeting (or conversation, if you like) that takes place online using Twitter.
Twitter already gives you ways to share and discuss information with students and colleagues. The day-to-day connections you make with one another using Twitter are normally serendipitous. You connect with whomever seems to be around and about whatever topic or experiences come to mind. This capability is great when you need to send out a last-minute message or to connect with someone who wants to ask a quick question or has made an interesting observation. Happenstance doesn’t work for everything, however.
Twitter Chats take place at announced times and use an announced hashtag. Some Twitter Chats announce a topic for the discussion in advance. Others take shape when the Twitter Chat organizer kicks off the discussion with a question or prompt of some kind. Still other Twitter Chats are free-form, with the topics of conversation evolving as the Twitter Chat takes place. You can see the range of topics that are explored on Inside Higher Ed’s Twitter Directory for Higher Education, which includes descriptions for most of the Twitter Chats that will interest college teachers.
As an example, let me talk about how #FYCchat works. Every Wednesday beginning at 9 PM eastern time, people interested in teaching first-year composition send out Twitter messages with the hashtag #FYCchat. The discussion takes place for about an hour, with people engaging one another, often using Retweets, Replies, and Mentions to address specific people. While people use the #FYCchat hashtag throughout the week to share ideas and resources, at 9 PM on Wednesdays there is usually a group of people focusing on the topic. You can read archived #FYCchat Twitter Chats to see exactly what the conversations look like.
This week, I want to challenge you to try a Twitter Chat and then think about how you might use the practice with students or colleagues. You might try the #FYCchat or one of these chats that focus on issues that matter to composition teachers:
- #digped — Digital Pedagogy chats
- #gamemooc — Games Based Learning chats
- #IOLchat — Chats on Issues in Online Learning
- #WCChat — Writing Center Chat
To manage the flow of messages during a Twitter Chat, you can use a Twitter client that has the capability to search for a particular hashtag. Most clients have this ability, so just check the documentation for whatever client you like to use. By setting up a search for the hashtag associated with a Twitter Chat, you can ensure that all of the related Twitter messages flow together in one place (without interrupting Tweets on other topics).
You can also use the Tweet Chat site to manage the discussion during a Twitter Chat. Tweet Chat works like the search in a Twitter Client by collecting all of the Tweets with the chat’s hashtag on one page. The tool also includes some basic tools for filtering and pausing the flow of updates. It is a good resource to try if you are new to online chatting.
Have you tried a Twitter Chat? Have a suggestion for participating in Twitter Chats or using them in the classroom? Please pass it along. I’d love to hear from you. Just leave me a comment below, or drop by my page on Facebook or Google+. And be sure to come back next week, when I’ll be sharing ways to use Twitter Chats with students.