This evening I had the pleasure of participating in the weekly #PTChat facilitated by Joe Mazza (@Joe_Mazza). What does PTChat stand for? Where did this chat take place? How long did the chat last? What was discussed? Well, the answer is simple... everything took place in my own Twitterverse while sitting on my couch! The power of Twitter can best be described in one word - AWESOME! This social media/micro blogging site helps me to connect with like-minded educators to share ideas, discuss different "hot" topics, answer various questions, share problem solving techniques and even facilitate book talks/chats! This list doesn't even begin to cover everything that one can accomplish via Twitter but one thing is for certain - Twitter is changing the world of education one tweet at a time!
For someone who is relatively new to Twitter and hasn't necessarily contributed that much to his PLN yet, the hash tag has been my guide to connecting with some amazing educators. The Twitter hash tag (example - #Edchat) starts with the "#" symbol followed by words or abbreviated words that are focused on a specific topic or subject. For example, the #PTChat I mentioned earlier is an abbreviation for the Parent/Teacher Chat. So, every Wednesday at 9pm, Joe Mazza facilitates/moderates a chat about different topics or issues that are relevant to parents, teachers and the successful parent/teacher connection. Initially, all I did was sit back and watch the new Tweets as they popped up on my screen to see what people were discussing and thinking in regards to education as they related to parents and teachers. Eventually, I started sharing my thoughts and experiences because I felt comfortable and confident that I was in a "safe" place where my opinions, perspectives and insights would be respected as long as I respected those of others. In order to participate in these chats and sharing of ideas, I realized that I needed to include the following "#PTChat" somewhere in my tweet. By including the hash tag in my tweet, I was able to share my tweets with people who weren't necessarily following me, nor I them, but because we were all participating in the same chat, what we tweeted was seen by all. Well, needless to say, participating in a chat of this nature by simply adding a hash tag to my tweet exposed me to hundreds (if not thousands) of people I would have never known! I started to come across familiar names and faces (pictures are important in your Twitter profile) and began cultivating and expanding my network of fellow educators who had a similar set of core beliefs. After a few weeks I realized that the power of the hash tag took the Twitter experience to a whole other level for me!
Fortunately, there are hash tags for almost any subject, topic, person, etc. so finding hash tags that are of interest will be easy. Now, mind you, not every hash tag is necessarily associated with a formal or regularly scheduled chat, but nonetheless, by using the hash tag in your tweets you are sharing your tweets with all the other people who are interested in that subject and are using that hash tag regardless of whether or not you are following them. In my short time on Twitter, I have found five hash tags that I use often that I think are worth sharing...
1) #PTChat - see above
2) #CPChat - Connected Principals Chat
3) #Edchat - Education Chat, which takes places twice on Tuesdays - in the early afternoon and evening; this is a tag I use often and has connected me to some AMAZING people who I learn from all the time such as Tom Whitby (@tomwhitby), Steven Anderson (@web20classroom), Dr. Justin Tarte (@justintarte), Josh Stumpenhorst (@stumpteacher) and Tom Whitford (@twhitford) just to name a few (there are literally thousands of people so check out this hash tag)!
4) #Educoach - Education Coach, which is associated with a chat that takes place on Wednesdays at 10PM (EST) and is facilitated/moderated by Jessica Johnson (@PrincipalJ), Shira Leibowitz Ph. D (@shiraleibowitz) and Kathy Perret (@kathyperret). The weekly conversations here are amazing because they inspire me to hold on to what I know is right in terms of being an instructional leader and teacher of teachers!
5) #Elemchat - Elementary Chat, which takes place on Saturdays at 6pm. By using this hash tag, I have connected with other amazing elementary level educators who are dedicated to doing whatever necessary to meet the needs of their students! Some of the people I have learned from by using this hash tag include Bruce Arcurio (@PrincipalArc), Peter DeWitt (@PeterMDeWitt), and Lyn Hilt (@L_Hilt) just to name some of the amazing educators who willingly share their passions and knowledge on Twitter!
Although my list of hash tags could go on for quite a while, and there are many more I don't even know about yet, I think the above mentioned are a great place to start. Also, if you are interested in more, check out Jerry Blumengarten's site (@cybraryman1) for an amazingly robust and comprehensive list of the education hash tags and chats that are currently functioning. And, just one more thing, if you decide to join a hash tag chat, which I hope you are more inclined to do after reading this post, I highly suggest using TweetChat.com, while participating in the chat because it automatically updates tweets quickly and keeps everything flowing beautifully (thanks to Joe Mazza for sharing that one).
To all my fellow educators, I say, the time has come to enter the Twitterverse, explore some hash tags, connect with some people and join some chats because together we are literally changing the educational landscape one tweet at a time!