Week 4: Communication and PLN’s

Update:  Six weeks on from this post and Twitter chats have become a go-to component of my PLN.  I’ve attended four other chats in the intervening weeks with another scheduled for today.  I’m finding that when I’m in need of a particular kind of research or just in a curious mood I turn to a scheduled chat or skim related hashtags of past chats.  Some chats are definitely operating at higher levels in terms of depth of thought, extent of conversation, or ideas and resources shared.  However, I’m singularly impressed by the one characteristic common to all of them so far — how welcoming, friendly, and generous the participants are.   Too, I had no idea how many chat groups are out there — not just in education, of which there are dozens.  I’ve even found a couple chats for my husband who works in the hospitality industry and is always looking for new ideas.  He is a Luddite.  But after a couple hours of his peering from the corner of his eye from the other side of the sofa as I chat, I figured I’d see what I could find for him.  When I sent him the links, his response was, “…I’d like to know more….”  Next stop is getting him his own Twitter account!

The New Addiction

I’m officially hooked on Twitter chats.  While I knew these were “a thing”, I was never clear on how exactly to access them.  And I certainly never thought they were as organized as having an official chat list.  Admittedly, I found them rather intimidating to start.  However, our reading from the PLP Network was spot on with “how to”.  A particularly good recommendation is to use TweetDeck — a platform I’ve used in the past for my multiple handles*, but discovered its ultimate usefulness in this chat context.

Using TweetDeck for Twitter chats; Source: Screen cap, D. van Dyke


3 Different Experiences

In all, I participated in three chats.  Coincidentally, they provided three different kinds of experiences.  I’m trying not to rate them on a qualitative scale; however, I did find one a more enjoyable, and thus a more worthwhile, experience.  But “enjoyable” and “worthwhile” are according to what works for me in terms of my learning style and learning habits.

Starting with the chat I found most challenging, Digital Citizen Chat (#digcit), was the most rambling and freeform.  Chronologically, it was my second chat which followed a highly organized first experience last week.  So the differences were immediately noticeable.  Right from the start, there were a number of participants who seemed to be looking forward to the chat.

Yet about 15 minutes past the designated start time, there was this exchange between Professor Passafume and Hope Frazier.

From what I could tell, no moderator ever showed up.  So people posted randomly.  While I’m not sure the number of conversation threads were different from other chats, it all seemed vague and scattershot with very little focus.  In all, I didn’t find it a terribly helpful chat given there were more opinions being solicited and shared than useful practices and resources.

Likes from #educoach chat; Source: screen cap, D. van Dyke

The middle-of-the-road experience was the Instructional Coaching Chat (#educoach).  More organized and attended by experienced coaches, #educoach had two moderators and a set of nine questions at the ready.  While the other chats seemed to be attended by several self-identifying pre-service and novice teachers, I felt more in the company of my experiential peers in #educoach.  Unfortunately, there is either an error on the Education Chats schedule or there was some other kind of snafu.  When I showed up 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled start time — 9pm Central — it had clearly been underway for 50 minutes.  I didn’t feel comfortable crashing in with ten minutes on the clock, so I scrolled and lurked through the conversations and liked the tweets that had thoughts and resources I found useful for my work.  One such resource was a meta-analysis shared by @region13coaches at the very end of the chat.  It was a nice button on the conversation for how the work of instructional coaches has a measurable impact on teacher practice and student outcomes.  I read it and immediately emailed it to the principals of the schools I work with — as research support and encouragement for our work.

Finally, the chat I found to be the most enjoyable experience was, oddly enough, my first.  Last week I decided to preview the Twitter chat experience in anticipation of this week’s assignment.  I didn’t want to troll this one, so I decided to boldly identify myself as the nube I am.  I tend to get anxious with online interactions among strangers.  So participating in this new way among fellow professionals felt risky because I knew there likely were all kinds of rules of etiquette of which I was completely unaware.  But I could not have been more warmly welcomed.  I

My first Twitter chat: Warmly welcomed to #hseduchat; Source: Screen cap, D. vanDyke

wouldn’t say my contributions to the conversation were high-level or even on topic.  They were more about meeting and greeting and getting my feet wet with this new professional learning experience.  Luckily, though, the folks over at #hseduchat were accepting and supportive of my lack of chat experience and encouraged my contributions.  Their behaviors made it more likely that I’d participate in other chat in the future.

This chat was very well-organized, the moderator having sent out the questions in advance, reviewed them all again when the chat started, and gave instructions for how to format responses.  She then released the questions at regular intervals.  In this way the moderator kept tabs on the conversation and kept it rolling.  All these elements fit with my own needs as learner.  It really was the perfect chat for my first attempt.

Final Thoughts

The assignments this week made for highly enjoyable learning (more on the Resident/Visitor map to come).  While I’m not new to Twitter, chats are a revelation.  In my experience Twitter has been a much more positive, uplifting, useful platform than, say, Facebook.  Still, as a professional resource, it always seemed a bit random, even when I used hashtags to track down resources.  But having entire lists of chat schedules, the ideas and suggestions from Nicole’s narrated Prezis, and some chat experiences under my belt, Twitter finally feels like an actual arrow in my professional and ICT quiver.  My exploration now will turn to those chats that are moderated and organized for those times when I’m on the hunt for useable material — actual ideas and resources.  Though I can see hanging out in a chat with no clear facilitator where participants ask and answer random questions, for those times that I’m looking simply to network or have collegial conversation.

It’s become increasingly clear to me that informal learning is an extremely potent type of learning.  Twitter chats hit so many of those buttons — self-directed, just in time, anytime/anywhere, tailorable to a learner’s needs of the moment, learner choice, working with a sense of relaxed and stress-free flow in the learning moment.  I can see how Twitter chats can be a powerful tool for a particular kind of teacher support and professional learning.  With such tools and access, this really is an exciting time to be an educator!

*: I have one professional Twitter account: @commonelements.  I also have two personal Twitter accounts: @oberon60657 for general, personal tweeting.  My husband and I enjoy cruising and try to do at least one sailing a year — despite the outrageous behaviors of many passengers.  I finally couldn’t take that behavior anymore and as an outlet started a separate handle just to tweet out the ridiculous things people say while shipboard.  If you want a laugh, follow me on @some1saidreally.

9 thoughts on “Week 4: Communication and PLN’s

  1. Carol Gutekanst April 29, 2017 / 6:16 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with your last paragraph, Doug. Gets me thinking about our students – do they have anything like twitter? Are kids tweeting? I think I’ve asked my students before but most of them said no. Informal learning for me is so enjoyable, probably would be for them too.
    Carol G.


    • Courtney April 29, 2017 / 10:57 pm

      Carol – I don’t know of any kids that are tweeting. I have teenage nephews, neither of which are on Twitter. They use SnapChat and Instagram, but don’t even have Facebook accounts. I think you are correct, they would probably learn a lot and create a larger network by using Twitter.


      • Nicole April 30, 2017 / 5:30 pm

        I can confirm this too! My 16 year old daughter is on SnapChat and Instagram and snubs Facebook for old people like me lol.


    • Doug van Dyke April 30, 2017 / 4:54 pm

      My nieces are on Twitter, Snapchat & Instagram. It’s so funny, Courtney, because they’re not on FB since that’s where us “old folks” hangout. My oldest niece only opened a FB account when she made her college choice because that’s how the university encouraged students to connect with their roommates. So she and her roommate made their initial info swap on FB then proceeded to actually communicate on the other 3 platforms. Whatever platform they’re on, though, I agree with you, Carol; how are they using it and how can they include learning behaviors among their purely social behaviors? How can we get them to see those interactions as a type of informal learning? Good stuff.


  2. Courtney April 29, 2017 / 10:55 pm

    I love that you participated in three chats! I was intimidated by the entire assignment and was so worried about making a fool of myself. You are so adept at diving right in and trying new things, it is such a benefit to you and will be to your students. I think it is great that on of of the chats, the moderator didn’t show up so the participants moderated it themselves – posting questions and gathering answers. This is the amazing thing about digital learning – anyone can be the moderator and anyone can be the student. It really frees us to direct and create our own learning community.


    • Doug van Dyke April 30, 2017 / 4:58 pm

      I’m totally with you, Courtney. It was cool that the moderator was a no-show (or appeared to be. Maybe she had her account locked like Karen did! 😉 ) But that anyone from the crowd could then start the conversation anyway? Just great. There’s some digital democracy and digital citizenship right there! Now that you have a chat or two under your belt, are you feeling any better about Twitter?


  3. Nicole April 30, 2017 / 5:34 pm

    I try to give everyone a chance to comment on each other’s posts before I jump in but then you all take the comments I want to make! Echoing Carol, YES to informal learning!! It’s amazing how much movement and opportunities happen informally. I also agree with Courtney. My first thought while reading your post was how awesome it was that you participated in multiple chats. Since they are all different being in a dud can turn someone off to chats before they give them a shot. Perhaps this is something I need to consider with this assignment- start it earlier and have it be the entire length of the course with multiple chats required. Hmmm.


  4. Karen May 1, 2017 / 5:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing with us how you had 3 difference experiences because of the different chats. Was there any reason other then exploring the activity that made you try out 3 chats? I like your idea of having a twitter for personal use and for professional use. I think that is probably why my twitter account was locked when I was in my chat, since it was my personal account. I also think that it is good to know that as the chats are happening, you don’t have to be an active participate during the chat, but could still use that chat as a reference/idea builder.


    • Doug van Dyke May 1, 2017 / 6:13 pm

      Hey Karen,
      I wanted to test it out ahead of time, as I wrote above. So I jumped on the chat Nicole mentioned in the week 3 materials. That experience made doing it in week 4 that much easier. Honestly, I wasn’t being an overachiever. The choice to do more was a combination of my believing I read somewhere in the week 4 materials that said we should participate in chats and the fact that there were multiple subjects in the Ed Chats on Twitter schedule that I found interesting. But if I’m being honest, the latter was the stronger motivator than the former. I’m glad you found some usefulness in my experience! ~DvD


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