What the %$*! is #Edchat?

August 6th, 2014 | by Michelle Manno
What the %$*! is #Edchat?

The following article is a guest post by Stephanie Echeveste

Teaching AbroadSix years ago I was teaching English on the northern coast of Spain. I taught classes in every age group, at various levels — from fluent 6-year-olds to struggling 25-year-olds to conversational 70-year-olds. It was hard, intense and complicated. Every day I showed up enthusiastic and left drained, but I knew I was helping my students become more advanced in their English skills.

Lesson planning alone took hours and each lesson had to be tailored to my various classes. I spent a lot of time on the internet, finding original sources, including newspaper articles and popular songs, to create the most interesting, hands-on learning experience for my students. I loved trying out my lessons to see what worked, what didn’t work and what needed to be revised on the spot.

I was part of a larger group of post-college students teaching English in Spain. We were technically teaching assistants, but we were often thrown in classes on our own left to our own devices. Some of us, like myself, found it liberating and fun, others found it frustrating and pointless. Either way, we could create whatever kind of learning experience we wanted, for better or worse.

My ‘PLN’ consisted of the other American teachers living in Bilbao and teaching English. We met in person and used email and Skype to communicate. We mostly swapped horror stories, with some occasional musings about our teaching methods. We talked about how hard teaching is (this is obvious now, many of us had zero teacher training), even though we had absolutely none of the added test-score and administrative oversight that American school teachers had and still face today.

That year I had a small taste of the pressures of being a teacher. I found out that in order to be a successful and effective teacher, I needed actual training, a strong network and freedom to constantly try new things. I decided not to pursue teaching when I came back to the U.S., aside from a few short-term sessions and volunteering, and I now have a greater respect for what teachers do everyday.

#edchatFast forward to today. I once again work in the education space, but this time for USC Rossier’s online programs as the community manager. Six months ago, when I started this position, my colleague Sarah Fudin told me I should do something called #Edchat. I thought, what the #$*? is Edchat? I had no idea there was such a thing. Teachers tweeting? What? I was fascinated.

Sarah had me sit with her and experience #Edchat. We pulled up her TweetDeck and she explained how it works. Everyone votes on a topic. On the day of #Edchat (Tuesdays at 12pm ET and 7pm ET) the moderators share the topic–first place vote goes to main chat at 7pm ET, second place goes to the noon chat. The moderator shares the topic and everyone comments on it, just like any other twitter chat. What’s interesting is that it’s real teachers, real educators, sometimes even students, sharing what has actually worked and failed in their classrooms, schools and districts. It was a fast-paced head-first jump into the current state of education.

@USCTeacher has been participating in #Edchat for a few years now, and Sarah suggested I continue being involved as she had learned so much from the community. At first I was terrified — what would this group of educated educators think of one of my tweets? What if I didn’t sound smart enough — I am representing a university! What if people thought I was trying to sell something, would they be annoyed? Little by little I got more comfortable in the space and was always welcomed with open arms. No one freaks out if you accidentally miss a letter or forget to punctuated (not that I don’t do my best to be grammatically correct!). It’s a space for learning and sharing, not judging and finger pointing.

On #Edchat, I’ve been able to share USC Rossier’s values of education and teaching through candid comments and questions to each week’s topic. I’ve been able to establish relationships with educators both in and outside of the classroom and hear their stories. I’ve found an infinite amount of helpful blog posts, success stories and real-world tales from teachers themselves and find myself more and more fascinated by the disconnect between the popular press and what these connected educators are actually doing with their students, staff and school districts.

I wish #Edchat was around when I was teaching English in Spain (it started just as I was ending my year there). It’s an hour of your life that you get to spend with other people that are committed to true learning and sharing knowledge so that all students have access to a great education. They may not face the same exact constraints you face or the same community of students or administrators, but the #Edchat community will give you a new perspective that will help open your mind, something every educator should want to do one a regular basis.

What happens on #Edchat should not stay on #Edchat. While every chat is tirelessly archived, it’s hard to see the true impact of teacher connectedness through #Edchat and other education Twitter chats through individual tweets. In an effort to take a deeper dive in what educators involved in twitter chats are concerned about, their successes and areas where they may need more support, we at USC Rossier Online are running an #Edchat survey.

The survey takes less than 10 minutes and covers #Edchat and other education Twitter chats, Technology and the classroom, Professional Development and Social Media. Whether you’ve been involved in an education Twitter chat for years or have no idea what #Edchat is, your participation in the #Edchat survey will help us learn more about this community. No twitter experience is necessary.

#Edchat survey

And if you’ve never tried #Edchat, but want to learn more, check out this Essential #Edchat Resource Guide. It includes links to articles by the creators of #Edchat and other thought leaders in the education blogger world. If you’re a seasoned #Edchater, it’s a great one-stop-shop for everything you know and love about #Edchat.

For more information about the impact that #Edchat is having on education, check out our article #Edchat: How Twitter and Social Media are Changing Education Reform, written by Teach.com’s Michelle Manno

Stephanie Echeveste works in community relations for the University of Southern California Rossier School of Education’s MAT online and Masters of Education Programs. She has taught English on the northern coast of Spain and created crazy clothes for Betabrand.com. In her free time, Stephanie likes to blog, eat black sesame ice cream and explore new cities. She participates on #edchat every Tuesday at 12pm ET as @USCTeacher.

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