Tweet Chats – My Favorite New Informal Learning Technology

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Ironic that until about a year ago i was the first person to say, “I don’t get Twitter.  Why do people use it?”  I would dismissively spout.

Well not only have I been converted over to the Twittersphere, but I now consider several Tweet Chats (or Twitter Chats) to be major components in my Personal Learning System (PLN).

What’s a Tweet Chat?

A Tweet Chat happens when like minded people log into Twitter and conduct a discussion about a shared interest by logging onto Twitter at a designated time and make comments using a specific hashtag (ie, #lrnchat or #365social) to mark each of their Tweets related to the Tweet Chat.

Typically, Tweet Chats have a leader or leaders who decide on a topic for each chat.  Some will do this collaboratively with their Tweet Chat community.  Others will pick the topic on their own.  The leader posts a series of questions (Q1, Q2, Q3…) to spur the discussion amongst the participants who usually will mark their answers A1, A2, A3…).  At that point, participants can reply, retweet, and like the posts

Some Tweet chats try to follow thematic threads over multiple chats.  Many have a home web page where there will publish pre-reading on the next chat’s topic, post transcripts of their chats and archive other related ideas.

It is possible to use the standard to participate in a Tweet Chat, but most people opt for tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or TweetChat because of how they can organize a hashtag into a channel.  This eliminates all of the other tweets happening in your main Twitter feed.

So, that’s the technical explanation of Tweet Chats, but why do like them so much?

I currently try to follow four chats (recently my calendar has gotten in the way too many times:

  • #lrnchat – focused on social media and learning (THU 7:30pm CST)
  • #pkmchat – focused on personal learning management (PKM) (WED 1pm CST)
  • #bersinchat – focused on various topics in learning and development run by the staff of Bersin by Deloitte (3rd TUE of each month 3:00pm CST)
  • #guildchat – focused on various topics in Learning and Development.  Run by the staff of eLearning Guild. (FRI 1:00pm CST)

Real and Raw – In a Tweet Chat, you don’t have time to formulate your perfect answers to each question. You have 140 words to say what your opinion is.  The result tends to be raw, I think more honest reflection on what you tink of the topic.  You can’t use convoluted devices to hedge what you are saying.  Heck, half the time I’m not using punctuation to give a few more characters for my message!

What do I Really Think? – Over a series of thought-provoking questions, responding and then reading and responding to what others have to say, I have often realized that what I actually think about a topic is not what my first reaction is when I have more time.  An decision making tweetexample on #lrnchat recently we were discussing Decision Making.  As we worked through the questions I realized that there are a number of practices that are so ingrained in how I operate that I’m often on autopilot and don’t realize I’m doing them.  (could be good, could be bad)

Serendipitous Learning – The ultimate in informal learning, note to self tweet chainTweet Chats are rife with Serendipitous Learning.  A great example (shown on the right) comes from #pkmchat when Bruno Winck, Michelle Ockers and I (with a bit of kibitzing from Simon Fogg) concocted using the hashtag #NoteToSelf (or a variation of it) to note tweets that we want to remember.  Then we thought of using a tool like IFTTT (If This Then That) to watch for the hashtag in our individual tweet streams, grab the tweet and file it in a Google Sheets spreadsheet.  I LOVE this solution.  I believe both Michelle and Bruno are using it as well.

Great Networking – Globally – Tweet Chats no no bounds.  This same chat shows how International Tweet chats can be. Michelle in Australia, Bruno is most often in France, Simon is in the UK, and I’m in the US.  Conversations carry on after Tweet Chats.  I’ve bumped into Simon on other Tweet Chats and in a recent MOOC – making those experiences feel a bit more comfortable because I knew someone else.

Bigger isn’t Necessarily Better – Both on #pkmchat and #bersinchat, I’ve participated when there were only 3-4 of us in the chat and they were amazing.  For me at least, Tweet Chats can be very intimate as you share ideas and react to each other.   Sometimes that’s easier with fewer people.  On the other hand, large chats (say 20+ people can be dizzying as you try to keep up over the hour.

Finally,  Dive in, The Water is Fine! – Tweet Chats aren’t complex.  They take a bit to get used to them, but they really do become fun. I haven’t run into a chat yet were newbies aren’t welcomed with open arms. I’m going to explore a few new chats as well.  Considering #ldnights, #ldinsights, #socialnow, and #wol.


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