Yesterday I participated in an educational chat on Twitter that's dedicated to the collaboration of elementary school educators.  It uses the hashtag #elemchat and participants meet every Saturday at 4pm (Canadian) Central Standard Time to discuss a topic that #elemchat users have voted on.  
This week's  discussion topic was one that I was particularly interested in - Extending Learning Into Summer - because I am going to be the educator of the summer program at the daycare I work at.  So, I figured this chat would be a perfect opportunity for me to ask questions and get some programming ideas.

Before the chat began, I installed Tweetdeck to my Twitter account so that I could organize my feeds into columns, and have one column dedicated to #elemchat.  I searched for videos on Youtube of how to use Tweetdeck and I came across a video for a site called Tweetchat that lets you enter a hashtag and focus on one specific chat.  I found Tweetchat was better than Tweetdeck for me because it made the screen one big #elemchat chatroom, so each post was much easier to read.   

When the chat finally got going I was overwhelmed at the volume of tweets that were coming in - even though I had Tweetchat I found it very hard to keep up with what everyone was saying.  But then, I remembered what Dean Shareski had said about learning to filter posts on the internet and I began to look for keywords that interested me.  Lots of the posts were very similar in nature and in their wording so, by quickly scanning over them, I was able to skip to new ideas.  

A great deal of the posts were about how teachers could motivate parents to continue their child's learning over summer to prevent their child from losing the skills they had learned during the school year.  Some of the tweets were difficult for me to relate to because I have not had to worry about student learning outcomes and test scores yet, but some of them had links to websites that had great summer activity ideas (and I retweeted those ones and/or credited the original tweeter for posting a great resource by using the @ symbol and then their name.)  Tania Ash, a fifth grade teacher from Morocco, was the facilitator of the chat and she posed ten questions to us; one of the questions that got the most response(s) was: "How can we foster an eagerness to learn that extends beyond the time and space of classroom walls?"  A lot of the participants tweeted about how summer can offer more natural learning experiences and can allow students to pursue more of their personal interests at their own pace, so I paraphrased those tweets by saying "One of the main messages I am getting from this #elemchat discussion is that summer gives you the (much needed) time for learning."  I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of people who retweeted that - it made me feel included and that I had contributed something meaningful to the chat.  I started following a lot of people associated with #elemchat and I, also, now have some followers from #elemchat, which, again, makes me feel like I'm part of the group.  

One (technology) tool that came up very often in the discussion was Edmodo, which I now know is a social networking site that allows teachers to connect and collaborate with their students and other teachers.  It's an online way for teachers to assign homework and post grades, notices, and schedules.  Lots of the participants in the #elemchat were discussing how they could use Edmodo over the summer to keep in touch with parents and students, to suggest activities to do at home, and to, possibly, arrange class meeting times to maintain the relationships they had built over the school year.  Do you have any experience with Edmodo?  If so, I'd like to know your thoughts on it (pros, cons, other).  If not, though, here's a quick video to give you an overview of Edmodo:
In summary, I really enjoyed participating in the #elemchat yesterday.  I, practically, have my whole summer program planned now and I have made some great connections through this experience.  I will, definitely, participate again next Saturday.  If you would like to, too, then here's the link to the #elemchat wiki again where you can go and vote for the discussion topic :)
5/20/2012 02:57:23 pm

I checked out the link Dean posted too late and missed the chat. I chose a good one for tonight but apparently need a refreshed on the time zones and totally missed it. People were still chatting though when I got there so I was able to ask some questions and post some comments. Such a neat experience!


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