Saturday, February 8, 2014

Our First All-School Twitter Chat

....was this week! It was an idea that was hatched just a couple of weeks ago, and due to the enthusiasm of our principal, our staff, and our students, it happened, it was great, and it'll happen again soon.

A few facts about us that I hope WON'T make you say "Oh well, that's fine for you but it won't work for us" and then move on:
  • We're online synchronous classroom teachers. Our students are in brick and mortar schools all day but when it's time for Math, Science, Physics, or Chemistry, they get online with us. They are from all over Quebec, many in remote areas. We're all pretty used to interacting live online, in fact, we pretty much crave it due to the lack of f2f time.
  • By "all-school", I mean all of the teachers, all of the students, and our principal.
  • 3/5 of the teachers already use Twitter with their students, so most of them already had accounts and were comfortable using it, although the chat was a first for almost everyone.
  • At the beginning of each year, we get permission from our parents for our kids to be online in many sites - google drive, twitter, blogs, geogebratube....and the list just keeps growing every year. So that part was already taken care of.
Still here? Great!
Why we wanted to do this:

Cohesion. We're scattered all over the place, admin, teachers and students alike. This would be an opportunity to feel like we all belong to something, a school, an organizations, a community. It's something that you take for granted in the brick and mortar school. We also thought it would be great for the kids to meet other online students - they typically only know those in their own class.

How it all unfolded:

Our first staff meeting after the idea was hatched was all about brainstorming for the chat. When to do it, duration, number of questions, how to engage the kids, what to talk about, the hashtag, guidelines for participants. (Our principal, Dianne Conrod, flips the weekly staff meetings so that we can spend our time doing just this kind of thing.) (Take THAT anti-flippers.) We used a googledoc to put our ideas down.

Selling the idea

The teachers agreed to talk it up in class, and Peggy made and tweeted this powtoon:

Peggy's kids were ready to go on day one, for she and her students are the ├╝ber-tweeters! Mine and Kerry's, were, for the most part, intrigued but not jumping-up-and-down excited.

Format:

We settled on a half-hour chat, with 5 questions. The guidelines would be given during class but reinforced at the beginning of the chat:
  • Be honest but respectful in your answers.
  • Use #lqchat
  • Follow the Q1-A1 format
  • Have fun!
Training:

Kerry put together instructions for the kids on how to use tweetchat. I thought to myself "Why the heck have I never used tweetchat?" for it is SO much easier than trying to keep up with a chat on twitter. We all spent a little time going over that in class the day of the chat, and also how to follow the Q1-A1 format so people can keep track of the many threads that typically develop during a chat.

Questions

We decided first and foremost to make it about the students, not about math or science. For one thing, not all of them are taking the same course, but mostly we wanted it to be a social activity.

We settled on these questions:

Q1 What is your favourite Valentine's treat?
Q2: What are the pros/cons of online classes?
Q3: What is the number one piece of advice you would give next year's new Learn students?
Q4: What is the one thing about online learning that has surprised you?
Q5: What topics would you suggest for future Twitter chats?

So what happened?

Just before it was time, twitter was alight with #lqchat. Kids were testing out tweetchat, and saying hello:






Then it was go time! I moderated the chat - a first for me!


The stream was incredibly fast and the kids were clearly having a good time. A few memorable tweets:


We didn't trend but we did have about 700 tweets by my estimate. And by estimate I mean I counted them just now. The participation rate was 35%, not bad! The half hour zoomed by, and I even had to think up another question on the spot -


For the full chat, here's the link to the tweetchat room, and here are the storifies that Peggy made, one for each question:

Prechat warmup
Q1:  What is your favourite Valentine's Day treat?
Q2: What are the pros/cons of online learning?
Q3: What is the number one piece of advice you would give next years’ new LEARN students?
Q4: What is one thing about online learning that has surprised you?
Q5: Do your friends who are not in online classes have a hard time understanding what it's like?
Q6: Do you have any suggestions for future chat toics?

Student feedback: I'll let the tweets do the talking:

And next day, in class, we talked more about it. Some feedback:
It was great to be able to go beyond our subjects, and get to know each other as people rather than classmates.
I loved meeting/tweeting with other students that I didn't even know existed! 
We're hoping that the kids will sell it for us now. AND maybe next time, we'll include the administrators from their schools, parents, former students - who knows? The twittersphere's the limit!

4 comments:

  1. Audrey--your words describe the half hour so well! I must add --for your readers to know-it was your vision that made this happen! Great idea that I know will grow! Thank you for making this happen!

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    1. Thank YOU Peggy for your usual enthusiasm, and for bringing your students who obviously adore you and share your love of twitter!

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  2. Audrey - you did an outstanding job summarizing what was an exhilarating 30 minutes with our students! I am glad that Peggy highlighted that this was your vision and I suspect that the reality exceeded your expectations! So fun and the answers to questions #2-4 provide information directly from the students that is useful for us to have moving forward. What a night! What a team! #bestonlinestudentsever

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    1. Dianne, as far as the chat exceeding my expectations goes, I have to say yes and no. I knew from the outset that it was going to be fun, based on my own experience with chats. But you never know how things will turn out, so yes, it was pretty awesome to hear how much the kids liked it. I keep hearing from other teachers who can only dream of doing this kind of thing, so thank you for your unflinching support and wisdom. I'm going to rewrite that song and call it "I'm spoiled and I know it."

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