February 09, 2011
February 09, 2011
In the hierarchy of free online tools for professional development, Twitter is one of the best and easiest ways for not-so-techie teachers to connect with other teachers around the globe. If you can send a text message, you can tweet.
I'll talk more about Twitter in later columns, but today I want to talk about ELT Chat because it's an excellent example of ELT teachers harnessing the power of social media for professional development, and because teachers can benefit from the chats whether or not they have a Twitter account.
The first ELT Chat was held in September of 2010 and since then over 31,000 tweets (messages of 140 characters or less) have been shared using the #ELTChat hashtag. Hashtags are what allow people to follow discussions or conversations on twitter. You can read more about the creation of ELT Chat on Marisa Constantidides - TEFL Matters . Marisa (@Marisa_C on Twitter) is one of many teachers who volunteer time to organize and moderate the chats.
Each week, teachers suggest and then vote on topics to be discussed. The number one choice becomes the discussion topic for the first chat (Wednesday 12 noon GMT / 9 pm in Japan) and the second choice becomes the topic for the later chat (Wednesday 9 pm GMT / Thursday 6 am in Japan).
If you're already on Twitter, you can set up a column in a Twitter application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so that all Tweets with the tag #ELTChat show up together. Here's what mine looks like on Tweetdeck:
During the hour dedicated to each chat, this column gets very, very active as teachers around the world weigh in on the discussion topic. You don't have to contribute to the discussion in order to enjoy participating--it's fun just to follow along. If you aren't on Twitter, you can still "listen in" on the discussion by visiting the ELTChat Room at Tweet Chat. The page updates regularly with all tweets tagged with #ELTChat, so between discussions this is a good way to see what kind of links and resources ELT teachers on Twitter think other ELT teachers will be interested in.
While I enjoy sharing ideas with other teachers during the chats, I believe that ELT Chat's greatest value is in the way the discussions are archived. The live chats happen quite quickly, and there's little time to enjoy the links that are shared during the discussion. And while I am sometimes awake at 6 am for the second chat, I'm rarely coherent enough to participate in anything more demanding than drinking coffee and checking email.
Luckily, transcripts of the chats are preserved on the ELT Chat website, and (even more luckily) volunteers summarize the main points and links. The ELT Chat site is becoming a rich information resource for each of the topics that has been discussed. It's pretty amazing to look at the summary for a discussion and remember that all of that was done in messages of 140 characters or less!
I've joined the moderator team for the first (9 pm in Japan) chat, and my Twitter buddy Chuck Sandy is almost always there as well. We're @barbsaka and @chucksandy on Twitter. If you've participated in an ELT Chat, please add your thoughts (and Twitter ID) in the comments.
I hope you'll join us on Wednesday nights to see how ELT teachers are leveraging social media for professional development!