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Barb's Bits and Bytes

Web 2.0 for learning and teaching - the continuing online adventures of a not-so-techie teacher

February 09, 2011

Twitter and ELT Chat: Professional development in 140 characters

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!

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Thanks for the post about ELTchat Barbara!

It is a great opportunity to link up with teachers from all over the world. I think one of the great things about the global nature of the chat is that it reminds us of our own unique teaching contexts. Through listening to the voices of teachers in other contexts we are forced to try to express why certain things are important here in Japan.

I have not quite mastered following at the speed at which the chat progresses - absorbing the information, forming an opinion, condensing it to fit twitter, replying and thanking others....but I will keep trying!

I look forward to meeting Barbara, Chuck and many more at #ELTchat every Wednesday. The many tendrils of information lead me to useful places on the net I would not have found alone.


Hi Barb

This is an excellent introduction to #ELTchat, I'll have to share this with my colleagues.

I only discovered #ELTchat myself last month, shortly after 'discovering' Twitter, and got hooked on it immediately. I've been describing it to my colleagues at work as 'PD on speed' as in these sessions I learn more than I would in a regular full-day PD session. Such a variety of ideas, resources and opinions are shared, who'd have thought it possible in 140 characters!

I can usually only manage the second session each week, which happens at a decent hour of the morning here in Australia, and I'd hate to miss it, whatever the topic. I always check the transcripts and summaries for all of them and have #ELTchat as a permanent column on my Tweetdeck to keep up with the latest.

I've encouraged all my teaching colleagues to join so hope to see some of them there soon.

Lesley (@cioccas)

I thoroughly recommend #eltchat although it can be a head-wrecking experience trying to keep up with it as the Tweets fly in. I just watch in awe, dumbstruck. Having said that, the transcript is great as is the podcast.

It was my first time today although I could catch last five minutes! But it was fun and informative! Great to hear people's ideas flying around! Definitely suggest it to teachers out there!


Hi Barb,

It's great that you're spreading the word about #eltchat. I really enjoy my Wednesday nights now! It's livened up my midweek and given me a valuable avenue to take part in discussions with like minded fellow professionals about a wide range of topics.

The summaries that are now being written have made it much more accessible and easy to follow.

#eltchat is a great way to develop your PLN and keep up to date with the latest ideas.

It's fast and furious and all a bit bewildering and frustrating in the beginning but keep at it and you will reap the rewards.

See you there Wednesdays at 12pm and 9pm GMT.


Hi Barbara
I find #eltchat invigorating. If I can, I try to attend both chats, although the new time for the early chat doesn't always suit. Anyway, I generally get home late and feeling exhausted, but always make sure I join in the late chat as it leaves me feeling hugely motivated & inspired. The transcript is great for revisiting the tweets that you've missed and the podcasts too are excellent. I've been joining in with #eltchat from the start and I've never felt that there's been a bad chat.ELTChat is a great opportunity for professional development and ideas sharing with people from many different areas of teaching.
Anyway, that's my two-pence worth.
Thanks Paul (bcnpaul1)

I used to take part in #edchat often and found it so interesting, though some topics seemed too focused on American standards etc. When members of the group created #eltchat I knew it was going to be fabulous. I try to join at least one chat most weeks, but the timing is not always ideal and I'm still waiting for a bell that will ring when it's ELTchat time. Even if I miss the chats sometimes I ALWAYS enjoy the transcripts and learn so much from all of you. This is the best ELT staffroom I've ever been in. A huge thank you to all of the moderators.

ELTChat has been an excellent tool... Yes, a tool. Lots of teachers sharing information about a specific topic is a way to improve our teaching skills and strategies!!


@Joanne I think you're keeping up just fine, and always appreciate your contributions. You know, after yesterday's chat, I received several messages from students wanting to join#eltstudentchat! I think you and Chuck may have a hit on your hands!

@Lesley Thanks for the kind words--Please do link to this post if you think it will be helpful! The more teachers we get on Twitter, the better tool it becomes for all of us!

@Patrick When you DO speak up, it's always worth listening! While I actively participate in #ELTChat, I passively follow several others. I enjoy them even if I don't share, and I find the greatest value in those that have transcripts for later!

@oz Thank you SO much for joining this week! I'm glad you enjoyed the time you shared with us, and I look forward to seeing you on future chats (and your friends, too!)

@Leahn I find myself looking forward to Wednesdays more, too! I know I'll have an invigorating hour with good friends--feels almost like a mini-spa for teachers :-)

@Paul I'm sorry the earlier time doesn't work well for you--the later time doesn't work well for me, either. Makes me really appreciate those transcripts and summaries!

@Tara I know that the feeling you mention is one of the main reasons teachers felt moved to start ELTChat. With so many techie types online, I'm sure someone can create an app to remind us about ELTChat--actually, I bet there is one, somewhere!

@Juan I agree with you--ELT Chat is a great tool. With the wonderful summaries I can go back to find main points for each discussion, and if I have a question, I can go back to the transcript and see who said what, and follow up. I love it!

Hi Barbara,

I was looking for the transcript of the ELT Chat on Pronunciation on 2/2/2011, but could not find it. Any ideas where it is?

Thanks if you can help.

Hi Barb!

It's great you´re spreading the word about this great opportunity for teachers to exchange ideas. I'd like to join the chat more often but sometimes I can't and as you've said, I can read the archived files and benefit from the topics discussed. The discussions are inspirational and motivational.
I'm @Mtranslator.
Regards from Argentina!

@Aniko I think there were a couple of chats where the moderators were unable to capture the transcript afterward. Pronunciation may have been one of the chats affected, because I can't find it either. Hopefully, if someone else knows something about it (and where it might be) they'll add the information in comments here.

@Marisa Thank you for your kind words, Marisa. I hope you'll keep suggesting your topic (getting shyer students to speak up in class) until we have a chance to discuss it! I voted for it last time, and think it would be an interesting conversation :-)

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