Whoa. That’s all I’ve got to say. Just Whoa.
I tried twitter chat for the first time. I lurked on the #engsschat. For the Monday March 31, 2014, 7-8pm EST, chat, #engchat and #sschat got together to discuss interdisciplinary lessons: how to effectively mix language arts with social studies and social studies with language arts. I find it hard to react to my experience objectively, but I’ll try, at least for the first part.
I logged on to tweetchat and waited until 7pm. When I wasn’t finding anything, I went to Twitter and searched for the hashtag. I started reading the posts. I got lost in the posts. I gave up.
I saw a lot of different contributors posting various comments. I saw a lot of retweets and @somebodies and #engsschat. I saw a lot of people I didn’t know, but I knew the moderator; I was excited to see that one of my favorite young adult authors was the moderator (@halseanderson – needless to say, I started following her).
I read a lot of different things. I read RTs, As, Qs, original ideas and experiences, etc.
I heard nothing.
I was excited when 7pm came along. I wanted to see what a twitter chat was like. Then, at 7:05pm, I wanted nothing to do with it. I didn’t like the continuous and abundant flow of posts because I wanted to read them all. I didn’t like not knowing what who was who or who was talking about what. I didn’t like not understanding the language: the shortcuts, the abbreviations, the acronyms, etc, and I didn’t like not being able to fully participate for multiple reasons.
I had every intention of making at least one comment. After a few minutes, though, I realized that wasn’t going to happen for several reasons. 1) I couldn’t follow my own train of thought, let alone twenty different conversations following twenty more trains of thought. 2) I couldn’t find the questions after a while; the comments didn’t appear until there were several to see at one time. 3) I didn’t want to break twitter chat etiquette. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was supposed to have in my answer. I got lost in all the uses of the hashtag and the @ mentions. 4) The chat was also calling for real-life examples of how to mesh history and English together, and I didn’t have anything but pre-service experience to relate. 5) The 140 word limit kills me. As an English major, I protest. Overall, though, I realize that I’m a newbie to Twitter, and although I hate it, I have to go through the grace period of looking like a lost puppy. I attribute most of my discomfort and dislike of my twitter chat experience to that fact.
I think I also miss the element of play. I never thought of myself as unable to learn how to communicate with a form of technology. I like learning how to use these tools though play. That’s how I learned how to use and create PowerPoint presentations. That’s how I learned how to make a Prezi presentation. That’s how I learned how to use my tablet. When my mother asks for help with her devices, I always tell her to just play around with it. However, it’s more difficult to “play” around with social media. Facebook wasn’t a play-to-learn tool for me either. There’s not much to play with. The big draw is posting and that doesn’t take much creativity (at least not mechanical or technical creativity). Since I’m learning how to utilize twitter in a practice manner as a part of a course, it’s not as fun as choosing to use it and playing with it on my own.
This makes me wonder about my own classroom. I’ve already made it a point to honor curiosity in my classroom. After this experience, I think I need to add play to the list. In an English classroom it doesn’t seem like there is much room for either of those two elements, but even though I hate to say this, maybe twitter chats can help me incorporate these two elements in my classroom.
Even though I struggled with it, I doubt my students, at least those proficient with twitter, would. I could also make the chat more manageable. It could be our own chat that could be viewed by the public. This might help them engage more with each other and the material since they’ll be able to type their thoughts and react immediately to the class dialogue. Although my first experience was rather negative, I’m determined to not reject the tool outright. It might have some value in my future classroom. Next time I “participate” in a chat, I’ll accept my limitations as a first-time user and I’ll focus on the bits of conversation I can follow. I’ll pay attention to the content, not the confusion, and I’ll become more and more comfortable with using this tool.