I met a lot of cool people at ISTE 2015, but few educators as decidedly weird as Doug Robertson. Doug is an elementary school teacher, author of the widely acclaimed He’s the Weird Teacher and THE Teaching Text (You’re Welcome), founder of the weekly #WeirdEd twitter chat, and editor of the CUE Blog. So he’s a very busy dude, but he took some time to chat with me and share his insight into the wild world of education.
My favourite thing about Doug’s oeuvre is his twitter chats, so I spent most of our time together picking his brain about what makes a chat great. Doug’s chats stand out among the hundreds of edchats on twitter because he and his people are genuinely funny, friendly, and smart. He has built a community of dedicated professionals who support each other and feel comfortable being themselves. How, though?
I’ve distilled our conversation into a few key tips to help twitter chat moderators create a great chat environment. And then, because this is Twitter we’re talking about, I made an infographic.
1. Keep it real
Connect chats with pop culture and life outside of teaching. This week’s #WeirdEd chat topic was Mean Girls.
2. Keep it fun
Use jokes and metaphors to talk about serious issues in a fun way. For example, Doug has used narwhals as a metaphor for unique students.
3. Be a person, not just a teacher
Chat participants want to connect on a human level.
4. Guide, don’t lead
Remember that chats will occasionally progress in ways that you didn’t intend, and that’s okay.
5. Talk about the kids, not the tool
According to Doug, too many edchats center around how great Twitter is. This defeats the purpose of the chat, because you’re preaching to the converted.
6. Seize opportunities to meet IRL
Doug’s #WeirdEd tribe met up numerous times at ISTE, giving people the opportunity to form deeper connections.
7. Don’t try to sell anything
People can always tell when you have ulterior motives.
8. Build a community
As familiar faces start to emerge from week to week, encourage them to take on a larger role in the discussion.
9. Create a culture of respect
Emphasize the importance of constructive discourse. Don’t tolerate any hate speech or persecution.
Doug is one of many teachers who are harnessing the power of Twitter chats in ways that are truly unique to their profession. Corporate trainers and HR professionals could learn a lot by mirroring edchats when discussing and developing their own lifelong learning initiatives. Let’s build a community of our own!
If you find any great Twitter chats we should check out, please loop us in by mentioning @lrnogrphy.
By Kate Salmon
Kate Salmon (@CSCKate) is a Communications Specialist and general word nerd from Ottawa, Ontario. With a BA in Rhetoric and Professional Writing from the University of Waterloo, she continues her learning journey at Learnography with a great team of former educators who are dedicated to creating transformative learning experiences. She lives in Toronto with her very fat cat.