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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, Peter DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. Former superintendent Michael Nelson is a frequent contributor. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Why #Satchat Is a Mind-Blowing Experience!

By Peter DeWitt — November 10, 2013 5 min read
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#Satchat topics are engaging but they are only the catalyst for the conversation between educators. The participants are the most important part of the chat sessions.

Do you have a computer, smartphone or tablet?

Do you use it for e-mail and Facebook?

What about Twitter?

First and foremost, if you are an educator you should be on Twitter. The social networking giant (I don’t own stock in it) is one of the greatest resources for educators. It has the potential to help create a Professional Learning Network (PLN) with other educators from across the country or around the world. That PLN provides access to blogs, websites, articles, educational research, leadership advice and educational practices unlike any other social networking site. It will blow your mind!

And one of the most mind-blowing aspects to Twitter are the chats that take place on it. One of those mind-blowing chat sessions is #satchat. I’m a huge fan of the chat session.

#Satchat was founded by Brad Currie and Scott Rocco, and began in April, 2012. Both Scott and Brad are school leaders in New Jersey and they often bring in a guest moderator to mix it up a bit. It’s kind of like when bloggers bring in a guest blogger to freshen up the conversation! #satchat takes place on Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. Eastern time, and again at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time as well.

I get that some people hate technology, and believe that Twitter is all about celebrities...but educators are taking over the social networking site! Ok...they’re not taking it over but they are certainly becoming a force on it. It is pretty awesome to see so many teachers, staff, parents, students and school leaders embracing technology and social networking.

We all know that technology and social networking have their issues. Some of those issues are:

  • Equity - Not everyone has a computer! Read this Huffington Post article about how technology has transformed the world’s poor, and that there is more equity than you may think.
  • Access - the networking goes down! It’s too hard to use technology because everything is lost when the internet goes down.
  • Bandwidth - Who has to shut down their computer so others can get on! It’s kind of like hearing Star Trek’s Scotty yell, “Captain. We just don’t have the power!”
  • Disconnecting - We have access to smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. Some of us check our e-mail too much and let work take over our lives.
  • Authentic experiences - Can you really create personal relationships with people you don’t know? Yes! You really can BUT you get out of it...what you put into it, which is much like any relationship.

Why #Satchat Works

Most of us work hard all week and we run from class to class or meeting to meeting. After dinner most of us are so tapped out from the day that we turn on the television for some mindless entertainment. It’s hard to think about education after working all day...where we talk about education. Brad and Scott had the brilliant idea to hold #Satchat on Saturday mornings when so many educators are feeling a bit more rested.

For full disclosure...I’m old...or at least I feel old and tired on a Friday night. I’m in bed early, which means I usually get up early. The days of waking up at 11 a.m. are way behind me now, which is perfect for a Saturday morning. After grabbing a cup of coffee I open up Tweetdeck and follow the chat session on #satchat. I created one column (see image below) for the chat and one column to follow the moderators so I can keep track of the questions being asked.

The discussion on #satchat moves quickly and it feels like trying to take a drink of water from a fire hydrant. However, with the right format (like Tweetdeck!) it makes it a bit easier to follow, and participate, in the chat session. During the conversation participants can see how others answer the #Satchat questions (there are about 6 of them in one hour), what the questions are, and who is responding to any Tweets they add to the discussion.

Sessions range from school leadership, the role of technology, the best apps in the classroom, homework, dealing with tragedy, reflecting on our first year of teaching to everything in between. #Satchat topics are engaging but they are only the catalyst for the conversation between educators. The participants are the most important part of the chat sessions.

If an educator misses the chat at 7:30 a.m. on the East Coast they can catch the 7:30 a.m. West Coast (10:30 EST) for the same discussion. If they miss both discussions, Brad uses Storify to archive the discussion on his website. Go to Brad’s website to see archives of all of the Saturday chat sessions.

In the End

There are so many opinions about the role technology plays in the lives of our students. In addition, there are numerous debates about professional development for staff and school leaders, and part of that debate centers around whether they should look for it themselves or whether it needs to come from their school building or district. The reality is that professional development can come in any form that is going to help a teacher, student or school leader grow.

Twitter, and more importantly, chat sessions like #satchat, have helped bring together a community of educators from all around the world. On any given Saturday morning there are educators from around the country and around the world talking about education and sharing resources. If we are fortunate, and I have been one of the fortunate ones, we actually get to meet up with these people from our PLN’s in person which only helps make the relationship stronger.

Times are tough for most of us, and having a great conversation and establishing a PLN can help set us on a positive course. If you ever have a Saturday morning where you are looking to talk about education with some great educators, get yourself a Twitter account and use the hashtag #satchat. I swear that you will be on your way to some serious educational inspiration. It’s just that good!

Connect with Peter on Twitter.

If you need to learn more about #satchat, great chats like #edchat or other great chats that take place on Twitter, please check out Jerry Cybraryman’s resource page. It’s one of the best out there to explain the chats.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.