We wrote this as a lead up to our Presenting at FETC in 2016, but the tips are all still applicable:
Twitter is a fantastic place for educators to connect! Over the last few years, a thriving community of educators has evolved on Twitter. These educators support each other, offer advice and ideas, challenge each other’s thinking. During the course of writing this, Kendra asked her PLN why they use Twitter at conferences and we got these responses (image on right):
School and district budgets are shrinking, and educators are finding it harder to receive funding and support to attend conferences. Similarly, school districts struggle with funding professional development opportunities that are interesting and applicable to all teachers. Building relationships on twitter allows users to connect with conference speakers, attendees, and other interested educators from anywhere in the world. No longer are experts and authors out of reach. Students and teachers can pose their questions to these experts and often receive immediate feedback and answers!
We found ourselves in this same dilemma – our district stopped funding conference registration fees and other opportunities for professional growth. As Tech Coaches, a necessity of our job is learning and trying new technology that we can bring back to our school. We both needed to connect and grow professionally. We turned to Twitter, and we haven’t looked back!
Although we worked for the same school district, we infrequently saw one another (as singleton coaches in different buildings). Twitter gave us a different (and engaging) platform to share our experiences and connect in different ways. For us, we were part of one another’s PLN both online and in real life. We have built friendships and professional relationships with educators around the world. This network supports, challenges and encourages us!
Using Twitter at conferences is very exciting for both of us. We had been using Google Docs to take collaborative notes (which we still do sometimes), but we started using Twitter to take notes on sessions because the 140 character limit forces you to really internalize what you’re hearing and understand the context. Not only are we able to understand at a deeper level, but we can connect with other interested people (at the conference and beyond) in real-time, which leads to richer learning and deeper connections. Miss something? Have a question about something you heard? Twitter is the perfect place for clarification- whether it’s from another participant, the session leader or a national expert doing the keynote- you’ll usually always get a response. As long as you’re using the conference hashtag, you will probably discover other people that you don’t know jumping in and adding to the discussion.
Connecting with others at a conference who respond to your tweets is a great way to build your PLN, so don’t forget to follow people! This can be a great reflective evening activity after a long day of learning. Scroll through the tweets that use the conference hashtag, reflect on your learning, what others are saying, and follow people that both inspire you and challenge your thinking.
When you’re getting started with Twitter at conferences, step one is using the hashtag for the conference and following the conference on Twitter – for FETC follow the hashtag #FETC and follow @fetc. Using and following the conference hashtag will keep you updated with what’s going on and (most importantly) connect you with other people at the conference. Most conference presenters (and keynote speakers) will readily share their Twitter handle with you, which is often an invaluable connection once you’re back home and trying all the innovative things you learned. When you hit a roadblock or need some ideas, that person is typically very willing to help you (and share their resources)!
The tweets that you (and other participants) share become your conference notes. So, not only do you (and your colleagues) benefit from your insights and impressions of the conference, but you can learn from what other people learned and saw (in other sessions, from different points of view, etc). We especially like that they aren’t jotted down on the back of the conference map, which is obviously just itching to get lost or crumpled up in the bottom of your swag bag. You can search through the tweets, identify specific keywords, and even use tools like IFTTT to move the tweets into documents to read and work with later.
If you’re like many people, you might be new to tweeting when you get to the conference. It’s not often that educators have the time to devote to learning, processing, and connecting for large blocks of time. Take advantage of it! Often, the best first tweet is a photo – so tweet that photo of your badge, share one of a conference banner or of the refreshments table! Just don’t forget to use that hashtag! There’s a lot of craft that typically goes into tweeting, but when you’re in fast-paced sessions, you can miss a lot by attempting to write the ‘perfect tweet’. Instead, get your point across, and be authentic. You want to connect with like-minded people and enhance your learning (and share with others!). Be true to who you are and your experience at the conference.
You’re fortunate to be attending #FETC. We know so many educators that would love to go, but it didn’t work out. Lucky for them…you’re there! One of the best things about Twitter is that you can share your experience with the people who couldn’t make it. We have followed the hashtags for many conferences that we couldn’t get to, and those “unparticipants” often end up adding to the conversation and learning! This can be a great way for you to share the information from sessions you choose, as well as connect with those motivated educators!
In the days and weeks leading up to FETC, start checking out the conference hashtag. It’s one of our favorite ways to select which sessions we’ll attend. If presenters are motivated enough to share what they’re doing before the conference, chances are their sessions will be worth your time. Sadly, we won’t be at FETC this year (we’re both looking into #ISTE for this year), but we’ll definitely be part of the FETC conversation on Twitter- connect with us at @techinteaching & @techy_margaret!