Ever since I began participating in Twitter chats for educators, I have been dreaming of the day when I could organize a chat just for the George School community. Tonight that dream came true, and even though participation was so-so, I can see the path to making this a monthly event with many more participants.
I cobbled this first chat together in a big hurry. Although I spoke to a few key administrators weeks ago to float the idea, I didn’t get to work planning in earnest until this past weekend. I invited three students to help me moderate, and to my great relief they all said yes. I planned seven questions for us to pose during the chat, and that part went off without a hitch. Where I really fell short was in advertising the event. I didn’t put up signs or make posters. I just announced the event on our intranet the morning of. I wanted to make it happen on Digital Learning Day, so I forced the issue a little bit. And, ironically, DLDay turned out to coincide with an ice storm, so there were power outages and our network was down for a while this morning. Next time, if I plan ahead and really advertise, I’m guessing that I can drum up more students to participate.
What was deeply rewarding was the presence of several of my colleagues who stayed for the full hour. I’ve been trying to sell the value of the “connected educator” movement to my colleagues, so they got a little taste of the Twitter chat format tonight. It was kind of a training wheels event, but once you master the interface, you can take those skills anywhere. If they and the student moderators help me evangelize for the next one, we could increase turn out significantly. And my colleagues were their brilliant selves: quick witted, funny, caring. Anyone who thinks that the 140 character format is too stifling needs to jump on a chat.
I tweeted at alums and members of the GS board of trustees in the hours leading up to the chat in hopes of enticing their participation. I didn’t get any takers, but alum/former admin Ari Betof jumped in, generously giving us some of his time. My ideal vision for these chats would be to involve all of the consituency groups: students, alums, faculty, staff, admins, parents, past parents, and board members. The experiences of parents of our international students came up during the chat. This could be a great way to make them feel a part of the action (although it’s the middle of the night in Asia).
In summary, the event was a success. I didn’t get called away to deal with a deans’ office emergency, the student moderators were flawless, and the other students who participated were polite even in the instances where they were mildly critical of the school. I feel like I helped the school take a small step forward in the social media innovation area, and maybe lit a spark that could grow into a flame. Excuse the worn-out cliche; its weariness matches that of it’s author.