Twitter and Educational Chats

Thanks to Aurora Meyer for inviting me to write this guest post for the MSTA blog!

Have you just begun your PLN (Personal Learning Network)? Are you new to Twitter? There’s a lot of conversation, collaboration, and sharing happening in 140 characters or less. It can be difficult to figure out where to start, and feel somewhat overwhelming. Sometimes it can feel a bit like drinking out of a firehose. I want to share with you some Twitter tips, a little bit about #EdChat, and also ways to find excellent subject specific conversations happening on Twitter.

Twitter Tips

So, you’re all signed up for Twitter. Now what? Well, first you need to take care of the basics. Get your profile created, including a picture of yourself! I promise it’ll be OK. šŸ™‚ We want to be able to put a face with the tweets. If you have a blog or classroom website, share the link to it (there’s a spot for this in your profile settings too). Lastly, fill out your bio. Share with us what you teach, why you’re here, etc. These are all necessary basics in building your personal learning network.

So after you have your Twitter account all ready to go, what’s the best way to start building your network? Well you have to start following people. That means you visit their Twitter page and click the Follow button. The address to my Twitter page is You can look at who I follow and you can in turn follow some of those same people, look at who they follow, etc. and before you know it you’ve got a nice little stream of information, resources, and conversation coming across your tweetstream. You can pick how many people you want to follow. Those teachers will be notified that you have started following them and they can follow you right back if they choose. This should give you a nice start to those that you are following and those that are following you.

Another great place to find other teachers to follow is theĀ Twitter 4 Teachers wiki. It was created by my fellow Missouri educatorĀ Gina Hartman. What’s great about this wiki is that you can find teachers in a specific subject area to connect with. Are you a math teacher? There’s a whole page of them. Science teacher? Same thing. I don’t think there’s a curricular area that’sĀ not represented there. Be sure to spend some time there finding more great educators to connect with.

Once some have started following you you’re ready to jump into the conversation. Watch the tweets of those that you’re following, see what they’re sharing and the kinds of conversations they’re having. If you want to jump in, click Reply to one of their tweets! It’ll automatically throw the “@” symbol and their Twitter name in the tweet box and you can begin typing your reply. To see their reply to you, you have to check what’s called your “Mentions”. This is where you can see anyone that has mentioned you in a tweet whether it was a reply to something you said or just mentioning you for some other reason. If you’re on the Twitter website just click on Mentions in the right column. If you’re using a third-party program like Tweetdeck (free), you can organize your Twitter stream into columns and this is one of the standard columns you will see. I would highly recommend using Tweetdeck once you’re comfortable with using You’ll have a much better experience.

Twitter Chats

Conversations and sharing can happen on Twitter any time. There are, however, some scheduled education related chats that happen at specific days and times either weekly or bi-weekly. One of the most popular ones is calledĀ #EdChat. Anyone that is participating in edchat will include the edchat hashtag (keyword) in their tweets. That way, anyone following this keyword can see your tweets even if they aren’t following you. If you’re using Tweetdeck you can set up an edchat column where you can follow anyone tweeting with the edchat hashtag. A hashtag (keyword) can be made out of any term by putting the “#” symbol in front of the word. It doesn’t matter where in your tweet the hashtag is placed. I typically place it after my thought when I’m participating in edchat. Edchat is a weekly chat that happens every Tuesday at two different times. There is a noon edchat and a 7pm edchat (EST). Each time has a different topic. There is a poll that is tweeted out every Sunday afternoon for everyone to vote on the edchat topic each week. The topic with the most votes is the 7pm topic and the 2nd most votes is the noon topic.

Edchat can feel pretty fast and furious. Kind of like trying to get a drink from a firehose. šŸ™‚ It’s best to pick one or two individuals to engage with during edchat. There’s no way you can talk to everyone. It’s like being at a big party. Lots of conversations happening around the main topic and it’s impossible to get to everyone.

If edchat isn’t for you, there are lots of other education related chats happening every week on Twitter. My friend Jerry Blumengarten, a retired NYC teacher now living in Florida, has an awesome website of teacher resources that can be found atĀ His Twitter page can be foundĀ here. This man has an amazing wealth of knowledge to share about education. You definitely need to follow him. His website has resources for everything. When I say everything, I mean everything! He’s awesome! One of those pages that Jerry maintains is a schedule of all the educational chats happening on Twitter. The page can be found here and lists the day, time, and hashtag for each of these chats. Math teachers? Give #mathchat a try. New teachers? Be sure to join in on #ntchat each week. Special Education teachers? Be sure to check out #spedchat. That’s a very small sample of the other types of education chats happening on Twitter. There are even chats for principals and administrators such as Connected Principals chat (#cpchat).

These chats are all moderated by some outstanding educators. The person(s) moderating the chat will always identify themselves at the start of the chat time. Be sure to reply to them and say hello and let them know you’re joining in! I’m one of the moderators for the 7pm EST edchat along with my friendĀ Mary Beth Hertz so be sure to say hello to us if you join in the Tuesday evening edchat!

While Twitter is an essential PLN tool for me personally, I know it’s not the only PLN tool. Twitter and other forms of social media are giving teachers new ways to participate in self-guided professional development. They’re networking, collaborating, and connecting with other teachers in a way that wasn’t around several years ago. It’s an exciting time to see how this evolves and gives our profession a new level of connectivity to bring to our districts, schools, and classrooms together.

What educational chats are you participating in? How have they benefited you? Please leave a comment and share your story.

The People Of A PLN

Cross posted at the ISTE Connects blog.

A PLN, or Personal Learning Network, is a great way to get globally connected to thousands and thousands of educators all over the world. The medium used is Twitter and it never ceases to amaze me the learning and collaboration that is happening 24/7/365. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, “You cannot buy this kind of professional development.” What’s even better is that there’s something for everyone. Teachers, counselors, administrators, instructional technology specialists, special education teachers, ESL/ELL teachers; you name it and you can find like minded educators to connect with. However, this made me think of all the people I have come to know as professionals, as well as friends. It’s the people that make this great. Plain and simple.

It is less than one week way from ISTE 2010. Thousands of educators will board “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” bound for Denver. Without a doubt, I am going to be surrounded by many amazing educators. Some of whom I have met in person before, and many I will be meeting in person for the first time. It’s exciting to think about, yet a bit overwhelming to think about isn’t it? In a good way of course!

I have talked with many of you so many times via Twitter, Google Docs, Google Wave, Skype, and email. We have collaborated, created, and learned from each other. It’s so cool that I have been able to connect with so many people over the last 2 1/2 years. There’s been much sharing, much humor, and much camaraderie. I am thankful for every bit of it.

As so many begin to converge on Denver this week, I have anxious anticipation for this conference unlike I have had for any other educational technology conference in the past. This will be my 3rd time in attendance. I attended in San Antonio and in Atlanta (when the conference was known at NECC), however, this one I know is going to be incredibly different. I will be traveling there alone this time, yet I know I will be far from it. I travel there as 1, but I know I am united with so many. I am united with the people of my PLN. Fellow educators, lifelong learners, and friends.

You see, it’s important not to forget the people side of having a PLN. Whether we’re using Twitter, The Educator’s PLN, or connecting via one of the countless other mediums, it’s the people that make this work, not the technology. Does the technology make it easier? Absolutely! This is the real-time web! It’s living, breathing, thriving force! Don’t underestimate its potential to bring change and be a true catalyst for a revolution in education! However, it’s the people who will initiate it.

I can’t wait to meet so many of you; the likes of Beth Still, John Carver, Naomi Harm, Nick Provenzano, and so many others I could keep going and going. The sessions, panel discussions, Social Butterfly Lounge, and the tweetups are going to make this an unforgettable experience.

I can’t wait for all the learning, laughing, and leading. Those are some important Ls! The people make them all possible.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and I hope you will find the tools and resources I tweet out beneficial as well. You can follow me on Twitter @kylepace.

Thank you for reading.

Online Safety: An essential 21st century skill

It starts with us. As educators, as parents, as 21st century travelers on the information super-highway. Have you ever taken the time to assess your online safety? Many people don’t. Most people don’t think about whether their PC might be infected with spyware or if they’ve just allowed someone access to their personal information as they surf the web. Do we always take the time to determine if a web site is credible enough to willingly give them our information? Do we take the time to teach our students how to determine if a web site is credible before they cite it as a source for a school project?

These are things that everyone needs to be more aware of as we use the internet. This applies to education and to the everyday consumer. Look at how the web is driving nearly everything we do on a daily basis. Who doesn’t use email every day? Who doesn’t use the web to acquire new information? Or what about placing an order? How about for professional collaboration? As we use and rely on the internet more and more, it’s essential we have strong web safety and make it more and more a routine part of our online behavior. I believe it’s a major component of being a good digital citizen.

Let’s first review some basics of keeping your PC secure and then I want to discuss safety issues with two of the most popular social networking tools: Twitter and Facebook. Lastly I want to finish by discussing the importance of internet safety for students.

Basic PC safety tips to keep you running as trouble free as possible

1. Learn basics of PC maintenance; installing/uninstalling software, setting up regular checks for system updates (Mac or PC), backing up critical files on a regular basis on a portable hard drive or burn to CD/DVD.
2. Invest the money in good virus protection software. There are numerous brands that usually involve a yearly subscription, however there are also free options available. If you go with a free option, please do your research to see if the piece of software is credible. Read reviews, see how long it’s been around, and make sure it is truly free.
3. Once you have the virus protection software up and running, make sure you know how to use it! Look for user guides, tutorial videos, and support discussions (from the company) that can help you to best use the software to keep your computer and your information safe on the web. Also make sure you know how to turn on “automatic updates” to have the software regularly connect to the web and download the newest virus definitions (so the software always knows the most recent threats to keep your computer protected from).
4. Be careful where you get online. Laptops and wi-fi hotspots are definitely the norm. Just because a public place offers free wi-fi doesn’t mean the establishment providing it knows how to keep it secure for their customers. Before you connect at your local coffee shop or airport, ask if there are safeguards in place to protect your computer and your personal information. If they don’t or if they just aren’t sure, don’t connect your laptop to their network! The same goes for hotels.

Here are some common causes of viruses:

  • Surfing on an unknown website that says you need to download a plug-in in order for it to work properly
  • Clicking a link in an email that appears to be from a friend claiming to be a funny video or an e-card. This can commonly happen through Facebook and Twitter as well.
  • Downloading a seemingly harmless file from an unknown website claiming to offer free music, movies, etc.

How do I know if I have a virus on my PC? What should I do first?

  • Very slow computer performance
  • Unusual behaviors such as programs crashing unexpectedly or the computer shutting down altogether
  • Frequent error messages when performing simple tasks


  • Run a virus scan on your computer to scan for infected files, if any are found have the virus protection software remove them
  • If the problem is still not fixed, a third party spyware removal tool might be needed
  • In an extreme situation, a technician may be required which usually has cost involved

Safety Tips for Twitter & Facebook

Twitter and Facebook are two of the most popular social networking sites around today. They have changed the way we network and the way we communicate. I use Twitter as my PLN, or Professional Learning Network. My previous posting from September 24th titled “There’s Power in the PLN” gives more detailed information on how a PLN is an amazing tool.

There is one main security feature in Twitter and that is allowing your updates to be protected. Which means you have to approve anyone that wants to follow you before they are allowed to read your Twitter updates. I don’t like turning this feature on because I don’t want to have to “approve” each person that wants to follow me. I feel like my PLN is to a point now where pretty much the only people who are going to follow me are those professionals in the field of Educational Technology such asĀ  myself. Now since I don’t have update protection enabled, this means I have to be more diligent about knowing when someone new is following me and then checking their profile to see if I’d like to follow them back if I’m not already.

I receive an email notification every time someone new is following me. If it’s a person I recognize because I know them or am already following that person, then I don’t need to do anything further. However, if I don’t recognize the person then I immediately go to Twitter, look at my list of followers (the most recent are at the top), and check out their profile. If you have no profile or if based on your profile I can’t figure out why you decided to follow me other than spam me about making money or posting inappropriate content, then I’m very likely going to block you. Twitter has also recently started allowing its users to report other users specifically as a spammer which is nice. Other things to look at when determining whether or not to follow or let them follow you is the number of their followers and the number of tweets they have posted. It can tell you a lot about a person by checking their profile (whether they share very much or not).

If you are familiar with Facebook then you know it’s a bit more complicated and requires a significantly larger time commitment to keep it secure.

Just a couple of weeks ago my school district hosted an Internet Safety Night at one of our middle schools. Parents were able to sign up to hear speakers and receive information on internet safety. I presented a session called Facebook II. It was for those already familiar with the Facebook environment and wanted to learn more specifically about security settings. It was great to see so many parents wanting to learn more about Facebook! They had lots of questions about how their student can keep safe using Facebook.

Here are the main points I covered during the session that I believed were the key issues to remaining safe on Facebook (all of which are under the Settings menu at the top of the screen):

  • General account settings
    • Email address
    • Changing password
    • Notifications (actions taken on Facebook that involve you and how you are notified of them)
    • Deactivating your account
  • Privacy Settings
    • Control who can see information on your profile page (birthdate, interests, email, etc.)
    • Who can search for you, what they can see, and how they can contact you
    • Determine what recent activity (new friends, comments, tags, etc.) is visible on your profile
    • Control what applications within Facebook you allow to access your account information (Farm Town, Mafia Wars, etc.)
    • You can also block a certain Facebook user or block a specific email address if you don’t want them to be able to contact you in any way via Facebook or even send you a friend request.

I had lots of questions from many concerned parents as I made my Facebook presentation. Parents are worried about what personal information their student(s) are making available and to whom. Parents were also startled to find out that a Facebook friend can post a picture of you without you knowing it. However, if you know how to protect yourself online, you can prevent others from doing this.

Compared to the total number of parents in the school district I work for, there wasn’t nearly enough parents in attendance for this internet safety night event. We had presentations on Facebook, Cyberbulling, and from local law enforcement officials. We received excellent feedback from the parents that attended. In my Facebook session I had numerous parents stay afterward to continue to ask questions! It was exciting to see so many adults eager to learn.

I also posted the following to Twitter on October 12th to get thoughts from my PLN:

“What do you think are the most common assumptions teachers and students make about internet safety that might later come back to haunt them?”

Thanks go to @nnorris, @EdTechSandyK, @fisher1000, @stacybodin, @edueyeview, @lasic, and @kfasimpaur for their contributions to this post. Here are some of their thoughts:

“That they can do anything online that is anonymous. Privacy doesn’t exist the way they think it does anymore.”

“I ticked off some teachers last year when I found out stuff about them from FB even though I wasn’t their “friend”.”

“That others will be forgiving later, as it’s a learning curve for us all. Or the needle in a haystack, hard to find = invisible.”

“That if they post something on a social network page, only their friends will see it. Even privacy settings aren’t foolproof.”

As teachers of 21st century students, we want them to embrace all of the wonderful tools that the web has to offer. We don’t want them to see only one means to an end to demonstrate mastery. Nor should we allow that as a true 21st century educator.

We must bring this awareness to the classroom. And it’s not just making sure you are staying away from inappropriate content. There is a big umbrella called Digital Ethics that has many topics underneath it. Internet safety is just one of those topics.

If your district has never hosted an internet safety night, I strongly encourage you to gather key members of your community and begin necessary collaboration to make it happen.

We have to remain lifelong learners and gain the knowledge to stay safe online. Then this crucial knowledge must be transferred to our students.