Twitter Chats: #pencilchat, #educoach and beyond

I have been on Twitter for over two years. In the course of that time I have met some amazing educators from all corners of the world. I have gain new insights, looked at state of education from many perspectives, learned new strategies, increased my knowledge of technology integration, networked with educators and re-energized my passions in the field of education.

I have learned that something magical happens when individuals join together during a Twitter chat. Case-in-point: Friday, December 1, 2011.

Mid-Friday morning I happened to check my Tweet Deck streams. I noticed a hashtag I hadn’t seen before. It seemed as though educators were chatting about a new form of “technology” taking the scene. Being one to stay current in the field of education, I started to listen in on their thoughts. Some were reluctant to try this new thing, others were ready to jump in, some even had the visions to see past the implementation of this and on to its greater potential. In many tweets it was clear that the educators were problem solving the large-scale roll out of the new tool and the effects on student learning. Others questioned whether the change was necessary and were quick to point out all its shortfalls. The new “technology” – The Pencil. Throughout the day I would return to my Tweet Deck for a good laugh, yet reading into the tweets was the key. The tweets were not about pencils. Educators had found an avenue to share thoughts on current educational situations, especially the use of technology in schools. Both innovators and naysayers of the pencil dilemma chimed in to the dialogue – which is now quite the trending  topic on Twitter. (Check out a few of the tweets I captured Friday evening in this Storify, Tweet Curator Tool.) Set #pencilchat in your Tweet Deck to stay current!

Liz Dwyer, Education Editor, recently posted Why #Pencilchat May Be the Most Clever Education Allegory Ever. The post provides background to the chat. She states, “The tweets are undeniably witty, but they also reflect the frustration teachers feel over everything from schools’ technophobia to budget cuts, which may make #pencilchat the best—and most clever—education allegory ever.”

Others have captured the #pencilchat phenomenon as well. A Google search of #pencilchat will lead you to many blog posts popping up about the pointed dialogue.

Twitter is such a powerful learning tool. In these tweets, and others, individuals from all around the world come together to learn and grow with and from each other. Tweets resonate. Tweets cause reflection. Tweets connect us and we connect to Tweets. Learning is on a magnified level.

Prior to #pencilchat I had started a short post on #educoach. A combined blog post seemed fitting. Many #pencilchat tweets shared the frustrations in implementing new ideas. In any large-scale transformation, adequate time for focused collaboration and professional learning is paramount. Systems need to be able to support teachers with the time and resources needed to effectively learn and implement the approach. Instructional coaches can fill that void.

Knowing first hand the power of Twitter chats, I and two principals I met via Twitter (Jessica Johnson – aka @PrincipalJ and Shira Leibowitz – aka @shiraleibowitz) have organized a chat for anyone interested in instructional coaching. We chat on Wednesday evenings at 9:00 PM Central Standard Time using the hashtag #educoach. The chat started July 27, 2011 and has continued for each week thereafter. Archives of most of the chats can be found on our Instructional Coach (#educoach) wiki. This evening we learned that #educoach has been nominated for Best Twitter Hashtag in the 2011 EduBlog Awards. Voting is taking place here. There are so many great hashtags nominated. Check them out and find a group you can connect with!

Recently Jessica, Shira and I were featured on a TeacherCast PodCast (#23). We spent a wonderful hour with Jeff Bradbury, creator of TeacherCast, talking about the development of #educoach as well as many aspects of instructional coaching including the role of principals in the process.

Jeff provides a wonderful tool for teachers through his TeacherCast site. I encourage you to check out this resource. You’ll find many other podcasts, screencasts, app reviews, and a vast amount of additional resources to help you learn and incorporate 21st-Century skills. There’s even an APP FOR THAT! Check out the Teachercast Mobile App!

Learning is a social process. With social media learning can take place on a much larger scale.  I think the aspect I love the most about Twitter is the diversity, willingness to share and the joining together to make a difference in the word. Because I have a wide array of interest in the field of education, my PLN (Personal Learning Network) is large. Everyday is a new day of learning, a new connection, a new relationship. Tweets expand my thinking in many areas. I grow from the perspectives of others. I can’t imagine a day with Twitter and the self-directed professional learning I am exposed to each day. Where else can I tap into the insights of thousands of educators?

If you are new to Twitter, I encourage you to follow a hashtag of something you are passionate about. You are bound to add to your own PLN!

Find valuable educational hashtags here and have some FUN!

Photo Credits:

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Temari 09
cc licensed flickr photo shared by DrJohnBullas
cc licensed flickr photo shared by Robotkiss


  • Aviva (@grade1) 4 Dec

    Another great post, Kathy! I’ve quite enjoyed the #pencilchat tweets too, and I’m always following along (although quietly) with your #educoach chats too. I’m trying to join in on some more chats myself, including occasionally #elemchat and #1stchat, but some weeks I’m better than others. I often find it hard to keep up, and that gets me frustrated. I’m getting better now at skimming the tweets and chiming in when I can. I think it takes practice. Do you have any tips for staying on top of these Twitter chats?


    • Kathy Perret 5 Dec

      Thanks for the comments, Aviva! I always love hearing from you. Thanks for following #educoach when you can. We’d love for you to pop in and join us.

      I find I have to limit myself to the chats I follow. I sent my TweetDeck to a few key hashtags that I can see on my laptop screen. They change from time to time, but I tend to pay better attention to them if I limit the feeds.


  • Fran McVeigh 5 Dec

    Wonderful post. I was “in” some tech training Friday when I tuned in to Twitter and caught the #pencilchat tweets. It definitely added some fun to my day!

    I agree with Aviva. As a Twitter newbie, I often have trouble keeping my train of thought when the tweets are clipping right along. TweetDeck has helped; so has going to my computer. A chat is not the time for me to be “reading” on my phone!!!

    #educoach has been a blessing! The ability to network with fellow coaches has added a wonderful new dimension to my thinking. Thanks for all your technology support. YOU have always been a leader in tech! (although I may now have more gadgets!)

    THANKS for the Learning!

    • Kathy Perret 5 Dec

      Thanks, Fran. Yes, you are the winner of Tech Gadgets. But I’m continually adding more! I can only participate in a chat from my computer. I struggle with using my phone or iPad. I am getting better with my iPad since I bought a keyboard for it.

      #educoach has been a blessing for me as well. I have loved connecting with coaches from all around the world. They push my thinking and my own practice as an instructional coach!


  • Maureen Devlin 8 Dec

    Terrific post. I hope to drop in on #educoach when I can to learn about coaching since it’s a new venue my school system is employing. As a classroom teacher, I have many questions about this model and would like to learn more. Thanks for affirming what most of us believe: Twitter is an incredible idea exchange and professional development medium for coaches. I always look forward to your Tweets and blogs as part of that.

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