#sschat: A Professional Learning Community from the Comfort of Your Couch

sschat_logoThere are a lot of factors that affect our access to good professional development: district size, geographic location, budget (both your’s and your school’s). So what’s a teacher to do when you’re one of the only social studies teachers in your building, or you want to try something new but the people in your department still won’t give up their precious overhead projector?

There is one outlet where you can find solid PD, often hosted by leaders in the field, at least once a week: Twitter Chats. As Chris Hitchcock, one of the moderators of #sschat, describes how she felt when she discovered the hashtag:

#sschat offered this whole new world of collaboration, support, and interaction that was fascinating and really helpful.

Have I piqued your interest yet? 

What about pondering alternative assessments with former Secretary of Education John King? Teaching the first 100 days with iCivics? Discussing slavery and the White House with Kenneth C. Davis? I think you’re starting to get the idea. Many of your faithful posters on this blog participate in one or more chats and Chris puts it well when she describes why she participates:

I get the best ideas, resources, strategies, tech tools, etc. from participating in chats! It’s also super cool to connect with educators from around the country and internationally. I love learning what other teachers are doing in their classes and learning the innovative ways they are teaching material.

All of this is free! Free! PD and the ability to connect with educators that you can use as your own personal Brain Trust when you need help or want to bounce ideas off someone.  

If you’re not down with the tweets or haven’t been introduced to the chat format, allow me to enlighten you. Different education groups pick a night and time to meet; so if you’re reading this in Kansas and you’re a social studies teacher then a busy night is Monday because #sschat meets at 6:00pm CST and #ksedchat at 8:00pm CST.

For that hour there is one theme or topic that will be addressed through a series of questions, usually about 5 over that time span. Looking for something different? I dare you to NOT find your content or something relevant to your practice in this exhaustive list of Education Chats. More on the basics can be found at this Scholastic Blog on Twitter for Teachers. Just remember your Q1 / A1: (answer and question number) and #hashtag (the chat you’re in) and you’ll be good. If you want to go more academic on the hows and whys of teachers using Twitter you can check out this article from CITE Journal by #sschat moderator Dan Krutka.

If you’ve used #sschat or others I’d love to hear your experiences. I know, through participation and having hosted a couple through my work with the NCSS Technology Community, it’s one of the fastest hours you’ll experience. If you haven’t tried out #chats and/or are new to Twitter, I would encourage you to lurk – just put in the #hashtag of your choice and keep refreshing. You’ll see how the whole thing works and you’ll likely learn something. If you’re still not sure or just aren’t comfortable with Twitter, most of the #chats have a webpage with their archives and/or a Facebook page. #sschat has their webpage, a Facebook page and has started Book Club using the platform.

Added bonus: when you get to meet the people you chat with every week at conferences. Super Cool!

About Kori Green

I teach 8th grade social studies at El Dorado Middle School in El Dorado, KS. I enjoy U.S. history, dabble in British history, and love incorporating technology in the classroom.

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