Friday, February 27, 2015

The Little #stu2stuchat That Could!

Last fall, I had an idea.

I had fallen in love with Twitter chats. Through my participation, I met many amazing educators, shared philosophies and teaching ideas, formed friendships and found inspiration to connect my students to the world outside our classroom.

I joined in a number of different chats over the spring and summer, with every one filling a need and giving me an online voice, or presence. As I looked ahead to the 2014-15 school year and thought about what I could do to give my students that same voice, I came up with an idea.

A student Twitter chat.

One of my favorite group of Twitter friends is made up of amazing #5thchat educators. I love my Teach Like a Pirate crew, but since I teach 5th grade- these are my "people." (We do have our fair share of pirates in this group as well.)

Before school started, I reached out to this group and a few other awesome educators I'd met on Twitter, and started a Google Spreadsheet of Connectivity. I asked these educators if they would be willing to collaborate throughout the year via blogs, Skypes, etc. Overwhelmingly, they shared their information and our group was formed.

We have Skyped together, had our kids comment on each others' blog posts, collaborated on TodaysMeet, and participated in a book chat for Smoky Night by Eve Bunting, led by the incomparable Jess Lifshitz @JessLifTeach . Last week, a few of us started a 5thchatters Voxer group, with the goal of collaborating around a shared book, using padlet. Plans are in the works.

This post, however, is not about those collaborations. It's about that student Twitter chat, called (with input from the group), #stu2stuchat .

There didn't seem to be anything else out there like it. So, we started with just a few of our classes. The purpose was for our students to chat with each other. At first, they were learning the ins and outs of Twitter, from hashtags and character limits to retweets and answering questions with A1, A2. We were working on digital citizenship in real time. In the beginning, my students were so excited when our tweets would get retweeted or favorited.

However, something clicked in me, realizing I was not practicing what I preach. We learn more from listening to the ideas of others rather than doing the talking ourselves. I needed to shift the tide and help my students see that the real value in Twitter chats is what others bring to the conversation. We lurked for a chat, when I moderated. We read the comments from the participating classes, and retweeted and favorited those tweets that resonated with us. Yes, we learned much more that way.

Over the past few months, my students have chatted with other classes about books they like, engaging math lessons, #oneword and New Year's Resolutions, speaking/listening, and being leaders.

Just this past Wednesday, we had our largest number of students participating. The topic was passion, genius and wondering. I was amazed at how quickly the time flew! Our four questions, starting with one that asked students to define the difference between these three concepts (if any) generated a wealth of passionate ingenious ideas! Since Angela Maiers is such a champion of the #youmatter movement and encourages students to share their genius, I alerted her to our little chat. Lo and behold, she joined in, offering her insight and wisdom. #daymade It was a huge moment for our little chat!

Fellow teachers like Kim @khurdhorst , Heidi @MrsJones_Merton , Paul @PaulSolarz and Jess @JessLifTeach helped promote the bi-monthly chats on Twitter, Facebook and Voxer. We even were featured on the @edtechbaton (thanks to Kim) one day. This recent chat was also a first for a few other reasons. A fellow teacher, Leslie @LPralleKeehn 's 3rd grade daughter tweeted from home on her snow day, while fellow Health/PE teacher Jenny @JennyWamsley had her classes compose written answers to the questions, with a few of her students live tweeting as well.

In the tweeted words of Angela Maiers, "It is so beautiful and affirming to see so many students talking about their passions!" I couldn't agree more.

Our next #stu2stuchat is scheduled for Wednesday, March 11th from 2:10-2:30 pm CST. My students hope you can join us to discuss "What motivates you?"

Give your students a voice outside your classroom. Aren't you just the slightest bit interested to hear what they will say?


  1. I have loved this concept and watched from afar, as my own classroom merges into Twittersphere. As we break down various obstacles to joining the global learning community, we are becoming more involved. This month, our @daringgreatly classroom will be participating in the Slice-of-Life writing challenge. We hope to dip our toes into the #stu2stuchat soon as well. What a great window you are providing for students around the globe!

  2. It is so fabulous and such a tangible teaching and learning moment for all participating. There are so many layers to this chat. 1) The teachers who understand the importance of modeling digital positive behaviors for the students and to do so, likewise understand that to do this, we must let go so that the students can thrive and with in the protective walls of the Twitter chat explore digital citizenship. 2) Students who live in a generation of communicating with technology who are excited to meet people just like them, and by doing so, continue to tear down the walls not only of their hearts, but the walls of the school that once, trapped them..and the walls of the state boarder lines that beg them to crossover, meet new friends while learning. 3) Learning to leverage technology to leverage their learning. Technology has so many faces and social media is one, but it is an important one. Meshing the way students communicate with an opportunity to learn is the gift we are giving to them and that they are giving to themselves. Kuddos Sandy! Learning with you in my life is truly wonderful.

  3. Hi Sandy, Really happy I checked out your post as part of the the #comcon group. The student to student chat is a wonderful concept that I am super excited that you have initiated with your students and those with whom you have connected.  I will have to check out the hashtag and see if I can somehow work this idea in with some of my high school classes.  What safeguards have you put in as far as your students online safety? - Sean

    1. Hi Sean,
      Thanks for the feedback and positive comments about this student chat. It has grown past what I originally thought was possible. As for online safety, the students are logged in (by me ahead of time) to my Tweetdeck, with columns for home, notifications and the #stu2stuchat hashtag. They only tweet in small groups and I monitor their collaboration. I schedule the welcome, questions and closing through Tweetdeck, and I project the Tweetdeck columns on my screen. In addition, I walk around with my iPad, so I can check on what's going on and monitor for appropriate comments. We spent a good deal of time at the beginning of the year tweeting as a class before i handed the reins over to the students. Please feel free to ask additional questions as they arise. Thanks again.

  4. Sandy
    This is awesome! Are you going to be doing this again this school year? And, would you be ok with one of my 7th-grade classes from Indiana joining in with you?

    I love the idea of teaching the digital citizenship through actual experiences like this