​#Edtechchat Turns 'One'

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Take out your party hats; bring on the cake! Just a year ago, #edtechchat began. So far, between 300 and 400 folks tune in for our weekly Monday 8pm EST chat with an average of 1,600 tweets during each chat hour. Last week the hashtag #edtechchat appeared 5,793 times, delivering approximately 11.7 million impressions.

Not bad for something dreamed up by five educators!

To celebrate, the #edtechchat team moderated a live Twitter chat using the same questions from our launch chat while simultaneously participating in a Google hangout with past guest moderators. A juggling act to be sure, but the #edtechchat team has grown comfortable with managing multiple modes of social media.

Hundreds of education chats take place each week in social media,” shares Tom Whitby, co-founder of the original #edchat. “An education chat can validate what we do as educators as well as expose us to things that we do not do.” He further explains, “It can stimulate our thinking, to cause us to reflect on our ideas, or explore new ones.”

#Edtechchat Beginnings

“#Edtechchat filled a niche that other chats did not,” says Susan Bearden, director of information technology at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Florida and an #edtechchat co-founder. “Before our chat, there were lots of education Twitter chats, but none specifically about education technology.” Fellow co-founder Sharon LePage Plante, LD teacher and director of technology at Eagle Hill Southport in Connecticut, concurs on the timing: “#Edtechchat launched when the inclusion of technology directly into the classrooms and into the hands of educators and students alike was on an upswing.”

Co-founder Tom Murray describes the value he sees this way: “#Edtechchat connects us professionally with inspiring educators from all over the world, all of who encourage us to be better every day for the children and families we serve.” (Murray recently left his position as director of technology and cyber education for Quakertown in Pennsylvania for a new position as the state and district digital learning director for the Alliance for Excellent Education.)

Alex Podchaski, self-proclaimed “geek” and co-founder and director of technology at Oak Knoll School in New Jersey, enjoys “compiling the archives each week, looking at all the information that was shared, and marveling that we get to do this every week to help each other out.”

(Editor’s note: And yes, EdSurge is very proud of the role that our very own Katrina Stevens has played in evangelizing and supporting #edtechchat!)

Hot Topics: Personalization, Differentiated PD and Student Creation Tools

Topics that have dominated #edtechchat have turned out to be a good barometer of trends in education overall. “We’ve seen a continued shift towards personalized learning, differentiated professional development, student-centered instructional strategies,” says Murray, “as well as the increased value seen in technology infusion through one-to-one initiatives, BYOD, and personalization software.” Telling enough: aside from Secretary Arne Duncan’s guest appearance on #edchat as a moderator during Connected Educator month, the top two most popular #edtechchat chats were both on professional development.

What do #edtechchat participants want to discuss next? They want more of the same, but they also want to dive more deeply into student data and privacy, augmented reality, app smackdowns, teaching students to code, and student-run tech initiatives.

Favorite #Edtechchat Tools

In addition to general categories of tools such as mobile devices, social media, podcasting and screencasting tools, content creation tools, e-readers, and formative assessment tools, participants gave shoutouts to a long list of their favorite edtech tools. Three among them: Aurasma, Explainevrythng, and ThingLink. (Want to see the full and glorious list? Here it is.)

Although many are technology aficiciandos, #edtechchat participants agree that learning comes first. Nathan Stevens, assistant director of the College of Education Media Center at North Carolina State University and an expert on #Glittersnark, believes “technology is the equalizer for any student.” East Penn School District (in Pennsylvania) fourth-grade teacher Ross Cooper summed up how he decides on tools: “We’re insulting the intelligence of our students if we don’t use authentic tools.”

The Hurdles Edtech Teachers Face

Even among the the #edtechchat community, getting adequate bandwidth to schools continues to be an issue across the United States. Many districts still block tools and sites and limited funds continue to raise barriers for many schools. And insufficient professional development makes implementing education technology even more difficult.

Administrators can make a difference in encouraging teachers to incorporate tech tools in their classrooms. Participants clearly believed that administrators have to model first and foremost. Heather Lister, teacher and librarian at Hempfield School District in Pennsylvania, explains, “Walk the walk if they are talking the talk. Administrators should embrace tech the way they want their teachers to!”

In addition, “administrators can help by taking some focus off standardized tests,” advocates technology integrationist Andrea Jones in Fairfax, Virginia. “Allow teachers to imagine and create with students as the focus, not just data.”

Perhaps most important, the #edtechchat community wants administrators to foster risk-taking cultures. New Jersey elementary school computer technology instructor Billy Krakower contended that “administrators can show, support and allow for teachers to take risks!” High school librarian Renee Rogers in New Jersey's Hamilton Township district continues, “Administrators need to take away some of the fear and risk for teachers trying out new tech. Celebrate teachers tech failures as important learning.”

The #edtechchat team looks forward to future chats. Plante is thrilled that “more educators are empowering themselves to become tech savvy on their own, rather than leaving it to the ‘tech people’." Bearden continues to have a soft spot for #edtechchat newbies: “It is rewarding to see novice Twitter users develop their skills and confidence with the platform and become regular chat participants.”

Editor’s note: Katrina Stevens, a cofounder of #edtechchat, continues to play a huge role in supporting the dialogue.

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