Monday, April 28, 2014

Starting the little hashtag that could - #edchatNZ

I joined Twitter in 2011 because I couldn't find a job. A very wise man suggested that I make a website to show off my e-learning skills. Apparently e-learning know how was a bit of a commodity. I did make a website, but I didn't have very much to put on the website. So I created a Twitter account to embed on the website. I tweeted a few educational tweets and then went looking for a few other education tweets to retweet. I found so much more than I bargained for. I started participating in Twitter chats #edchatUK, #byotchat, #flipclass and #pblchat. Inspirational stuff and right on trend!

But New Zealand is little when compared with the world wide web. I had found a few New Zealand tweetchers but knew there had to be more out there. And it was hard finding them. So in October of 2012, I took a leap of faith. I started a hashtag, #edchatNZ, so that I could find New Zealand educators on Twitter better. I realised that the most used hashtags were the ones that had regular chats associated with them. When in doubt, I always google things... I googled, how to host a Twitter chat. I set a date, and then started promoting. I used the PPTA Twitter account to track down New Zealand teachers with a lot of followers and asked them to retweet my 'add' for a New Zealand Twitter chat and hashtag (thanks Claire Amos and Michael Fawcett for their early support to get us off the ground). The night of the first #edchatNZ Twitter chat finally arrived. It was like having a party and being worried that nobody will show up. But the New Zealand teachers showed up. And they have been showing up every fortnight since. We have even trended on Twitter New Zealand, out tweeting the royals and the Twilight movie Eclipse.

The hashtag is now more than a year old and still going strong. In fact, due to #edchatNZ, I was able to recommend pioneer educators for the Network 4 Learning's POND, an online portal that will make nation wide collaboration much easier. And this year, we are taking things to the next level. Since #edchatNZ has built a network of teachers across sectors and curriculum areas who regularly collaborate, support and inspire each other, it was time to provide a face to face opportunity for the learning too. Since so much of the success of #edchatNZ is related to the the ability to give everyone a voice through voting for topics that are current, relevant and needed, the conference will need to do the same. Mark Osborne puts it well in his video below when he explains that there are different leaders in every chat, simply because the set up of #edchatNZ allows who ever has the skills, to take the lead.

So in an effort to plan the first #edchatNZ conference, we are asking the conference attendees what they would like at their conference. And we are even getting their input on the dates. Of course we will invite the #edchatNZ teachers to participate as well through hosting workshops or even giving key notes. 

But this conference isn't just for the educators who are already regular users of the #edchatNZ hashtag. The goal has always been to unite New Zealand educators. So as well as aiming to provide a high quality, on trend conference, we are also hoping to do it for under $20. Preferably under $10. This means that student teachers, provisionally registered teachers and long term relief teachers whose schools often don't want to fund PD, might still attend. #edchatNZ is about building a community of connected, supportive, inspirational educators who are willing to share. And everyone is welcome.

Will you be attending our conference? You can vote for your preferred dates, topics and keynotes here. Or will you start a hashtag? What could you do to build a community that inspires yourself and others every day? 

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