Participating in an EdChat on Twitter can be a lot like kayaking or mountain biking. If it's your first time, you'll definitely be overwhelmed. Things move at a very quick pace and trying to take it all in will send you flying over a waterfall or flipping over the handlebars, metaphorically speaking.
Imagine going into a staff meeting at your school and trying to follow all the things going on if everyone talked at the same time! Impossible.
A twitter chat may seem like this at first. You'll see questions and answers filling up your device, Tweetdeck or Twitter.com page faster than you can read. The nice thing, however, is you don't have to listen to everything. You can turn off the noise by only looking at specific people or specific hashtags. In other words, pick and choose what you want to read and think about - don't try to do it all! That would make about as much sense as trying to identify wildflowers while zooming down a mountain at 30 mph.
1. Don't jump into the deep end until you learn how to swim!
Believe it or not, you don't need to have a Twitter account to be on Twitter. You can easily access a twitter user's page and tweets by going to the address www.twitter.com and then /their name. For example, all of my tweets can be seen at www.twitter.com/edtechakk. It's also possible to do the same thing to read over tweets that included a hashtag, check out https://twitter.com/hashtag/utedchat to see what's been happening with the Utah Ed Chat.
2. Make it simple and just watch.
If you do have a Twitter account you can try following an Ed Chat by showing up on Twitter at the predetermined time and watching all the tweets fly. You'll see tweets appear from the moderator with Q1:, Q2: etc before each question. Participants will likely respond with A1:, A2:, and so forth. If you see tweets with ideas you like go ahead and click the star button to favorite these tweets. That way it will be easy for you to go back and look at your favorites at a later time when the EdChat is over or the pace has slowed down.
3. When you're ready to participate try following some of the other participants.
It's one thing to favorite a few tweets, but you may start to find there are a few Tweeters that you really like. Follow them! Don't be afraid, simply click on their name or icon image. If you are already following them you'll see the icon with "Following", and if not, click it!
4. Use a tool to help control the pace and stay focused on specific topics.
TweetDeck is simple and free! Install the app for your Mac or iOS device and then compartmentalize the flood of tweets. It's easy to follow a hashtag, specific person, activity, direct messages, etc.
Many EdChat hosts will use the tool Storify to create an archive of the conversation. A chat I recently hosted about balancing technology and teaching can be seen at https://storify.com/edtechakk/balancing-teaching-and-technology If a Storify isn't available you always do a search for the EdChat's hashtag, like #utedchat, and then go back and read all the tweets that were made with that hashtag.
Now that you have an idea of what to expect and a few tools to use to make it easier to be a part of an EdChat on Twitter, here are a couple you might want to try out:
Utah EdChat = #utedchat
Wednesdays from 9-10 PM Mountain
Full Schedule here: http://www.ucet.org/utedchat/
EdChat = #edchat
Tuesdays from 7-8 AM Eastern
Get more info at http://edchat.pbworks.com/w/page/219908/FrontPage
EdTechChat = #edtechchat
Mondays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Hosts and topics are listed at http://edtechchat.wikispaces.com/
MDEdChat = #mdedchat
Tuesdays from 8-9 PM Eastern
Archives and info can be found at http://www.jaredwastler.com/#!mdedchat/c21qz
SATCHAT = #satchat
This one is hard to follow because it's on Saturdays from 7:30-8:30 AM
Catered to administrators, SatChat is explained in detail in the following Edutopia article:
And for more tips on hosting a Twitter Chat, check out https://blog.bufferapp.com/twitter-chat-101