What Is Missing In Educational Chats?

I am not a twitter educational chat connoisseur.  I do not have and do not believe in a discernable palate when it comes to #chats.  If there are a group of people discussing education, childhood development, leadership, culture…etc, I am eager to participate.  This is evident in the myriad of chats that I contribute to, lurk at, and review on a weekly/daily basis.  But here is the problem:  All of these chats are filled with passionate and dedicated professionals discussing their craft, and yet this space that should naturally be charged with emotion remains “peachy.” WHERE IS THE DISSENTION?

Why have so many knowledgeable and knowledge-thirsty educators formed a “culture of nice?”

A team affected by the culture of nice can look high functioning on the surface, but signs of an unhealthy culture may exist: Teachers rarely question each other’s and their own practice, assumptions, and beliefs. Instead they may only complement each other (When Nice Won’t Suffice by Elisa MacDonald).

An important part of awareness is attending to “nondiscussables.” Nondiscussables are subjects sufficiently important that they get talked about frequently but are so laden with anxiety and fearfulness that these conversations take place only in the parking lot, the rest rooms, the playground, the car pool, or the dinner table at home. Fear abounds that open discussion of these incendiary issues in polite society–at a faculty meeting, for example–will cause a meltdown. The nondiscussable is the elephant in the living room (The Culture Builder by Ronald S. Barth).

I do not propose to have the answer, rather I will pose a few questions that may be at the heart of the problem (please feel free to disagree)?

  1. Does a twitter or text based discussion lack the body language and tonal cues that allow for psychological safety while engaged in a discussion laden with emotion?
  2. Does the lack of tone in text too easily provide the “opportunity” for a respectful disagree to come off as disagreeable or curmudgeonly?
  3. Have we all become so hyper-conscious of our digital footprint that we perseverate about not creating a record of argumentative nature or being misconstrued and therefore under attack for your feelings which again contribute to your footprint.
  4. Does our digital PLN lack the emotional and relational cultivation necessary to engage in emotionally charged discussions about our passion, profession, and calling (I have not met the majority of the people I consider part if my PLN).


Nothing is more valuable than a friend who feels differently than you on fundamental ideas and values. The opportunity to discuss and engage in the sharing of dissenting opinions bring forth prospective learning and allows individuals to test the foundations on which their beliefs are built on.  This is a powerful tool that a fear is not being actualized in these chats.  We must find a way to move past our culture of nice to a culture of growth, where dissenting opinions are not only accepted but solicited for the learning potential they offer the group and each individual.



Below are some of my favorite weekly chats. This is by no means a complete list (if you want a more complete list click here to go to Jerry Blumengarten’s “Educational Chats on Twitter” page).  Additionally, there are many of my favorites that occur at the same time. If you are new to chats, I would highly advise not attempting to simul-chat (not sure if that is an actual term or my own brain-dropping {thank you George Carlin}).




What/Who   is the chat about

When   (ET)

Monday #4thchat Fourth Grade Teachers   Chat

8:00   PM

Monday #edtechchat Educational Technology   Chat

8:00   PM

Monday #tlap Teach Like a Pirate

8:00   PM

Monday #tlchat Teacher Librarians  Chat

8:00   PM

Monday #21stadmin 21st Century   Administrator Chat

9:00   PM

Monday #kinderchat Kindergarten and Early   Childhood Chat

9:00   PM

Monday #COLchat Culture of Learning Chat

9:00   PM

Tuesday #edchat Education Chat

12:00   PM

Tuesday #pblchat Project Based Learning   Chat

8:00   PM

Tuesday #edteach Ed Teach Chat

8:00   PM

Tuesday #5thchat Fifth grade Teachers Chat

8:00   PM

Tuesday #patue Pedagogy and Technology

8:00   PM

Tuesday #6thchat Sixth Grade Chat

9:00   PM

Tuesday #VidED Great Videos in/for  Education Chat

9:00   PM

Wednesday #3rdchat Third Grade Chat

7:00   PM

Wednesday #2ndchat Second Grade Teachers   Chat

8:00   PM

Wednesday #jedchat Jewish Ed Chat

9:00   PM

Thursday #mathchat Math Teachers Chat

7:00   PM

Thursday #artsed Arts in Education Chat

7:30   PM

Thursday #6thchat 6th grade teachers Chat

8:00   PM

Thursday #mschat Middle School Chat

8:00   PM

Thursday #isedchat Independent School   Educators Chat

9:00   PM

Saturday #satchat Saturday Educational Chat   for Teachers and Admin

7:30   AM

Saturday #satchatwc Saturday Educational Chat   for Teachers and Admin

10:30   AM

Sunday #sunchat Sunday Ed Chat

9:00   AM

Sunday #1stchat First Grade Teachers Chat

8:00   PM

Sunday #21stedchat 21st Century Education   Chat

8:00   PM


11 thoughts on “What Is Missing In Educational Chats?”

  1. Drew-

    Very thoughtful piece. I do think educators are very aware of their digital footprint. Administrators can see what is written. They don’t want to offend. That being said, I have experienced many disagreements in my chat. No often but it does occur. Usually it is polite but I can recall one incident where many members of the chat disagreed with one persons opinion which caused this chatter to leave and not share their voice again.

    I feel chats want to be inclusive, allowing all opinions to be voiced. Often chatters will not voice their dissenting opinion if they have seen the consensus of the group.

    I have also noticed if a new chatter voices a difference of opinion even and are not supported by members of the chat they often leave to find another chat to join.

    Finally thank you for including #mschat on you list of favorite chats I am flattered. (Advice on simul-chatting very accurate!)

  2. Thanks for the comment. I agree that is unfortunate that the vulnerability and risk taking we so want our students to take in the classroom can not be safely mirrored in our chats due to our fear (both perceived and real) of negative entries on our digital vitae.

    As for the flight syndrome that occurs after a dissenting opinion is voiced, that I believe we can fix. I would love to think that we (and I know this starts with me) can appreciate and thank those who do voice an opinion that expresses some dissention or vulnerability. This appreciation does not imply endorsement of thought, but rather an acknowledgement that the replier put themselves and their opinion on the table for the betterment of all of our understanding and dialogue. I think these chats are to rich in there PD potential to not find safe ways to fold in and support dissenters.

    Thanks again for the comment, thought, and weekly chat which provokes my own thinking.

  3. Hello! Well, I’d say there are a couple of underlying assumptions you are making here:

    1. Disagreement is necessary for learning. Is it? Or is that guy in the Faculty room who always insists on playing the “devil’s advocate” simply trying to perform smartness by constant critiquing?

    2. “Nothing is more valuable than a friend who feels differently than you on fundamental ideas and values.” While it may be important to occasionally lock heads with a KKK supporter, generally, I find it exhausting and stressful.

    3. Being in the trenches I can tell you that it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE TO GIVE ME ENOUGH SUPPORT. It’s lacking in most school cultures. Desperately.

    4. Constant, ongoing debate about education is VASTLY DIFFERENT than working together to make something, to create something together. That’s our mission: to create a community that is actively working and learning together.

    5. Many of our classes are linked as well and keeping good relationships at the forefront of learning takes a kind of work and dedication many don’t realize.

    6. There’s plenty of push back when it’s needed. Kinderchat has fought and continues to fight against class behavior management systems, testing and advocate for more DAP in the classroom. We’ve fought for more play and more outdoor time at school. There’s been push back against reading at five and six years old and comparisons of private and public educational experiences in multiple countries.

    7. We don’t always agree, or more likely our school practices don’t always agree. But we do agree on one thing. We’re in it for the kids.

    Thanks for highlighting #Kinderchat as one of your favorite chats and you are welcome to join us anytime!

  4. Wow. Ask and ye shalll receive.

    Thank you for the great comment and further thought provocation. I appreciate the thought and passion that went in to your responses, and I feel this illustrates exactly what I am referring to. I will readily admit to having a short view, as I am 3 months young in the world of chats. The sharing you did in this response gave me far more insight into the long view, and for that I thank you.

    I feel that a few of your assumptions of my beliefs that are not quite accurate.

    First, I do not believe that disagreement is necessary for learning; however I do believe that the lack of dissention shown across a myriad of chats by passionate educators discussing emotionally charged topics is worth acknowledging. Furthermore, I in no ways meant to imply that there is not such a thing as being cantankerous, as the “guy in the faculty room” you described. I do believe strongly that it is a culture and/or leadership problem that allows that to continue without addressing it and trying to see what the root cause is.

    Next, you will get no argument from me regarding locking heads with the close minded. I think the caviat to my quote is embedded in the word “Friend.” By saying friend I meant someone who I respect, admire, and care for. I can not seeing me feeling this way for someone who professes hate or discrimination. That being said, I have great admiration for my friends who view life differently than I do, and challenge my thought.

    Next, your assertion “it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE TO GIVE ME ENOUGH SUPPORT. It’s lacking in most school cultures. Desperately.” 100% agree. This is the story I hear from friends and colleagues, and it is why I believe that enhancing and caring for the culture in which our teachers, students, and community interact is one of if not the most essential tasks I am faced with. Not sure where I imply otherwise, but where I do, my apologies.

    Lastly, I love the long view presented in the challenges that have been and are being discussed re: behavior management systems, testing, play…etc. Furthermore, I love the success that are shared nightly on twitter. Our students, teachers, and i have reaped the benefit of the sharing and connections that create a community that is actively working and learning together.

    Please do not misunderstand my question asking why there is no dissention as looking for an argument. That is not the goal. My goal (and it admittedly may be fantastical) is that the chat culture which is so rich in learned educators supports those educators expressing their true opinions and feelings about a topic even if they are contrary to the group or norm so long as they are offered in hopes of furthering the dialogue and ultimately improving student learning.

  5. Drew,

    Great post! Though I can see where you’re coming from with the “culture of nice”, I do not think that that always inherently exists. I’ve been challenged in both kind and unkind ways through the social media and blogging world. Like any context, it can go any direction depending on where the individual takes it. Now, that doesn’t mean I don’t agree that MOST are too nice… Twitter can become a bit of an echo-chamber at times.

    I really do agree that text stops the conveyance of tone and body language. While I might state something (in 140 char or less, no doubt) that would seem inspirational to one, it may come off as condescending and rude to another. It all is in the eyes of the beholder. But likewise, one can attend a session or a meeting where the same perceptions can occur.

    At the end of the day, we are working with PEOPLE. We need to foster relationships in these networks both online and offline as much as possible. This will help to make those uncomfortable conversations that foster growth even more probable, and bring it to a place where change is more likely to happen on a wider scale. Invest in the people.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  6. Nice blog post.

    I have a couple of real issues with twitter “chats” and twitter in general that I think tie in with what you are saying.

    The first one is that the 140 character limit surely encourages a cultures of superficial soundbites. You can’t possibly explain anything of substance in that much space. In fact as I said to a friend the other day “About the only thing of substance you can say in less than 140 characters is this”

    The second thing is what you said about not wanting to disagree. A dozen times a week I will compose a tweet and then delete it because it’s negative against what someone has tweeted and I know it won’t be received well. The tweets that really, really bug me are the “quote tweets”, because they are so often utterly untrue. They just sound nice (and fit in 140 characters). I know it’s very possible that the tweets are not exactly what the author is trying to say, but the author has been forced to edit so much to fit inside the 140 characters that they become generalizations. (see first point)

    I think twitter can be a great tool for pointing people towards something of substance, but I really don’t like it for chatting.

    Keep up the great work.

  7. Victoria,

    Thank you for a thoughtful response. You raise in interesting point about being “challenged in both kind and unkind ways through social media and blogging world,” that I believe may have larger implications. I am never looking for an argument, but I have admiration when a colleague shares with me an opinion that is different from my own (kind dissent). The “unkind dissent” lacks growth and learning intention, and this I do not think has a place in our culture of sharing. Perhaps and added question to my post should be: Are we (as educators/humans) comfortable with facilitating/accepting dissent in a manner that still shows respect for the person we are dissenting from, and the overarching goals of the discussion?

    Lastly, I love and agree with your idea of relationship cultivation and investment.

    Thanks again,

  8. Phil,

    Thank you for your reply. I love “About the only thing of substance you can say in less than 140 characters is this.” and I am going to respectfully steal it (with attribution) for one of my parent workshops on social media in the classroom I am running in the next few weeks. I had not thought about the challenge of the quote tweet, as you definitely feel the impact of 140 – the quotes and authors handle. Often I am forced to do inner-quote editing in order to add the hashtags or mentions I want to accomplish so as to rebroadcast to a larger audience and get answers or resources for the original author. I appreciate your comment as it will give me pause the next time I do this to make sure the original holds true to its message.

    Thanks again,

  9. Great post, Drew. I agree that many times I find myself participating in chats w/ people that share the same thoughts/beliefs as myself. I know there are times some people will pose a question that seems controversial and is many times ignored. I think it would be better to have those discussions face to face to be able to see body language and facial expressions. It is too easy hiding behind a computer screen. Thanks for making me think.

  10. Great post and quite ironic that I caught it and responded to it.

    When I first expienced Twitter and #hastags, I was drawn to the weekly chats – for me #addcym (Wales) #ukedchat and #asechat and about 12 months ago, I started to wean myself off them.

    The reason being the defining question of “dissent” – I want a balanced view of information, so that I can evaluate pros and cons – and come to me own view.

    (not axe grinding here but…) Consider Solo Taxonomy.

    When Solo burst onto the scene, the out rushing of positivity left me thinking “am I the only one who does’t buy into it”. But I did not tweet anything to the contrary – I just did not engage with those threads,

    (Interestingly, http://www.learningspy.co.uk/learning/changed-mind-solo-taxonomy/ now has changed his mind on Solo)

    Why didn’t I contribute anything against the flow? Easy: 140 characters is not sufficient for a reasoned argument – anything you type looks aggressive and blunt. Whereas agreeing and patting on the back, fits well.

    Now, I find the best part of these “chats” is generically monitoring the #hashtags and dipping into blogs that are recommended.

    I now avoid the actual “chat times” as they seem to have become chattering clubs for the cool kids at school, and unless you’re “in” it can be very difficult to break in.

    It’s not lost on me that I came to this blog post via a link on #ukedchat

  11. Wow. Thank you for reading and your great comments. I too find the blogs and suggested external links to be one of the greatest benefits of twitter chats and twitter in general.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *