By Walter McKenzie
This past spring, my constituent services team at ASCD piloted a new form of Twitter-based professional learning called ASCD Topic Teams. The team, including my forward-thinking team manager Laylah Allahverdi, developed and hosted two month-long slow chats on current hot topics in education using #ASCDtopics. For the first ASCD Topic Team, friend and colleague Starr Sackstein (@mssackstein) worked closely with us to launch an examination of student empowerment based on an upcoming book she is writing for ASCD. What most struck us was Sackstein’s masterful modeling of facilitation. Since it is a slow chat and therefore asynchronous—educators can post whenever they have time and interest—she needed a different skill set than that used for the popular fast chats. We are indebted to her for her willingness to share her skills and insights with us as we tested the efficacy of this new model of professional learning.
From late May into June, we piloted a second ASCD Topic Team on poverty and equity, cofacilitated by Josh Garcia (@Garciaj9Josh) and Jose Louis Vilson (@TheJLV), which was scheduled to lead up to the ASCD Conference on Teaching Excellence.
Although we will continue to host ASCD Topic Teams this fall, the goal is for educators in the field to post hot topics of interest to them and their everyday work using #ASCDtopics and then facilitate a discussion as colleagues respond and contribute. You do not have to be an ASCD member to participate; ASCD Topic Teams are open to all educators everywhere.
ASCD staff will jump into educator-initiated ASCD Topic Teams as appropriate, asking questions, sharing responses, and offering resources that augment and enrich the learning taking place in the discussion. All ASCD Topic Teams will use #ASCDtopics, and facilitators can add a second hashtag to identify their unique discussion threads. Also, although topics initiated by ASCD staff are typically planned for a month, the chats can last as long as the discussion meaningfully continues. There are no limits to where this new format can take you in your professional learning. What’s the difference between ASCD Topic Teams and other Twitter chats? ASCD hosts them and, therefore, can bring our expertise and high-quality resources into the discussions at no charge to participants, but the discussions themselves are driven by educators.
Beginning Monday, September 5, Sackstein and Kevin Parr (@mrkevinparr) will kick off our series of fall ASCD Topic Teams with a slow chat on back-to-school practices, hints, tips, and tricks. Please join daily to share your success stories and help solve problems of practice with colleagues as the new school year begins.
In October, we will host a second ASCD Topic Team on project-based learning (PBL), facilitated by ASCD author and Faculty member Andrew Miller (@betamiller). Join us as we explore promising practices and work together to identify effective strategies for implementing PBL in your classroom.
Our third fall ASCD Topic Team, facilitated by New Jersey ASCD board member and ASCD Emerging Leader Natalie Franzi (@NatalieFranzi), will be on women in leadership. Join us for a substantive examination of leadership opportunities for women in education. Share your story and learn from others pioneering new paths for women at all levels in the profession.
At any point in time, we welcome new conversations initiated by educators using #ASCDtopics. Topics that attract interest and conversation can grow and expand in any way participants wish to take them, and ASCD staff will be there to support your ASCD Topic Team slow chats, both by contributing to your discussions and offering relevant, high-quality resources for which ASCD is known. Please join in and help lead your own ASCD Topic Team this fall!
Walter McKenzie is the senior director of constituent services at ASCD. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.