Article

July 11th, 2019

Educator Voice: What EduTwitter means to #worldgeochat teachers

Arts & CultureEducationGeographySocial StudiesUncategorizedWorld

by James Caudill, #worldgeochat co-moderator and social studies teacher, Calhoun, Kentucky

 

In a recent Saturday Night Live skit called “Game of Game of Thrones,” contestant Zach Galifianakis picks the category  “Geography,” and can’t answer, “What is the capital of Wisconsin?” (it’s Madison, by the way).

 

It was the usual satirical take of how Americans ‘don’t know much about history’ or most other subjects they learn about in school, yet can quote intricate details from movies or shows like Game of Thrones, including made-up languages and places. So, what levels of general knowledge are needed for a democratic society and interconnected world, and how do people find out what they don’t know?

 

 

No teacher wants anyone to feel bad about forgetting facts, but if we’ve given students the right tools to figure out how to find the answers on their own, then we have taught them something. For me, the answers to questions I have about my own teaching have come from a fellow group of educators on Twitter called #worldgeochat (@worldgeochat). After five-years of Twitter chats each Tuesday night, this group recently held their final chat.

 

It’s a lot of work to plan a weekly chat, including coming up with different topics, finding hosts, the promoting that comes with Twitter chats and a host of other issues all while ensuring educational value. Shifts in class schedules, new courses and opportunities for professional development are part of teacher life. New challenges are always around the corner.

 

 

When I found out about #worldgeochat in 2016, I had a Twitter account but never really used it and definitely didn’t know about the power and reach of this resource for education. You might wonder what makes geography so important as to warrant a weekly chat on Twitter? Pete Spiegel, one of the early moderators of #worldgeochat, told me early on that geography was the nexus that connects everything else. Over the last several years, #worldgeochat connected me to the most amazing professional learning network on Twitter (incidentally, anyone can join Twitter chats, as long as they remember to include the hashtag in their tweets–and education chats tend to be particularly welcoming).

 

 

The group stands in sharp contrast to another side of Twitter full of edu-marketers and consultants, all somehow with huge followings. #worldgeochat consists of regular  teachers who are all trying to get better at their craft. Note the present tense – while weekly chats have officially ended, the #worldgeochat hashtag is still being put to good use in the event a teacher has a question or spots an article that they want to share with the group. You can be assured of a quick response. Here’s a good example from #worldgeochat’s Chris Heffernan:

 

 

The moderators of #worldgeochat included seasoned educators from co-founders Chris Heffernan, Ed Casey and Peter Spiegel, who provided loads of encouragement and wisdom, to experienced teachers like Stewart Parker and Jennifer Garner to newer teachers like Sam Mandeville and myself, whose ideas were welcomed and valued. When I joined the group, I was only in my first year of teaching. #worldgeochat always had my back, and I feel like I have grown tremendously as an educator.

 

RELATED: Column: Why geography matters for students now more than ever

 

You could not understand the world and its many cultures, politics, arts and sciences and histories without understanding the geography behind it all. This community has built friendships and we will continue to stay in touch. Maybe #worldgeochat will even morph into something different that the likes of EduTwitter hasn’t seen yet. 

 

 

 

James Caudill is a social studies teacher from McLean County High School in Calhoun, Kentucky. James was a moderator for #worldgeochat for the 2018-2019 school year and a long time participant of the chat. James currently teaches Modern World History and AP World History but deep down still considers himself a geography teacher. You can reach James via Twitter @teachcaudill.

 


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