How do you learn from #lrnchat ?

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know that I am a host of the early synchronous live-chat session that takes place on Twitter at 4.30 on Thursday afternoons in the UK (5.30 pm CET and 11.30 am EDT) known as #lrnchat.  I also regularly blog and talk about how valuable it is as a professional development learning experience for Learning & Development professionals – particularly those involved in workplace learning.

Today I received the following email from a new lrnchatter:

"Earlier this week I had my first “twitter LIVE” experience with #lrnchat.  I discovered lrnchat through your blog and it seemed like a good idea.  My experience, however, was a learning one, but not in the way I expected it to be.   My purpose in writing you is to increase my understanding of the “live chat” approach and its intended value.

I followed the lrnchat in TweetDeck.  I had barely tweeted my presence when multiple tweets started coming in.  They were occurring so fast that I couldn’t even finish reading one because it would get bumped down in the stack and I could not find the tweet I had been reading.  Later on the tweets were so filled with “@”, “#” and links that they made no sense unless you had remembered the comment made by the @[name] or had visited the link.   I found myself  spending all of my time “navigating” (i.e. finding my place: where am I?) and none of my time gaining any insights or learning.  I am amazed that people actually had the time to tweet!!

When I was able to catch some of the tweets, the comments seemed completely random.  True the “choir” was singing, but in this case it seemed that everyone was singing a slightly different song and no one voice was distinguishable from the next.   The result – cacophony. 

Finally, I gave up.  If I really wanted to know anything about “back channeling” at conferences I would likely use a more efficient approach.  I couldn’t imaging sitting through 90 minutes trying to high-speed sift through the noise to find a gem or two.   The thought “Inefficient learning” comes to mind…

So I’m hoping you might have some guidance for me.   Was I using the wrong tool?   Was Thursday’s chat the “norm” (in which case I might just be too “old school” to absorb it!) or did I just happen to chose a first experience that wasn’t the ideal place to get started?   What did anyone learn from that lrnchat session and how did they learn that (because the only thing I learned was my inability to learn from that format)?

 Like you, I believe that the world of adult learning is changing rapidly … as it should be given the tools and technologies at our disposal today.  I want to genuinely  thank you for catalyzing discussions that challenge the century old precepts that learning only happens when an “expert” imparts knowledge to the “student”.  I’m hopeful that you can help me see the value of live twitter streaming in an increasingly noisy marketplace of learning technologies."

My own response was as follows:

"My first session in #lrnchat I felt the same; but I got used to the pace of it all after a couple of sessions.  You can’t read every tweet or look at every link whilst it’s live, so that’s why we post  a transcript so that you can go back and review the conversation to help you find those “learning gems” ."

But as I think this is a very interesting question, and an experience that other newcomers to lrnchat may be having,  I gained the permission of the writer to reproduce the email here, and would like to invite all lrnchatters to share their own experiences of how they cope with the fast flow of the session and use it as a valuable learning activity. 

In fact what advice/guidance/support should we giving to those new to synchronous live chat sessions like #lrnchat?

31 thoughts on “How do you learn from #lrnchat ?

  1. Harold Jarche

    My first suggestion for a synchronous session like lrnchat would be to use a service like Tweetchat or Twitterfall to watch the tweets as they pass. Like taking a drink from a stream, you can’t attempt to drink all of the water at once. I use favourites or retweet (RT) items of interest.
    Doing this type of session online takes skill and like all skills it takes time to develop. Just because you are not very good at your first golf game, do you quit? No, you watch and learn from others. Learning to learn is the skill. If you think #lrnchat is confusing, watch competitive gamers and see how many auditory and visual cues they deal with simultaneously. Over time, certain tasks become automatic and then you can concentrate on other aspects of #lrnchat, like making sarcastic remarks. I learned about this type of mental “chunking” from studies done with air traffic controllers in the 1980’s.

  2. David D. LaCroix

    The most recent early #lrnchat was quite lively, and thus maybe tougher to follow than it might otherwise be. TweetDeck’s new real-time updating might make it even more complicated — one of the reasons I usually use TweetChat is that if you scroll down far enough, the stream pauses.
    I also think I would have had a similar first response, had I not read through a #lrnchat transcript before trying the real thing. In action, it’s a bit like trying to keep your eye on a single kernel in a popcorn popper. Tough to do, but you end up with delicious morsels of flavor at the end. Which also describes Twitter itself.

  3. Judith Christian-Carter

    I remember very well my first #lrnchat experience and even though I was using Tweetchat (which some people had recommended using and for very good reasons) I did share some of your contact’s experiences. However, my next session was better as I found I could follow far more easily the conversation(s) and as time went by the ‘chat’ and the ‘learning’ both moved to the forefront and the technology disappeared into the background, which is where I find myself today whenever I join in on a Thursday afternoon.

  4. Jon Husband

    I think that various dashboards for micro-blogging help (and there are sure to be more powerful and sophisticated ones come along) that allow you to filter, aggregate and congregate according to themes or social circles, etc.
    And, as jane points out, it seems essential that each individual practice, to find their own cognitive capacity, rhythm and its combination with their social impulses / approach. Almost exactly, but different, from finding one’s own voice (and then learning about it) thru blogging or writing or what-have-you.
    And (again) whilst general learning is by itself an useful goal (imo), it’s probably also useful to know why you want you learn from a seemingly semi-random stream.
    And .. please accept my apology in advance if this is stuff you already know, have thought about and so on. Don’t mean to be preachy in any way.

  5. Craig Taylor

    Hi Jane,
    If I cast my mind back to the Spring of this year when I first started participating in #lrnchat I also recollect being ‘swamped’ with information at such a rapid rate that I actually gave up on that session approx. 1/2 way through.
    Not to be put off, I reviewed the transcript once it was published and identified 3 or 4 key contributors, who I subsequently ‘followed’ on Twitter. (one of these was @lrnchat itself)
    The following week instead of following the lrnchat hashtag I answered the Q’s that @lrnchat was asking along with the contributions that those 3 or 4 people were making. I found this to me MUCH easier to follow, less daunting and allowed me to get to grips with how that ‘manic 90 minutes’ unfolds, prior to gradually increasing my exposure to the wider Twitter stream.
    I hope this approach can be of benefit to others.

  6. Jane Hart

    Here’s a couple of tweet response
    from @sumeet_moghe: @C4LPT serendipity is the word for me. i learn by just seeing the interesting conversations float by. great stuff always comes up #lrnchat
    from @laura_dickson: RT @C4LPT: How do you learn from #lrnchat ? there’s definitely a learning curve, I’m interested to see the comments

  7. Mattiaskareld

    Hi Jane,
    I am also quite new to both twitter and #lrnchat and the first time I felt exactly the same frustration. But then I started thinking about how to do it and this is what I came up with:
    I see it as a huge party where a lot of people are chatting and dicussing with each other (perhaps over a glass of wine?). It’s impossible for me to follow what everyone is saying so I stick with a smaller group of my closest friends. So here is how I actually do it:
    * I have one column in tweetdeck with the #lrnchat timeline where messages are rushing by and there I pick up a message here and there that I find interesting.
    * Then I have one column with my regular timeline where I can follow the posts from the people I am usually following (my closest “friends”). Here I can follow the discussion more easily.
    After the #lrnchat I read the full transcript where I can see what everyone has been saying. I also read the blog from @landdave,, where he blogs about his own reflection from the #lrnchat sessions.
    This has worked for me. But maybe I find an even better way in the future when I am more experienced in using twitter and tweetdeck.
    See you next Thursday in the next #lrnchat session.

  8. LandDDave

    There is definitely a certain overwhelming aspect to the rapid fire flow of a Twitter chat, especially for a first time attendee. It’s something I think all participants have felt initially. You do get used to the pace. Here are a few tips I’d share that helped me with my #lrnchat learning curve.
    * Take the expectation of reading every tweet, and throw it out the window. #lrnchat can be the proverbial “Drinking from a Fire Hose”, so don’t go in with that expectation. Read and respond to what you can, and know that as you become more comfortable with the flow, you’ll be able to review and respond to more tweets than you currently think you would be able to.
    * Use a Twitter service better suited for chat, as they filter out much of the non-chat noise so you can focus on the chat itself. Tweetchat seems to be the most popular, as are TweetDeck and Hootsuite.
    * Don’t worry about searching for the ‘learning gems’. Many of them will bubble to the service anyway as they get the most ReTweets.
    * For more detailed and slower consumption of the chat, read the transcripts. It’s a little like reading computer code at first, but after a short while, it’s second nature – much like learning a new language.
    * Don’t just monitor the #lrnchat hashtag during chats – monitor it always. Many times, links are posted to blogs and other areas that discuss and summarize the chats.
    * Most importantly, at least to me, use the chats to help build your Network. If you are a learning professional that is interested in developing your own knowledge and skills, I believe their is no greater source than #lrnchat for building your network.
    I hope these tips, and those of other comments, help you feel confident of jumping back into #lrnchat. It is definitely worth it.
    David Kelly

  9. Jane Hart

    Another tweet I’ve captured
    from @audioswhite:
    Comments on blog seem right on. The first few #lrnchat sessions I lurked to get the pulse. Now skim&dive and fav for later

  10. Jane Hart

    Two more tweets:
    from @jedlangdon
    I feel the same, but it hasn’t put me off. I just haven’t had the time to focus on it yet…will make time soon!
    from @JenniferVMiller
    I prefer to read the transcript and “cherry pick” as suggested by commenter on your blog. Live stream too chaotic for me.

  11. Simon Fowler

    Great question! Makes me realize how I’ve developed a level of comfort, even ‘fluency’, with #lrnchat since the first few ‘woooah!’ experiences.
    My main tactic is similar to Craig’s … focus primarily on the @lrnchat questions. By thinking about the topic and question, and trying first to work out my own response, the tweets I read make more sense to me.
    Then it’s easier to put a tweet that I read in context and think:
    1) good point, I’ll retweet that,
    2) not sure I understand, I’ll RT with a question
    3) maybe I disagree, I’ll RT with question or counterargument,
    4) oooh! Here’s an excuse for saying something no-one seems to have mentioned, a “devil’s advocate” response, or a wise-crack.
    The RTs and replies you do (and others do to you) are a significant part of feeling connected to real people in conversation and not just watching a cacophany of text whizz by your eye.
    The other key is to think only about ‘the tweets I read’, not worrying about the ones you miss. It’s definitely a learned skill as Jane/Harold/Jon emphasize. But as with any new tool or medium it’s a new literacy that takes time to develop, that will eventually result in fluency and great enjoyment and satisfaction (of course IF the topic/people are what/who you want to engage with).

  12. LearnNuggets

    I’ve been involved with #lrnchat since the first few sessions. Early on there weren’t as many people, and I recall the sessions were over in about an hour – now it’s easy 1 1/2 hours, plus lingering conversations can last another hour.
    I use TweetChat for two reasons: 1) it’s web-based and not a desktp client. I can participate wherever I am on any device/computer. 2) it auto-fills the #lrnchat hashtag.
    Like Harold, if I see a reference to a link I “favorite” it or RT (ReTweet) it. Most often I don’t have time view said link as soon as I see it in the stream, so having it as a fav I can go back and view it at my leisure. However, sometimes the conversation around the active question becomes slow or stale – this is an opportunity to look at a link. I did try a new method recently: assoon as a link goes by in the stream, I click it. By doing this it opens up another tab in my browser. I don’t read it then, however after the session all the links I clicked are readily available in open tabs. RT works the same way as favs as I can go back and look at “my” RTs using TweetDeck or Hootsuite – they’re all right there.
    For newcomers, I would suggest simply try to answer the question when that block begins. Then sit back and watch the stream. Some folks trail off in their own back-and-forth conversations, or “chit-chat” but it’s easy to filter that with practice. This approach allows you dip your toe in the steam, participate, and not feel like you’re drowning.
    The value of #lrnchat is extemely powerful, but it takes time to get used to. Aside from the active topic and conversation in a particular session, the bigger value comes in the relationships (PLN – Personal Learning Network) you build over time. I trust the #lrnchat community’s advice over some of my own co-workers!

  13. Jane Bozarth

    1. Jane asked me to chime in, so here is response 1 of 3. First, let me say (and this is no secret to the other commenters) that I love #lrnchat and find it my best use of 90 minutes all week. I missed last week’s #lrnchat – I was at an entertainment event – but checked in occasionally on my iPhone. Looking back on that I realized I was scanning for a few things, like people I usually listen to and items that seemed to be getting lots of RTs or a lot of responses. What did I learn from the conversation? Backchannels are a great way to market/promote an event, and the smart organization will make its hashtag known early and prominently. Tweeting key points helps, as does extending or reflecting on key points. At a large event the backchannel is helpful for finding out about something interesting that’s happening somewhere else. There is no escaping non attendees sometimes feeling a little left out: we ARE going to talk about lunch and shuttle buses. More people than I imagined still feel F2F is somehow ‘better’. A lot of people for all their talk about letting go of control sure do seem to want to impose a lot of control on the backchannel…. And that’s just what I picked up from dropping in.
    As so many others have said, #lrnchat involves some skills: in scanning, in filtering, in ignoring, in learning to read Twitter shorthand, and in learning to just let the stream go by, drinking occasionally. I’ll reiterate what the others said about using a tool like Tweetchat to isolate the #lrnchat stream, find a few people who seem worth following and maybe engaging with them after the fact. (conversations continue to go on long after #lrnchat ends). Notice who’s cranky, who’s funny, who’s terribly er-u-dite. Learn to jump in and realize if you make a mistake it will be washed away in the flood. Start participating by just retweeting someone, or respond to just one thing. Come prepared with a link or something to share. Realize to engage, you need to so something so that others have something to respond to. It’s ok to start slow, and really, I think most who stick with it find it’s worth the effort. Unlike the others here, I find the transcripts maddening and unless I’m searching for something in particular I rarely look at them. But—others who attend the evening #lrnchat say they find it useful to read over the daytime #lrnchat transcript as it gives them an idea of what people will be talking about and helps them frame their thoughts. If you think the #lrnchat themes and participants are of sufficient interest, please just be patient– you’ll find it does get easier.

  14. Jane Bozarth

    2. Response 2 of 3. While I certainly don’t want anyone to feel frustrated or excluded, I also want to say that it is the nature of Twitter, and #lrnchat in particular, to fly fast and furious. It is not the place for neat, threaded, rule-bound discussions. The things Jane H’s contact says are exasperating for him/her are EXACTLY why I love Twitter! As I often say, it is the first thing I’ve ever found that moves at the Speed of Jane B. Everything else in the learning world seems to be geared toward those who “need more time to process”. Slow, multiday forum discussions are not for me… and maybe Twitter isn’t for everyone else. And that’s OK.

  15. Jane Bozarth

    3.Response 3 of 3. Finally, I must commend the person who contacted Jane H for their thoughtful, respectful feedback and genuine request for help. So many times some new to Twitter or Twitter chats become exasperated quickly and start tweeting things like “this is stupid” or “no one could possibly be learning anything here” and slink back to other calmer, more organized sites and commiserate with others. This person asked for help, Jane H turned to her community, and I hope it’s clear that everyone here genuinely wants to offer support. If only “smile sheet” feedback were this useful!

  16. Jane Hart

    Thanks Jane, your comments are, as always, valued by all – and once again you “nail it” here. The community have responded magnificently to the cry of help! I cannot even begin to thank them all for responding to my request for help …

  17. Les Schmidt (GlobalSchmidt)

    Thank you Jane (and Jane) and all of the other responders. Really great to see the different perspectives and techniques that have formed around this medium.
    Additional question… if one thinks about matching a “learning medium” to a particular type of topic, what topics are best for the live twitter streaming approach. At first blush it seems ideal for topics that are largely about collecting experiences, references to sites or opinions from a diverse group of people…as a sort of live index to the web. Others thoughts?

  18. Jane Bozarth

    Why, Les, the answer to that can be found in Dr. Jane Bozarth’s fabulous “Social Media for Trainers”, available in paperback and for eReaders from Amazon, B&N, and booksellers everywhere. In face, you might want to buy several copies. 😉
    Jane Bozarth

  19. Chambo_online

    Lots of great advice so far. The best I’ve had about #lrnchat and Twitter in general, is that if the resource is good, it will come around again. You don’t have to absorb it all the first time it comes through the feed.
    #lrnchat is the best educational cocktail party you’ll ever attend, but it does take a little while to get used to hearing all the conversations at once. Eventually, you will get it and wonder how you ever got by without us!

  20. Sleveo

    I love how the gentleman worded his request. I want to follow him on Twitter. Thoughtful, reflective, responsible, kind. I love when he said, “My purpose in writing you is to increase my understanding of the “live chat” approach and its intended value.” That is a perfect example of writing to learn, even before you get a response.
    I find best when I’m actually trying to drink the whole firehose. It is painful. But hovering your mouse lets you hold the stream, or you can put the stream on Pause and come back. Also allows multiple search terms, so I can follow two tags at once, each in a different color. I filter by looking to skip the RT’s of lines I’ve read. But if you’re using a column client, like TweetDeck or TweetGrid, the following columns are helpful: 1. the hashtag #lrnchat 2. my own username 3. the names of the administrators to see what the questions are and maybe 4. the combo of hashtag and Q numbers: (q1 AND lrnchat) OR (q2 AND lrnchat) …
    I mostly look for good links and great ideas to retweet. I open each promising link in a new background tab (using Chome). I find lrnchat a bit too noisy and busy to find time to generate my own tweets. Too fast for me. I’d like to learn to take smaller drinks from the firehose.
    Thank you Jane for another powerful discussion.

  21. gminks

    Like several other users, I use TweetChat to participate in #lrnchat. I also focus on the questions. If you scroll backwards in Tweetchat, it will pause incoming tweets.
    If there is a lively conversation, it is impossible to read everything though. Sometimes someone will start a geeky sort of line of thinking, I like to follow those.
    I use FireFox as a browser. If someone shares a link, I open it in a new tab. That way I can take a quick look at it, and then save it for later. I also look for links to share in different tabs.
    For me, #lrnchat is a great way to find like-minded or otherwise very interesting people to follow on Twitter. I usually get several new followers after a chat, and I try to follow everyone back. If the people have shared interesting comments in #lrnchat I’ll try to find out if they blog (and usually I follow their blog as well).
    I found my internship for grad school because of #lrnchat, and I’ve met some new friends. Also, I have a network of people I can reach out to now at **any** time, not just on Thursdays at 8:30 EST. So for me the learning goes far, far beyond the actual scheduled event.

  22. CoCreatr

    “Wow, a forum on fast-forward” was what I felt when I joined a first #chat months ago and it turned out firehose. Yesterday, I prepared and proudly announced,
    Pen, notepad, iPad, iPhone, twitter on web. Ok, ready for @blogbrevity’s #ideachat in 5 minutes at 9 am EST –
    Bah, got wet again. Worked better, though, mainly because the chat was small, and I had the iPhone to hold a message I wanted to respond to. Besides writing the chat topic, I used the notepad once, drafting a reply while I had another one open. On other chats I noted a series of keywords as the chat went.
    It helps the chatters if the moderator announces new questions. A group can take on 5 questions in an hour. It helps if the questions are posted before, but some who join in the middle did not see them . Also helps if participants forgo social nicety (some apologize to their followers as if this was on radio) to give the best possible attention to the ongoing exchange.
    Great value is in the chat log or transcript, that good moderators announce immediately after the chat end time passed. It would save time and make learning more efficient if we had a tagging mechanism to filter the transcript for key categories, like on topic, emotion, nicety, and media issues. Here I posted such a “mark-up concept for video chat”.

  23. Les Schmidt (GlobalSchmidt)

    Fantastic comments posted so far. The original topic posted touched a number of “nerves”. Through the posts here, it’s apparent that the *mechanics* of participating in a live chat can be solved via the right tools and techniques – pause, slow down the stream, filter posts, transcripts, etc.
    With that out of the way, the uber remaining question is then: is this the right medium and the right topic for “me” (an individual learner)? When I think about busy adult learners they will want to ask: how important is the topic to me? how much am I willing to invest (time, coming up the technology and content domain learning curve)? AND – perhaps most important given the medium we’re discussing – do I want “social” with that or “just the facts”?
    There are no right/wrong answers to these questions…perhaps a matter of personal preference. Perhaps a matter of what’s the topic. Whereas a quick scan of the lrnchat transcript is best in certain circumstances (“just the facts”), the live interaction is better when the learner’s willingness to invest is high.
    @CoCreatr – I love the notion of a framework that will help parse the fire hose into manageable bits!! Great concept to use technology for even greater learning! 🙂

  24. Simbeckhampson

    Having been involved with #lrnchat for quite some time I can only add that that this community adds huge value from so many different learning perspectives. Before the recent introduction of a European lrnchat, I remember the very early mornings, my wife thought I was crazy to stay up all night, but I’d learn so much from other #lrnchatters that it was always worth it, and even though trying to follow the flow was arduous, with practice it does get easier. I’d be interested to know how many people actually go back through the transcript and what tools they’ve used to help analyse it.
    I use tweetgrid for the live chat and have recently started using twazzup to help review a summary of the chat. I’ve also used for a birds-eye view. Another tip would be to use the star system on Twitter, I use this in combination with
    I was recently toying with the idea of using Amplify to conduct #chats, mainly because each post can contain threaded comments, it updates in real-time, and there is no limit to character length, in addition comments and posts can be sent out to twitter, FB and Buzz. Although I’ve not yet set this up, I’d like to pilot this in the near future.

  25. Enzofsilva

    I think the email you received in quite interesting.
    It is important to understand why we do things a certain way sometimes.
    What arethe affordances seen in a chat session in which each message is limited to 140 characters (and cluttered with noise from an outsider’s perspective) if compared to “regular” chatrooms with no such limitations. What are the limitations of other chat channels?

  26. Mrch0mp3rs

    The thing about #lrnchat that I quickly learned (and it helped me to make sense of Twitter, in general) is that it’s not so much about every post — every piece of content. It’s more about the gestalt. When you’re at a bookstore and you’re quickly evaluating a book you want to buy, you might have time to read the first chapter or two, in full. Sometimes you might only have time to read the back cover or the flaps, and quickly scan the book for the keywords that stick out at you. If you’re on a plane or a train and someone next to you is reading a newspaper or a magazine, you can’t help but quickly scan what they’re reading about (it’s human nature) — and that’s kinda the skill you need to bring with you into #lrnchat.
    You get better at absorbing more (or all) as you do it more — there’s rarely a tweet I miss nowadays in real time. It didn’t start that way, though. It started with me recognizing words or phrases that caught my attention as the stream flowed in my browser or client.

  27. Hildy Gottlieb

    Jane and everyone:
    This is such great information. I have added some of your thinking to our “New to Twitter Chats” section for the #NPCons chat for consultants to nonprofit / community benefit organizations.
    If you have other thoughts I should include there, please let me know. I cannot begin to thank you all enough for the great stuff you have shared here!

  28. Kay Wood

    The first time I entered the lrnchat room via TweetChat I was totally confused. What I did know was that the people who were participating were the authors of some blogs I had been reading for some time. I also knew many were well respected in their respective of arenas of’learning science.’ So I hovered in the background and watched. Afterward I would reference the posted tweet log looking for reference links, suggested readings, and the like
    The light bulb went off. Not only did I find it rich with platinum nuggets of information, it was a community. A real learning community of people pushing the envelope of networking for those of who love to learn and have made it our profession in one way or another.
    By my 3rd visit I jumped in. Something else began to take hold. No longer did I look solely for the contributions of those I had known of or read about. I noticed that there were participants from every walk of the learning world who weren’t authors, presenters or PhD.’s who contributed equally with as much knowledge and know-how as the next guy or gal. Now I look for those nuggets that come forth from the new lrnchatter or the one who contributes sparingly, but when they do it is often a Wow instance. From the seasoned to the novice, there is much to learn from one another.
    So like a moth to the flame, I come back to the evening gathering in the States. I never know who I will ‘meet’ in the den of clacking keys or quick wits and what I can take back to the office in the morning that helps me meet the demands of my clients.
    Thank you, Jane, for sharing and spurring the engagement on this issue.

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