Saturday, February 25, 2012

Questions and Answers #WHTweetup Twitter Speak for White House Tweetup

I have been asked a couple of questions in the last couple of days about my upcoming trip to Washington DC, so I want to try and answer them as best as I can.

What the heck is a Tweetup?
A tweetup is a group of Twitter members meeting together for a common goal. This can either be an organized meeting (the #WHTweetup, #SCTweetup, and #NASATweetup are great examples), where there is a set schedule with a "plan" in place. Or this can be an impromptu meeting, where one person invites their local tweeps to join them for a meal (I went to one of these organized by Annisa Mayhew last summer in Atlanta, as well as Jeff Gluck's NASCAR tweetups at Atlanta MotorSpeedway @amsupdates, I have tried off and on to convince NASCAR to plan and sponsor more official Tweetups without a whole lot of luck).


What is with the # in front of the title of the Tweetup?
The # or hashtag as it is called in Twitter speak, is used to denote keywords that you want people to be able to search for, are hoping to get people to follow (yes you can follow a hashtag through Twitter without following all of the people that are using it), or to form a trend. When I first joined Twitter the only way something became a "trend" in their statistics was by having a hashtag, and it had to be one word so John Glenn became #JohnGlenn. Now days a series of words can trend, for example the other week RIP Whitney Houston, written just like that trended before the news of her passing even was published on Yahoo.com's main page. 


How do you use a Tweetup to make yourself a better person?
Tweetups are used as networking tools by the participants. You have the chance to meet with people and share ideas with people that you may never have had the chance to in any other situation. I have met astronauts, future astronauts (9 of my fellow #NASATweetup #SCTweetup tweeps have applied to be part of the astronaut corp in the latest round of applications), engineers, fellow educators, authors, tv and movie stars, media moms, doctors, and lawyers from 12 countries and every state in the country. 


Meeting fellow educators has helped me challenge my way of teaching and my way of reaching my students. Every single educator I have met on my tweetups has given me a new perspective of teaching and continues to inspire me to become a better educator. I continue to learn from these fellow educators through their blogs, #edchat, #mathchat, #STEM chats every single day. If I have any questions about how to find a resource I can ask it on Twitter and chances are one of these great Tweeps will know the answer, or know how to find the answer before I can even blink. 


What exactly is a #WHTweetup?
WH stands for The White House, and these tweetups are run by the social media outreach personnel for the President. The White House has sponsored several tweetups over the last year. Tweeps have had a chance to view the holiday decorations, the State of the Union, town hall meetings, press corp briefings, Official State Welcomes, etc.

What will you be doing on your Tweetup?
While I do not have an official schedule (nor will we get a true agenda due to security reasons), the main purpose of this Tweetup is to attend the Official State Welcome for Prime Minister Cameron from the United Kingdom and his wife. We will also have a briefing with administration officials. Other than this, right now, I do not know. However the chance to be at such an event that is held on the South Lawn is a great honor. 

Will you get to meet President Obama?
I really want to! But in reality probably not. I am pretty sure he will have more important things going on that day with Prime Minister Cameron than to speak with little ole me. Would I jump at the chance if given it? Of course I would, who in their right mind wouldn't? I mean really, I am an Air Force wife, mom to three beautiful children, and a teacher to 70 wonderful 4th graders, and in all of these capacities everything President Obama does for our country it touches my life. I would love to meet First Lady Mrs. Obama and thank her and Second Lady Dr. Biden for supporting and promoting Joining Forces


Who pays for you to go on these Tweetups?
The Tweeps invited to most (if not all) Tweetups pay their own way. If you are invited to attend a tweetup be prepared to pay for your own: travel, lodging, food, gifts etc. I was very blessed when I attended the #NASATweetup in having people and businesses willing to sponsor my trip, as well as having some professional development money from the school board. When I was worried about not having the money to attend a fellow Tweep told me to seek out sponsors, especially since the launch was a true STEM activity, and the speakers and things we were exposed to would benefit my students. 

Wait a minute I thought you said you would be bringing these experiences back to Twiggs County. You mean the school doesn't help you cover expenses?
While the district personnel was able to help with my expenses to attend the #NASATweetup in July at Kennedy Space Center, that was the only event I was able to get professional development money for.


I took personal days to attend the Space Camp Tweetup, and am taking personal days to go to Washington DC. I covered and will be covering my own transportation, lodging, and meals for these last two trips. This is the reason why I am hoping that I can get sponsors for this trip as well. I can make it happen without help, but it will be tight on our budget. Without a little bit of help I will not be able to purchase any extras to bring home for my students, or extras to use in my classroom. My camera and my computer keyboard will do all of the talking. 


How do you bring the events of your tweetups back to the students in Twiggs County?
With both the #NASATweetup and the #SCTweetup I have brought the excitement of STEM learning to my students in Twiggs County. With the #NASATweetup I have made two picture books 
and 
for my students to read and follow along on Jeffery (our school mascot) and my adventures. I have used both of these books in my reading and language arts classes (and yes there are some editing mistakes in both of them that I did not catch before publishing). Also our second grade students have a story in their reading anthology about astronauts and space so the second grade team has also used the books. I am in the process of writing books for the #SCTweetup.


After my trip to Space Camp my homeroom students grew even more interested in what is happening in space and with NASA. We asked questions of Ron Garan during the #NASATweetup at NASA Headquarters a couple of weeks ago, and then they came up with the idea on their own to turn their spelling homework into space station stories. 


For the #WHTweetup every year my students write President's Day letters to the President. With the knowledge that I would be going to the White House in just a few weeks this project became more alive for my students. I will be bringing back everything that I can learn from my visit to share with my students, as well as hopefully hand delivering our letters to one of the tweetup coordinators (I have sent an email asking if this would be permissible, if not then I will mail the letters like I normally do.) In the two weeks before I leave on my trip we will also be talking more about the President's job, the White House, the United Kingdom, and the importance of inviting foreign leaders to the White House. While I am in Washington DC I hope to visit as many of the historical sites as I can and gain as much first person knowledge about these places and the people that make/made them famous. Not only for my own students but for the rest of the students in Twiggs County. Second grade is currently studying Capitols, and while my trip may be a little late for this year's study on it, I hope to bring home resources for them to use next year. 


Where do you typically stay on tweetups and how do you arrange it?
For my #NASATweetup I was blessed enough to have a good friend living in Daytona that I stayed with. For the #WHTweetup I will be staying with my cousin Glen who lives in DC. Space Camp I stayed in lodging on Red Stone Artillery. 
Arranging lodging for me was fairly easy, due to being a military spouse and having connections in a lot of places. However most big tweetups that I have seen, one person in the tweetup sets up a Facebook group for everyone involved to join, and from there the planning happens. Tweeps generally arrange to stay in houses together, in the same hotels, carpools etc through our Facebook groups.


So you go off for a few days with complete strangers and meet?
While I know it sounds that way, after you have been chatting on Twitter and on Facebook making arrangements and plans, by the time the Tweetup happens, you feel like you know one another. As we said at the end of #NASATweetup and #SCTweetup you have 150/16 new best friends who just had a once in a lifetime experience with you. And actually on the #SCTweetup there were 4 of us who attended the #NASATweetup together. 


How do you keep getting these chances to go on these things?
That is a very good question! I have been so lucky with these tweetups, honestly, every one that I have applied for I have gotten into. I know that #NASATweetup is a random luck of the draw, and I am pretty sure Space Camp and the White House were as well. 


How can I get to go on one of these tweetups?
First and foremost, you must have a twitter account. You do not need to be nearly as active as I am (and honestly I have been more active since going on my first NASA tweetup). 
Second you need to follow the accounts of the places/people that sponsor the type of tweetup you would like to go on.


For example if you want to get a chance to go on a White House Tweetup you would need to follow @whitehouse and @macon44. 


If you want a chance to go on a NASA Tweetup you need to follow @nasatweetup and @nasa


If you want a chance to experience Space Camp from behind the scenes you need to follow @SpaceCampUSA, that's Charity, our hostest with the mostest, and she announces all of their events.


 Raytheon is starting to get into the tweetup business as well sponsoring STEM tweetups with @Mathmovesu with the Smithsonian for their @Mathalive exhibit.

@Smithsonian also sponsors tweetups to give people a behind the scene look into what makes the museum work. 


I know that there are other places that sponsor Tweetups, it is just a matter of following who you are interested in, or activities that you are interested in. 


Last, don't give up, if you don't get accepted for your first chance, keep applying. 

How can I sponsor your Washington DC trip?
You can visit this link and make a donation through Facebook/Paypal, Or you can contact me at scienceesl @ yahoo.com (without any spaces), and I will either give you my mailing address, paypal email address or arrange to meet with you in person. 

Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/scienceesl
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