Maybe you’ve heard the buzz, maybe you’re on the waitlist, or perhaps you’ve entered a few rooms. The new social media app Clubhouse is gaining traction across many industries as Influencers, celebrities, and marketing professionals are heading to the app to connect and collaborate. (If you’re lucky, you might even catch a performance of “The Lion King.”)
The idea of a connected educator is nothing new, but the platforms through which educators can find other educators, share ideas, and learn are growing. With the feel of an in-person conference and the energy of an Edcamp, educators are finding this audio app is a new place to connect with educators from around the world.
What is Clubhouse?
Clubhouse is an invite-only, audio platform where users can start conversations, listen in to conversations, and network. When you open the app you’ll find one spot to search for users or clubs (which are like affinity groups) you’d like to follow, and a calendar of upcoming events based on the interests you selected when you first signed up. You can see what rooms other people are a part of and jump around to listen in and raise your hand if you want to be invited up to the stage.
Infused Classroom series author Holly Clark (@holllyclarkedu on CH) describes it as, “an interactive podcast. I can interact or I can just listen. It is like going to a conference while I walk my dog. It inspires me, it connects me, it helps me grow.”
I began hearing the buzz around Clubhouse this fall and downloaded the app to my iPhone (it’s iOS only for now). I knew it was “waitlist only” but that you could request your username and hope someone invited you in. Like most social media-friendly people, I figured I should grab a username (I’m @classtechtips on CH) that matched my Twitter and Instagram profiles while I waited.
After a few weeks, I was able to snag an invite and jump into a few rooms. Some educators hold weekly or daily sessions around a topic, others hold impromptu chats by creating a room and pinging friends in if they happen to be available. The user interface is pretty friendly, with only a limited number of spaces to navigate, but the notifications (which you can customize) can be a little overwhelming if you don’t set them up correctly.
Amber Coleman-Mortley (@MomOfAllCapes on CH), host of the Let’s K12 Better Podcast, describes some of the appeal to educators: “Normally we engage in person in the microcosms of our schools or districts, but the pandemic has all but destroyed that. We are all on a search to build community. Like Twitter, Clubhouse provides a space to connect with like minded individuals and groups, expanding your professional learning network. Unlike Twitter, this platform feels more ‘human’ because you hear others speak. Think of it like the old school party lines from the 1980s.”
Interactive PD on Clubhouse
Clubhouse provides a few different ways for educators to participate in professional development. There are opportunities to join in a room and listen to a conversation or start a room with a group of people to talk about a topic of your choice. This combination of scheduled sessions and impromptu rooms give the feel of a structured conference with an Edcamp component.
There isn’t an archive or replay for Clubhouse rooms, but you’ll find some educators using a Twitter hashtag or Slack channel to have a concurrent conversation. For a room I recently hosted, I created a thread on Twitter and participants added resources in replies to the initial tweet. Clubhouse lets users link to their Twitter and Instagram profiles which Clubhouse users will often use to stay connected or send follow up messages after a chat.
Lindsay Portnoy (@lportnoy on CH) is a cognitive scientist and author of “Designed to Learn.” When I asked about her Clubhouse experience she shared, “The groups I’ve seen range from checking in and commiserating with other educators you may never have met otherwise, to groups seeking feedback on new ways to engage students during COVID.” She co-hosts a Saturday chat called “Equity or Lip Service,” which uses the hashtag #EquityCH to organize resources.
One of the interesting things about Clubhouse that new users might find confusing, is that there isn’t just one way to use it. During my first week on Clubhouse I heard Atlanta educator Sarrita Allen (@simply_saraj on CH) share her story of growing into her role as an assistant principal. She invited people on stage so they could change their role from a listener to a speaker and ask her questions. A few weeks later, I jumped into a room led by education researcher Sabba Quidwai (@askdrq on CH) where a larger group of educators talked about design thinking, mental health, differentiated instruction and more over the hour or so they gathered.
Each week, Allen co-hosts a chat to discuss the journey to shift the culture at their school. “As an educator who desires to grow and learn from others, listening to others has many benefits,” she tells me. “It gives you time to reflect on the knowledge shared and get multiple perspectives.”
Issues with Clubhouse
Right now Clubhouse is “waitlist only” and provides a barrier of entry that requires you to know someone who is already on the app. Each user is given a set number of invites to share when they first get into the platform and a few more each week. Although the FOMO (fear of missing out) might help the app get more attention because of the exclusivity, it isn’t the only issue.
Accessibility and lack of platform choices are both significant barriers. Clubhouse is an audio-only platform with no live captioning. Unlike many podcasts that include transcripts with the show notes for each episode, transcripts are not available since chats aren’t archived. Right now Clubhouse is only available on iOS, so Android users aren’t able to access the app on their phone. A recent update from the Clubhouse founders noted these issues and acknowledged there is work to be done in addressing them.
Future of Educator Clubhouse
Portnoy shared a description that gives you a sense of where the community might be headed. “Clubhouse feels like a 24/7 teachers lounge filled with all the brilliant chatter you’d hear in a brick and mortar teacher lounge with the added benefit of even more diverse voices.”
There are early adopters to any new platform and Clubhouse is no exception. You’ll find a variety of educators and I’ve crossed paths with classroom teachers, higher education faculty, podcasts hosts, authors, founders of EdTech startups and more.
“Clubhouse truly provides an empathy lens as to what people are thinking, feeling, seeing and doing in ways that other platforms do not,” Quidwai says. “My hope is that it brings people from different industries together to broaden our empathy lens, challenge our beliefs and connects us as global citizens opening opportunities as we address the challenges ahead of us.”