In our last blog, we discussed the power of educators using Twitter to create a strong network (PLN).  To harness the full power of this tool, we encourage educators to not only follow leaders and innovators, but understand how to use and leverage hashtags.  Twitter defines a hashtag as “the # symbol, used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” Hashtags have also become a popular way to create interest-networks within Twitter.

The following video, by Johni Louise, provides a good overview to hashtags.

Using and following hashtags isn’t complicated but there are a few ‘rules’ seasoned Twitters will recommend.  Here are a few of our favorites:

  1. Use programs like Tweet Deck or Twitterfall to keep track of the hashtags you want to follow.
  2. Track and follow hashtags that are educationally relevant.
    • See what hashtags PLP recommends and enter your favorites at the bottom of the document.
    • Edublogs has a list for the Best twitter hashtags of 2011
    • Cybrary Man’s comprehensive hashtag list is another frequent source used by educators
  3. Avoid making your tweet look like spam.  Although there isn’t an official etiquette for the use of hashtags, it’s best to avoid using too many in one post.  Seasoned tweeters don’t like to read a post that looks like spam, just like people don’t appreciate reading “ALL CAP” messages.
  4. Promote your upcoming conference or event with a new hashtag.  Just make sure it isn’t already in use and makes sense to your group. Example: #ISTE12 is a popular hashtag associated with the annual ISTE conference.
  5. Join a live Hashtag Chat.  A hashtag chat is a live event where tweeters go online to discuss topics (created by the host organization).  During the event (usually 30-60 minutes) participants will read and add posts all using the same hashtag.  A popular chat is usually fast paced (i.e. speed of live auctioneer or race car), full of great ideas and a ton of fun!  Organizers of chats often curate the conversations at a webpage archive (e.g., #ntchat). To keep the live chats from becoming overwhelming take a minute to watch this quick tutorial:

Powerful Learning Practice is hosting a live Twitter chat on Sunday, April 29th at 7 pm Eastern.  We’ll be discussing who rocks your world (pedagogically) and will be using the #plpnetwork hashtag.  To learn more about this event click here.

In our next issue of this Twitter blog series, we’ll discuss ideas for using Twitter in the classroom! Want to see another Twitter topic discussed? Please leave a comment below!

About the author
Christen Dodd is Director of eLearning for Powerful Learning Practice. After earning her MEd. in Curriculum and Instructionat the University of Virginia, she began her career as a K-5 Computer Resource Teacher. She enjoyed collaborating with staff and creating technology lessons that engaged students, but caught “the bug” for presenting to educators on a national level. Read more about Christen