When I first joined Twitter about a year ago, I signed on to follow my teenage daughters (stalker mom extraordinaire). Among their group of friends, they frequently used hashtags (#) at the end of their tweets such as #justsayin or #awkward to express their feelings at the time. Some of them are quite amusing!
After I began using Twitter for professional reasons to help build my PLN (Personal Learning Network), I saw hashtags being used by people at conferences: #NAIS, #ISTE11, etc. By “marking” tweets in this way, people could send a message to fellow tweeps who were at the conference or had an interest in the goings-on. Followers of the hashtag didn’t have to keep up with lots of attendees because savvy tweeters were all using #ISTE11 (for example) on tweets about the meeting.
Here’s how it works: With a free tool like TweetDeck (my choice) or Hootsuite, Twitter users can create a search column for #ISTE11 and the software will filter all tweets carrying that hashtag into that column for review. Brilliant!
As soon as I grasped this concept, I started keeping track of tweets related to Powerful Learning Practice by keeping a column filtered for #plpnetwork and later #vflr (Voices from the Learning Revolution, where you are now!).
Months later, I have an #ahamoment
What I didn’t realize until this summer (#slowlearner), was the ENORMOUS group of educators who are finding folks to connect, chat and collaborate with by following hashtags. If you are an elementary school teacher and have something to share or want feedback, put #elemchat at the end of your tweet. There are even hashtags for grade levels such as #4thchat. The list is endless – #mathchat, #scichat, #dyslexia, #edreform, #esl… You get the idea. Cybrary Man (aka master creator of educational link lists) has a page of educational hashtags here.
Live hashtag meet-ups in your specialty area
But wait, there’s more! Hashtag “groups” are organizing and having weekly discussions on Twitter! So if you are a 4th grade teacher, for example, you can log into Twitter on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. EST and join other 4th grade teachers for the #4thchat. You can even vote on the topic for the chat in advance! I have even “lurked” during #6thchat as they discussed uses for Skype in the classroom. Great ideas!
There are twitter chats for almost every topic/hobby/profession imaginable. There’s even one (and this is timely) for new teachers (#ntchat) supported by an excellent wiki where live chat strings are archived. You’ll find a comprehensive list of hashtags across many fields of interest here on this Google Doc, and Cybrary Man’s calendar of educational twitter chats here.
Have difficulty following a twitter chat? The tweets fly by on my TweetDeck almost faster than I can keep up with them. Check out TweetChat.
Here’s more about TweetChat:
TweetChat helps put your blinders on to the Twitter-sphere while you monitor and chat about one topic.
Choosing a hashtag directs you to a TweetChat room. Each tweet automatically gets the hashtag added and the room auto-updates.
You can use the “User Control” area to feature people you like or to block spammers.
“Smart pausing” has been added so when you scroll down the page, it will not refresh, helping you avoid replying to the wrong person.
So why aren’t we all using Twitter?
I have gotten so many ideas from Twitter this year, and found so many passionate teachers to follow and collaborate with. It drives me crazy that more educators don’t take advantage of these opportunities to learn and connect (and benefit their students) through social media tools like Twitter. Scott McLeod says it best:
In an era in which the possibilities for ongoing professional learning are numerous and significant, I wonder how long will it take for us to start expecting educators to use these social media tools. It’s been 30 years since the advent of the personal computer and we’re still struggling to get teachers and administrators to integrate digital technologies into their daily work in ways that are substantive and meaningful. Meanwhile, we now have a bevy of powerful learning tools available to us that can advance our own professional learning (and, of course, make our technology integration and implementation efforts more efficient and effective).
It took me a year to figure out some of these #twittertips (another useful hashtag). I hope this helps more educators to connect more effectively and see the value of Twitter as PD.
What have I missed? Please add helpful tips in the comments! *Tweet Tweet!*
Latest posts by Patti Grayson (see all)
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An excellent post Patti. Hashtags can certainly help to turn the torrent of information into a trickle. If getting educators onto twitter is the first step, teaching them about hashtags is the second. Well done on how you have explained it.
Thanks for a concise post on the value of Twitter. So often people ask me ‘where do you find all of this cool stuff?’ and I always admit that my Twitter PLN is a huge source of it! Sometimes I wonder when some of the posters on Twitter that I follow sleep!
Living in the Southern Hemisphere, I always awake to a huge bounty of new ideas and conversation that has been tweeted overnight…if only we could schedule some of those #edchats at a better time!
This is both street smart and intlleigent.
Thanks, Carl and Kay! People complain about being limited to 140 characters, but that is often enough to tweet out a link to a great read or resource (especially with shortened URLs!). That’s where Twitter does it for me – When I don’t have a great deal of time, I can hop on and pick up a few gems. When I do, I can have my tweets pop up while I work, or participate in a chat… I’ve found some outstanding educators who love to share!
Kay – It’s not fair that you miss so much! #edchat is moderated by @shellterrell, @web20classroom and @tomwhitby. I would ask them if you could moderate and promote an #edchat at a convenient time for folks down there! I know you can always check the archives, but that’s not nearly as fun as being an active participant.
I love the idea of a hashtag meetup….I never had thought about it that way and it makes such sense. I am still struggling to find a PLN of random people…but I definitely relate to connecting with teachers from #scichat and #6thchat.
Slowly I’m developing connections thru what I now know as hashtag meetups into a PLN.
For me, I first found people who share my common interest and narrowed it down to people with whom I would want to develop closer working ties…and then I am slowly piecing that together into a PLN.
Thanks for your thinking.
Patti – thanks for pointing me to TweetChat… it came in very handy this past weekend as I followed the teachers’ march and other SOS activities in Washington. The tweets were literally flying by and being able to control that pace with a click in TweetChat made it possible to cope with the tweetstream.
I know this article has gotten a lot of attention in ed circles. You’ve helped filled a gap in knowledge for all those teachers who fall between “Don’t Care Yet” and “I’m All Ed-Techy Now.” There are bunches of them. We could use more articles like this.
I thought I was a pretty competent tweeter, but you’ve taught me a thing or two…or five! I’m going to share your blog on our school teacher Ning. The quote by McLeod is powerful and right on the money. The #ntchat for new teachers came at a perfect time and I hope to make it an expectation they learn to build a network. Finally, like John, I wish I had know about TweetChat as I was trying to follow the #sosmarch in DC too. One feature I like but is only available through my iPhone Twitter app is the ability to translate tweets. As I attempt to learn more about 1:1 BYOD implementation in K-12 schools, I find that lots of tweets need translating. It’s easy on my iPhone, but not in any other application. Any suggestions?
I constantly remind my colleagues that we are surrounded by experts, we just have to find them. I’m glad I found you!
Thanks! I am running some PD at school on Twitter, and am excited to get folks dipping into the stream… We use a Ning at school as well, and it is a great way to collaborate between our divisions (We never see each other!).
I found this resource for translating tweets – Hope it is useful!
Can you remember life before PLP? I don’t want to… I’m glad it helped me find you as well!
Thanks for this post Patti,
I’ll be sharing experiences about using Twitter and developing a PLN with a group of pre-service teachers this summer and I’ll definitely point them to this post.
Patti, thanks for a wonderful, clear, and detailed blog post on the value of hashtags! I have bookmarked this post and will definitely use it as a resource when preparing for a “Twitter for Professional Development” workshop I am presenting at the Texas Computer Education Association convention in February of 2012.
On a side note, you should add a link to your Twitter, @pattigrayson, in the About the Author section of this blog if you can and definitely add a “Follow Me” link on your personal blog site so people can easily follow you. I didn’t see one either place (sorry if I missed it; it’s early where I am!) and had to go search Twitter to find you. 🙂
Thanks, Sandy! You’ve been one of my “gurus” for a long time, and I’m honored to have you stop by here, and even more impressed that you took the time to hunt me down on Twitter!
I have taken your sage advice and added the follow button to my personal blog. Will have to bribe my editor here to add it to my bio. 🙂
A really great post. I’ve only recently started using twitter and the possibilities for PD seem endless. Really looking forward to making more connections and learning from experienced teachers over the coming year.
Wow! I have just recently found twitter and had no idea just how helpful it can be for a newbie like me! Thanks!
Thanks, Carrie! I get so much from Twitter! What is your twitter handle? Would love to learn and share with you!
Many thanks for sharing this very good piece. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)
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I can collaborate wihtout necessarily having to agree with people .Hmm.Kinda sums up the seriously infectious culture of laziness and the responsibility allergy’ that young creatives’ appear to have developed.They don’t have the drive to see something through from start to finish, so they want advice; but they’ll jump ship if they don’t like what they hear.They want ten projects on the go, and the freedom to drop any of them at any time.Yeah okay, let’s put something out there that doesn’t really work, and isn’t finished. Someone will want to finish it off for us, probably for free, surely? It won’t make us look like fickle, flakey amateurs will it?For god’s sake, these guys need to grow a pair.Look back at our contemporary visual & cultural heroes’ and how they worked.Kubrick, Saville, Crewdson, Rams, Hadid.It was (or is) their way, or the highway.Commitment was not so thin on the ground with these people, andthey aren’t exactly dinosaurs’