When I first joined Twitter about a year ago, I joined in order 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 as I built my PLN (Personal Learning Network), I saw hashtags being used by people at conferences such as #NAIS, #ISTE, etc. By “marking” tweets in this way, people could send a message to everyone in the group. Followers of the conference didn’t have to follow every attendee, they could just create a search column in their TweetDeck that filtered tweets for that hashtag – Brilliant! I started keeping track of tweets related to Powerful Learning Practice by keeping a column filtered for #plpnetwork.
What I didn’t realize until this summer (#slowlearner), was the ENORMOUS group of educators that are finding folks to follow 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.
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 in to Twitter on Monday nights at 8:00 p.m. EST and join other 4th grade teachers for #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 is a new Google Doc with a list of twitter chats here.
It drives me crazy that more educators don’t take advantage of these opportunities to learn and connect 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 us 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!*