Make the hashtag work for you

Make the hashtag work for you header imageI am sure you have see or heard of the hashtag (#). If you turn on the television, the hashtag is used to support live television shows. Conferences use hashtags to increase engagement even before you arrive. The question is how can you use it in your classroom? Should you even try?

Personally, I have found the hashtag to be an extremely powerful tool for learning.  I regularly use hashtags as I communicate with and learn from the world. Hashtags form the foundation of daily newsletters that I subscribe to. Hashtags are a very easy way to focus an instructional topics.

What is a hashtag?

According to Wikipedia, “A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character (or number sign), #, to form a label. It is a type of metadata tag.” It is used on social media services such as Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. You can think of it as a breakout room for a conference. When the hashtag is used in discussion, everyone viewing the hashtag can follow the discussion.

Creating a hashtag

Anyone can create a hashtag by using the # character and a one word phrase (no spaces). For example, SUNY JCC uses the hashtag #sunyjcc .  You must simply decide on the word you wish to use. Ideally, the word should be short in length to conserve space in the 140 character Twitter post. Additionally, there must be agreement among participants of a community to use the hashtag in order for it to be meaningful. As an instructor, you could create a hashtag for your class. For example, the Intro to Broadcasting course could use the hashtag #CMM1650.

When creating a hashtag, I recommend conducting a search for the hashtag to ensure others are not actively using it.

Following hashtags

I use primarily three different methods for following a hashtag:

  • Create a column in Hootsuite or Tweetdeck based on the hashtag.
  • Create a Paper.li newsletter with the hashtag. The newsletter is sent to my email based on how it is prepared, typically daily or weekly. Here are examples: #netlit and #SUNY You could create a Paper.li newsletter for your students around your hashtag.
  • Follow the hashtag in the program called Tweetchat. I use this to follow the Twitter proceedings of a conference or workshop.

Using Hashtags for education

Here are some ideas for using hashtags to support your personal learning or classroom activities:

  • Create a Paper.li newsletter around a class hashtag.
  • Follow trending hashtags.  Here are education hashtags.
  • Participate in a tweet chat. Here are links to education based tweet chats.
  • Have students follow and report on findings around different hashtags.
  • Use the hashtag to collect questions from students during and after class.
  • Project a backchannel in class and have students submit Internet discoveries as they find them.
  • Have students capture Instagram photos to a specific hashtag.

Additional reading about hashtags

How are you using hashtags? Please take time to share.

Stan Skrabut, Ed.D.

Stan is Director of Technology-Enhanced Instruction. He has over 20 years experience working as an instructional technologist and trainer. He has a master’s degree in computing technology in education and a doctorate in education specializing in instructional technology.

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