Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tag and Chat

Confused colleagues will ask me about Twitter:

What are those number sign thingies? 
How do you chat?
Do I friend or follow someone? 
Where do I find people to follow? 

Hashtags (those number sign # thingies) are used to tag posts and help organize people in a chat. Tagging means to label with a keyword. The number sign provides a visual cue signifying the label.  Tags can be self generated or recognized by groups of people as "official". When tweeting out links to resources, I tag the tweet (ie. include the hashtag and keyword) for the appropriate audience.  For example, if I'm sharing a resource that English teachers would find helpful, I use the tag #engchat (English chat).  I can incorporate as many tags as I can fit in 140 characters when trying to reach a larger audience. So if I my tweet was appropriate for English teachers who use technology and flip their classroom, I would use the hashtags #Engchat, #flipclass, and #edtech.

Professors and school-approved twitter accounts may also use hashtags for classes, athletics, and district events. You will often see me use the hashtag #teamMAIT when I want to share posts with my Masters in Instructional Technology classmates. Twitter and hashtags are an effective method for sharing resources and announcements. Since the tweets are always being sent, I can search for the hashtag to find relevant posts that I may have missed.

Besides tagging tweets, hashtags are also used to connect people during a chat.  To participate in a live Twitter chat, sign on at the scheduled time and search for the hashtag. The moderator of the chat will post questions using an alphanumeric system: Q1 for question 1, Q2 for question 2, and so on. Participants reply by including A1, A2, respectively with their answers to the questions AND include the appropriate hashtag of the chat. If you don't include the hashtag, people who do not follow you and are participating in the chat will not see your posts, and you will miss out on the conversation.

Chats usually last an hour, but I can tell you from experience that it does not feel like an hour! My favorite chats to participate in are #Flipclass on Monday nights, #NJED on Tuesday nights, #patue and #edmodochat which are on Thursdays, and Teachercast's #TechEducator chat and podcast on Sunday nights.  I try to participate weekly, but I'm not always able to when balancing home, school, and coaching.  But if I miss the chat, all I have to do is search for the hashtag the next day and scroll through the tweets. Moderators of chats may also archive the chat using Storify or a Google Script.

The Official Twitter Educational Chat Schedule is a useful resource for looking for specific chats. Aside from being scheduled weekly, Twitter chats have been known to organically grow out of circumstances and when opportunities present themselves. Conferences will encourage participants to use a common hashtag to continue the conversation online (#CEL, #EdmodoCon, #NCTE to name a few), and I had the pleasure of moderating a serediptious #SnowEDin chat during a snow day-- educators who were off from school because of a snow day joined in at noon to talk about relevant topics. Just be aware of the hastags you choose: while those of us were focused on the educational aspects of being snowed in (hence the capitalization of ED in #snowEDin), others not participating in the chat posted generally about being snowed in using #snowedin. "Official" hashtags aren't all that official-- it is just a group of people agreeing on a common meaning of the hashtag.
Search the hashtag, then click on PEOPLE to see who is
uses this hashtag. Then click on follow to make a connection.

Twitter chats are an excellent way to find people to follow. By following people who share common interests, you are constructing meaningful connections in an ever-ongoing stream of information. You can then see who those people follow to find others to connect with.  Visit my profile, @KtBkr4, and take a look at who I follow and begin to build your own Personal Learning Network in a few short clicks. There's no "friend requests" needed, and you can choose to unfollow someone at any time.

To learn all there is about using Twitter, visit Cybrary Man's Twitter Page.  Jerry Blumengarten, aka the Cybrary Man,  is simply amazing, and his superpower of curating information for educators to access on the web is a tremendous gift to all of us who engage in online learning.

As you become more adept with using hashtags, be sure to engage in some hashtag shenanigans or #hashtaggery to add some pizzazz to your tweets. Just be ware of excessively incorporating hashtagging in your daily life, as seen in the hilarious skit by Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. 

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