Thursday, May 8, 2014

Embrace the Hashtag

Some argue that Social Media is one of the most powerful forms of writing today.
Photo courtesy @techminock

Vicki Davis (@Coolcatteacher) points out in her blog post on Edutopia that writing via social media can:
  • Arguably get someone fired, hired or forced to retire faster than any other form of writing.
  • Be read by college admissions offices and teams of student "stalkers" hired to vet students before they receive scholarships.
  • Prevent some people from running for political office and get others elected.
Understanding, integration, or acceptance of social media doesn't have to be scary, but it does have to happen.  As educators we can no longer say, "Ah, that stuff is for kids" or "I am not interested in social media".  We must educate ourselves on how to use it responsibly and manage it effectively because our students are exposed to it daily.  Even if they don't have their own devices. I know of students who are active on sites like facebook and it is all done through their friends phones!  We wouldn't let students navigate the roads without driving lessons, yet many students are joy riding all over the information super highway with no guidance at all.

So we must: Embrace the Hashtag

What is a hashtag anyway? 

Your students probably know, ask them!
A hashtag is a way to use a symbol (the # sign) to categorize information on social media platforms. Including a hashtag in a post on social media platforms like twitter, instagram or facebook allows others to search and find posts along a common theme.

For example, the hashtag #4thchat is used to discuss topics of interest to 4th grade teachers on Twitter. A search for #4thchat on Twitter will result in all posts that include that hashtag. This is a great way to find current conversations about teaching 4th grade.

Here are a few ideas for using hashtags in your classroom with or without technology.

Hashtags for reading analysis: 

Even if you have zero technology in the classroom, you can use the hashtag idea to engage students, enhance learning, and teach 21st century skills.  High school Language Arts Teacher, Alison Eckart, had her students create hashtags next to paragraphs in text they were reading to identify key ideas, themes, or feelings from the reading.

After an activity like this, students could get in groups to discuss which hashtags they used, citing evidence from the text in support of the hashtag they chose.

Hashtags for online discussion:

If you have one or more computers or mobile devices in your classroom try hosting a twitter chat to engage students in online discussion of a topic. Students can create a post as a class, team or individual. Encourage classes at the same school to engage in Twitter discussions using a hashtag.  When studying animals for research reports, students could share facts they learn using a common hashtag. Checking the Twitter feed each morning can be an inspiration to start learning that day.

This is an example of a teacher using the hashtag #TKaM for posts discussing class reading of To Kill A Mockingbird.

TIP! Always search for a hashtag first before using it with students to see if it is already in use

Hashtags for homework help:

In George Couros' post about using hashtags in the classroom, he suggests having students use a hashtag when posting questions for their teacher online. Adding something like #DNHSbiohelp to the end of a post allows questions to be read by more than just the teacher. If students know to follow the hashtag, more than one student may be helped when you post the answer. Also, other students are able to post answers and help each other, creating a true culture of learning for your school.

For more great ideas about using Twitter hashtags in the classroom you can read this post on Graphite: 7 Ideas for Using Twitter in the Classroom.

I am always looking for new ideas to share with teachers about using hashtags to engage students.  If you have an idea please post ways you are integrating social media and use the hashtag #embracethehashtag on Twitter.