Thursday, 18 August 2011

The power of the hashtag in twitter #

During my insomniac phase after a general anaesthetic I thought I should add to my blogs:)

This evening at 2:00am I was browsing through my PLN (personal learning network - the tweets of those that I've chosen to follow) tweets when it struck me as to how I gain ideas fastest on twitter and how in the future I will focus on these simple strategies to enhance and accelerate my learning of facts, resources, ideas, programs/programmes, key dates and most importantly specifics related to hashtag groups.

I first became aware of hashtags from one of the 1st people in education that I followed @susanbanister she added in a message containing the hashtag #ukedchat. I clicked on the message and found that the hashtag was hyperlinked. So I clicked on it. What I discovered was that it took me to a list of tweets that people had made relating to #ukedchat or educational issues.

In the following months I explored many of these and now as you will all be aware who use them there is virtually a hashtag group list on anything and everything from sport like #bbcf1 (formula 1) to #NQT (tips for mainly inquisitive / nervous / struggling NQTs looking for drive/focus/clarity) to #geography #geographyteacher (self explanatory). To educators meeting for a curry #curryNE5 or for conferences or teachmeets #bmobile.

Now to my initial point over the coming weeks I'm going to stay more focussed on how I use twitter as I have woffled on recently after I've had a knee op and procrastinated. So my strategy for me and others to try perhaps.

1. I'm a geography teacher and I've found that some of the best practitioners in my subject of geography add the hashtag #geography or #geographyteacher to their subject specific tweets. By clicking on the hashtag hyperlink I see hundreds if not thousands of useful geography comments. Some can be broad and so some subdivide these using more specific hashtags.

2. One you see useful tweets click on the person and read their other tweets 99/100 they will have something else if not lots of things that you find useful from a link to a useful website, to a program to try, to a tv programme that is on that is useful for a certain unit if work. They could give pointers. This I have had incredible help with from @geoblogs @tonycassidy @aknill @davidErodgers @mrgeog @vausekatie @victoriaellis to name a few

3. Check the tweets of the RTs that people send out. These are often useful ideas/resources or people they respect as accelerating their learning opportunities/potential and can quickly increase those that you follow and accelerate your learning potential.

3b. They can often be a joke that can lighten the mood for you bs actually clear your thoughts so you can re focus when getting bogged down.

4. search for specific hashtags by typing a useful phrase or topic and 80% of the time I have found something useful trying that method if I'm hunting for something specific.

5. Once you've gathered a respectable PLN and you are part of a large number of people's PLNs you can go about creating your own hashtag. This is often done by those organising events and the hashtag quickly expands like wildfire due to RTs or by people saying they will attend or setting down key aims, focuses etc. E.g #ukedchat or one started arcs conference this morning tweeted to me by my good twitter friend @aknill #ifip11 for a conference in Kenya. This highlights how you can very quickly gain access to inspiring ideas happening all over the world in your specific search field controlled by the hashtag used or created. E.g. #ukedchat is effective as it is specific and easy to understand UK education chat/information.

6. Find links to similar hashtags like #geography and #geographyteacher or like I found tonight #NQT and #ntchat . This will quadruple if not more the specific search targets that a tweeter is aiming to gain information on. Similar to when we see #edchat #ukedchat etc and specific chats related to subject like #mathchat which i discovered from the person sat in front of me at a teachmeet in Newcastle @ColinTGraham and other maths tweeters like @bucharesttutor or #mfl or #ELTchat which I discovered from @Isilboy and @DaveDodgson

7. People power - when you search specific hashtags you will notice certain people pop up a lot. These people will become synonymous therefore for certain topics, issues which if you are lucky they might have in a bio if them in their profile homepage but like I say with the hashtags you visit you will figure this out for yourself. This means you will quickly figure out experts in certain fields and so you can tweet them for help or you can search their recent tweets if something caught your eye and who they were in conversation with as 9/10 that person will have something useful as well.

8. Using the search option (the magnifying glass symbol in twitter) this is an excellent tool if you know the person who you want to find just type the name into the search bar and hopefully they show up.
At times i have wondered how has this person found that tweet i made and teplied to it when they dont follow me and it isnt spam???? I recently tweeted about my knee and the fact i am suppose to wear DVT stockings to avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis. This morning i got a tweet from a support group asking how i am recovering? So i was bamboozled for a minute or two so i thought how on earth that eas days ago!?! Then the penny dropped they must have searched DVT and found my tweet. I searched and wa la it was there.
Another searching strategy can be where you click on the search option tab to search all tweets that include that name. You might have a task to come to a judgement on the public opinion of David Cameron following recent events. You could then enter the name into twitter search all tweets and come to a judgement of positive and negative with some examples to back up your judgement.
You could use it to search a topic or find out recent information on an issue or event and how through time perceptions changed or events got better or worse? I used this for a flash flood lesson. Brief as twitter journalists your task for the geography gaggle is to report on Flash flooding. Here is some areas the students took it as I asked for categories to be created and for students to work as sub teams to extend the research for our paper. They searched twitter for the most recent tweeted event, analyse the tweets for severity e.g area flooded (effects has it caused other issues secondary effects), deaths, mapped it, has flash flooding occurred there before? has there been mention of emergency services and rescues (responses) and examined weather reports to try and predict could anywhere else be at risk? Then write a timeline of events based on twitter feed, create using ICT a picture prezi portrait if pictures news articles are attached to tweets add to location on a map. Students were then set a homework:)where they searched for other flash flood events that occurred near to them using twitter as a search engine by refining the search or if they couldn't find anything extend the lesson project by finding a flash flood in a different location.

Anyway I'll leave it at 7 well 71/2 as it's my favourite number. I hope these techniques will prove useful for many new tweeters. I'm sure it is telling many how to suck eggs but it is how I use twitter to aid my expanding knowledge of subject matters to keep improving. It is where I find out about new apps, programs resources, web links that then become invaluable tools for my learning and teaching in the classroom.

Also as I'm on twitter a lot lately where I come for a friendly chat to improve my mood, take a break, socialise and have a laugh to get in good spirits. As normally that is when I'm at my best and therefore at my optimum to spread ideas in my classroom and that of others to aid the students that I teach who this all really matters about as it is them who I strive to learn more for as they are our future.

An in pain insomniac John Sayers


  1. Sorry for the poor grammar throughout it was 3:00am but I hope you get the gruff of what I was on about:)

  2. Please for Christ sake help this poor boy from Haiti