Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twitter, Hashtags and Chat, Oh My!

I live in rural Indiana, but my office is in Napa,California,I telecommute. We often tell our students we are preparing them for jobs that don't exist yet. I have a job that certainly didn't exist back in 1990 when I graduated from Butler University. My job is to facilitate communication and connections both between our 85 New Tech Network schools across the nation and with innovative educators world wide. We connect in a number of ways virtually, but for this Web 2.0 Challenge, we are going to focus on Twitter!
There are many ways you can use Twitter in your classroom, but we are going to talk about Twitter as a way for you to create your own personal learning network online.
If you are new to Twitter, here is a great video tutorial  from Common Craft to get you started.. Watch the video then click on over to Twitter and sign up. Choose your twitter name carefully. You want it to be short, easy to type and keep in mind you will  likely have colleagues and community members as followers
Speaking of followers, who will you follow? It isn't all about the Kardashians and Justin Bieber!  A few of my favorites are @cybraryman, @web20Classroom, I even follow children's author, @judyblume and of course, follow me,  @TheresaShafer.
One of the best ways I have found to form my Twitter PLN is through the use of hashtags. A hashtag is a key word preceded by the # sign and identifies the tweet as containing information around a certain topic. This makes the topic searchable.  For example when you are on twitter, search for any of the hashtags on this list to find the subject, grade level or topic you are interested in.
Now on to my new favorite Twitter activity, Twitter Chats. There are many (over 600 chats) that happen on Twitter through out the week. I most often participate in #edchat and the one that I moderate as my other Twitter name, @NewTechNetwork,  is  #PBLChat . PBLChat is on Tuesday nights at 9pm EST and we discuss all things around Project Based Learning.  An excellent way to get your feet wet with a Twitter Chat is to simply check out the chat archive.  I use Storify to archive our chat, others create a wiki or even a google doc.  I use the tool Tweet Chat for participating.  You go to Tweet Chat, type in the hashtag you want to watch and off you go. You can choose to simply "lurk" and follow the conversation or jump right in and tweet your own questions, solutions or thoughts. The cool thing about Tweet Chat is it adds the hashtag for you! Blogger for Edutopia and PBL author Suzie Boss wrote about this chat a few weeks ago and can give you additional insights.
I have gained so much from building a network on Twitter, I talk often with a PBL educators from Australia, have had tweets from Daniel Pink, get insights from Indiana's own Yancy Unger, I offer solutions, ask questions but most importantly I learn everyday. No where else but during our #PBLChat have I had a deep discussion around homework purposes and policies that included teachers, parents, administrators and students. I encourage everyone to reach out beyond the halls of your own building and see through the lens of others. If you have any questions tweet me @theresshafer, @newtechnetwork or send me an email! See you in the twitterverse.

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