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Welcome to the fourth step in our free professional learning series on building your PLN.

In our previous step, we introduced you to Twitter and explained how people use it to build their PLN.

The aim of this step is to:

  1. Explain what hashtags and Twitter chats are.
  2. Explain the benefits of participating in Twitter Chats with your PLN.
  3. Provide tips for getting the most out of Twitter Chats

What Are Hashtags?

Before we begin explaining Twitter chats, we should break down hashtags which are an important part of Twitter.

A hashtag is written with the “#” hash (pound) sign and is used to index keywords or topics on Twitter.

Putting a hashtag symbol (#) in front of a relevant keyword or phrase helps to categorize the tweet and make it easier for people to find.

Hashtags can be used anywhere in a tweet. They can replace a word as demonstrated below, or just be tacked on to the end of a tweet.

When you click on the hashtagged word or phrase (e.g. #podcasts) a new page will load with tweets from everyone who is tweeting about podcasts — whether or not you follow those people.

Note that hashtags can’t have any spaces so math chat becomes #mathchat. 

What Hashtag Should I Use?

You can use any hashtag you like, however, if it’s not being used by others then people won’t be following it or searching for it. So to get the most out of hashtags, you should usually use ones that others are using.

Note that hashtags are not created by Twitter, but by Twitter users. Often if there is an event going on, the organizers will publish the official hashtag on the conference materials and social media.

For example, when ISTE 2018 was happening, ISTE tweeted out the official hashtag:

Following Hashtags

You can type a hashtagged keyword in the search bar on Twitter to discover tweets and accounts based on your interests. There are easier ways to follow hashtags so you don’t have to keep running the same search.

TweetDeck is commonly used to follow hashtags that you want to keep track of regularly (the Twitter search bar is fine if you just want to do one-off searches).

Check out this video by Jennifer Fox to find out how to set up TweetDeck to follow hashtags.

Starting Your Own Hashtag

Hashtags are community driven and anyone can start one. Maybe you want to start your own hashtag with a group of people from your PLN who have a similar interest.

Say you’ve been talking to a group of teachers about using greenscreen technology and you thought you could use the hashtag #greenscreen101 to keep the conversations going.

To avoid using a hashtag that is already being used, it’s advisable to search for that hashtag first. Things can get confusing if your hashtag is being used by another group!

Simply search in the Twitter search box for your preferred hashtag or use a free tool like hashtagify.me.

Here I can see that #greenscreen101 hasn’t be tweeted in a number of years, so it would be fine to use.

Twitter search for #greenscreen101 Edublogs

Fun Idea: Use Your Own Hashtag To Find Your Tweets

Kathleen Sokolowski has shared a handy tip about creating your own personal hashtag in order to find tweets that you want to remember or come back to.

Read all about it in her article on creating a Twitter Digital Notebook. 

If you are like me and frequently read articles and posts that resonate, challenge you or speak to you in some way, consider creating a hashtag for yourself! When you want to find your tweet again, just search for your hashtag in the search bar and be sure to click “Latest” to see all your tweets.

Finding Popular Hashtags

Maybe you’re a teacher tweeting about the arts. You’d like to include a hashtag in your tweet to reach a larger audience but you’re not sure what the popular hashtags are in that niche.

You might have seen #arted used but you’re not sure if this is a popular choice.

A tool like hashtagify.me can be really handy (the basic features are free).

When I type in #arted I can see that the popularity is 42.7 (on a scale of 1-100). It also shows me a wordcloud of related hashtags. The bigger the hashtag, the more popular it is. #artsed (with an s) stands out.

#arted on hashtagify.me

Clicking on #artsed in the word cloud shows me that the popularity is higher (51) and I can also see some related hashtags I could explore as well.

#artsed hashtagify.me

Popular Hashtags In Education

Jerry Blumengarten (aka Cybrary Man) is well known for curating hashtags used in education. You can find the complete list on his site. 

Ryan O’Donnell has also used information from Cybrary Man’s site and the November Learning team to curate a list of popular hashtags in education.

Find the original image here. 

64 Twitter Hashtags for Teachers Edublogs

Trending Hashtags

Trending Topics on Twitter example
Examples of trending topics

When you’re on your Twitter home feed, you might have noticed “Trends for you” on the left hand side. This is located in the search tab of the Twitter mobile app.

Trending topics are a mix of hashtags and regular phrases that show what’s currently being tweeted about most. They’re tailored for you based on your geographical location and who you follow.

You can click on these trends to find out more and join in the conversation by leaving a reply or tweeting something of interest.

Like a lot of aspects of Twitter and social media, clicking on trending topics can take you down a rabbit hole. So be warned! 😉

What Are Twitter Chats?

As we just saw, hashtags make it easier to search and follow the Twitter conversations on specific topics at any time. Sometimes people gather around to discuss a specific topic at a specific time. This is a Twitter chat and a hashtag is the glue that brings the Twitter chat together.

We’ll now take a look at how Twitter Chats work and break down how you can get involved.

If you’d prefer to watch a video to learn, this is a great short overview of Twitter chats by The University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Twitter chats are one of the best ways for educators to connect with other educators, exchange and debate ideas, ask for help and provide assistance, find new resources and take action.

Twitter chats are where educators meet at a set “meeting time” to engage in conversations by sending out tweets on a topic using a designated hashtag during a specific time on a certain day. Most Twitter chats last for an hour.

During the Twitter chat, you’ll see educators tweet their responses in real time. The best way to participate in a Twitter chat is to set up a search for the hashtag in TweetDeck, Hootsuite, or in the Twitter app on your mobile device.

Check out Laura Moore’s video which explains how to take part in a Twitter chat using TweetDeck. The video goes for 25 minutes because Laura has recorded herself participating in an actual chat. You can just watch the first few minutes if you just want to learn how to get set up for a chat. 

Participating In A Twitter Chat

Twitter chats normally have a moderator (or several) who guide the conversation during the chat using a Question and Answer format.

Prior to the Twitter chat, the moderators decide on the topic of the chat and organize a series of 5-10 questions to ask during the chat.

Below is an example of a Twitter chat using #moedchat (Missouri Educators Chat).

The chat normally starts by introducing the topic and asking participants to introduce themselves.

Welcome to chat

Participants respond by including the hashtag for the chat in their tweet (in this example all replies include the hashtag #moedchat).

Recipients respond

Once introductions are finished the moderators will commence guiding the conversation using their questions. Each question is normally starts with a Q and a number to indicate which question it is.

Moderator question

Participants’ replies normally start with an A and a number to indicate which question they are answering as well as the chat hashtag.

Responses

Twitter chats are a conversation — you can add your extra thoughts to anyone’s answer by replying to their tweet and including the hashtag. Provided the hashtag is included, everyone in the Twitter chat will see your reply.

Conversations

I Can’t Keep Up With A Twitter Chat

Tweets can fly fast in a Twitter chat! Don’t worry if you can’t keep up.

Here are some tips to help:

  • Archives: Moderators often archive or curate the information and resources shared during the chat session. This used to be through tools like Storify but this service has closed. Sometimes a tool like Wakelet is now used or there will be a specific website for a Twitter chat.
  • Be prepared: Moderators often publish the questions that will be asked in advance so you can think ahead. You can also get your Tweetdeck set up before a chat so you’re ready to go.
  • Be selective: You don’t need to answer every question. Twitter chats are very flexible. They often go for an hour but no one minds how long you stay or how involved you are.
  • Follow up: If you were interested in what someone had to say but you found the tweets were flying too fast, don’t worry. You can resume the conversation with people at any time.
  • Bookmark: A relatively new feature of Twitter for mobile is Bookmarks. You can bookmark Tweets you’d like to refer to later. Tap the share icon next to a tweet and select Add Tweet to Bookmarks. Tap Bookmarks from your profile icon menu to access your saved tweets.
  • Like: If you like a tweet by pressing on the heart, you can go back and look at these later. Just click on the Likes from your profile icon menu.
  • Lurk: It’s fine to just watch a few chats before you decide to contribute. The first question is generally an introduction so don’t be afraid to say it’s your first time participating either.

Popular Twitter Chats

Education chats generally occur in the evenings each week, either during school terms or throughout the whole year. Most chats focus on a particular topic, subject area, theme, or year level.

Some states or countries have their own chats, but anyone is welcome to take part in any chat.

Finding Twitter Chats

Now you know about Twitter chats it’s time to find one and take part!

There are many places to find chats that interest you and work with your schedule.

Examples Of Twitter Chats

Here are a few examples of popular Twitter Chats to help you get started:

All the times listed below are in Eastern Standard Time (USA).

  • Use this time zone converter to help figure out what time this will be for you.
  • Double check the time by clicking on the links as things can change with daylight savings etc!
  • Please let us know if we have any of the information below incorrect.
#edchat

The “original” education chat. This one is very busy and fast paced. Takes place on Tuesdays 12 PM and 7 PM EST. Learn more here.

#edtechchat

This chat focuses on educational technology and is held every Monday at 7 PM EST. Find out more here.

#NT2T

NT2T stands for “New Teachers to Twitter”. Held Saturdays at 8 AM. For more information, click here. Tip: There is also a Twitter mentor program for newbies.

#whatisschool

Educators discuss shaping the future of school. Takes place Thursdays at 7 PM. Find out more here.

#kinderchat

A chat for those working with younger children. Held on Mondays 2:30 PM and 8 PM EST. Learn more here.

#spedchat

For special education (see more here).  Takes place on Tuesdays from 9 PM EST.

#ditchbook

Created by Ditch That Textbook author Matt Miller. The chat focuses on innovative teaching ideas. Takes place on Tuesdays from 9 PM EST. Find out more.

Conclusion

Twitter might feel overwhelming but if you give it a chance for a few weeks it will really start to make sense and you will see how it’s so popular with educators.

You’ll also notice that Twitter chat hashtags are often used outside of the designated time frame to share resources, ask questions and help each other. The hashtag becomes a community!

If you need help at any time you’re on Twitter, just tweet one of our team e.g. @edublogs, @kathleen_morris, @Edublogs_Eugene, or @suewaters.

Your Task

We’d like you to add your voice and ideas to our ongoing conversation about PLNs by undertaking one or more of these challenges:

  1. Browse: Do a Twitter search of one of the Twitter chats and check out the information shared during the chat. For example, tell us about any resources, or ideas, you discovered reading through the Twitter chat conversation.
  2. TweetDeck: Set up TweetDeck and add a column for a hashtag you want to follow. Leave a comment on this post to share how you went setting up TweetDeck and share your tips for other newbies on using TweetDeck.
  3. Join a Twitter Chat. Leave a comment on this post to share what you learned from participating in the Twitter chat. Tell us about any resources, or ideas, you discovered during the chat.
  4. Blog Post: Write a blog post about your initial impressions of Twitter Chats. You could include — what you see as obstacles to taking part in Twitter chats, what you have learned from participating in a Twitter chat, or tips for someone new to hashtags or Twitter chats. Don’t forget to leave a comment here with the link to your post.

Also feel free to leave a comment to ask any questions or share your tips.

How to leave a comment: Scroll down to find the comment box. Write your comment, then enter your name and email address (email addresses are not published). Enter the anti-spam word. Press submit and we will moderate your comment ASAP.

163 Comments

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  1. I went to #NT2T new teachers to twitter and found a lot of helpful resources on a variety of topics from SEL to policy to inspirational quotes and comedic stories.

    • Danae Peterson
  2. Joining a Twitter chat I found the hashtag, #GsuiteEDU which is a chat more geared to the technology side for improving online resources. Its a hub of educators sharing various tips like:
    24 tips for Google form quizzes
    4 Free and Easy audio recording tools for Google slides
    Free online webinars for learning how to use resources
    Making story cubes with Google Drawings
    Free templates

    Easy way to save someone the stress of trying to google every little thing and just has all this readily available information in one space for people to give critique or support for a certain tool.

  3. I think that twitter chats can be really handy, but I think it can get extremely unorganized or have some involvement that may not be welcomed as things are so public on twitter! I love the accessibility and the idea that people can come together to share ideas and talk with eachother, but it could possibly come out to be difficult to manage or keep up with if there is a large amount of people.

  4. I set up a TweetDeck. I wanted to make sure that a hashtag column was one of the prominent columns because it is how I will find all my content. From left to right, 1. home 2. hashtag 3. notifications 4. likes. I used #firstyearteacher so that I can go through and read all the tips and tricks other teachers have up about their first year. The only advice I can give is to mess around with it. The only way to get familiar and get more comfortable using this tool, is to spend time on it.

    • Rebecca Pierce
  5. I did a Twitter search for the #edchat Twitter chat. A great resource I found that was shared during the discussion was posted by @E_Sheninger. The post was “Important Lessons Learned During the Pandemic and How They Can Drive Needed Change.” A few of the post’s ideas included: Personalized Learning Works, People Need People, An LMS is Vital, and Well-Being First.

    • Rebecca Campbell
  6. Hashtags function as a way to keep things organized. From reading previous comments on the page, they are less reliable. However, Tweetdecks allows the user to search for specific hashtags and it helps with organization. It is interesting that the more letters a hashtag has the more popular the tweet. I would likely read the archives because keeping up with a twitter chat can be a daunting task. The #ditchbook seems really helpful to getting different innovative ideas. It is an interesting concept to not use textbooks in teaching. 

    • Kathryn Clemons
  7. I set up my tweetdeck by simply logging through twitter, became connected to the edchat hashtag by using the search function, and browsed other hashtags at the same time by also searching for them and dragging each twitter column to the left so that I did not have to scroll to see them.

  8. Hashtags help group common tweets into their own page. This helps communities come together by using a common hashtag to spread news/ideas. The more specific the hashtag is, the easier it is to specify the page. When you create your own specific hashtag, you and others can use it for posts relating to it. If you make it to be less specific, you can reach out to many more people even outside of your community. Chats are good for a more intimate/exclusive conversations. This way, not anyone on twitter has access to the conversation.

  9. I decided to search the hashtag #engchat and saw tons of tweets of people posting ideas and even questions in hopes of a response. One of the ideas I saw was posing questions to other educators on Twitter seems like a useful tool in the future whenever feeling stuck.

  10. I searched #kinderchat because I hope to work with early elementary students in the future. I really liked a post about a fall time activity that incorporates math and art. Students count and use acorns, leaves, and sticks to create a “leaf man.” I think this would be a fun activity for kiddos. Especially when they could take a little trip outdoors to collect their materials.

    • Tarana Tavangar
  11. This article is a bit out of date on this topic. Twitter has recently expanded it algorithmic system to track trending words alongside hashtags. As such, hashtags are only really used by specific organizations or cohorts in order to organize tweets. That means that hashtags probably shouldn’t be relied on. Someone could follow the topic “history education” however and find a similar effect to how this article suggests using Hashtags. I think the idea of a twitter chat is super interesting. Its taking the old idea of “live tweeting” something and turning it into a professional development tool. I looked around a few shared in this article. I didn’t learn anything revolutionary, but I do think that it would be a useful tool for building a PLN and learning about new topics. Totally want to use one in the classroom as well. 

  12. I think it should be specified that it would be helpful to start a new twitter account for a PLN. This would be especially helpful for trending hashtags. If you used your personal account for your PLN, you would get a huge range of topics in your trending hashtags. Using a twitter account specific to your PLN would bring up the most relevant tweets about your specific interests. It would also allow you to keep your PLN saved tweets separate from your personal saved tweets (making them easier to find and navigate at a later time).

    • Morgan Hanley
  13. I’ve almost had crying sessions over the amount of time it takes me to grade papers. However, after spending just a few minutes surfing #edchat on Twitter, I discovered a chart that broke down how long it take the average educator to go through 100 papers (aka one paper per student) based on how much time the educator spends on each one. If a teacher only spends 5 minutes on each paper, it will still take him or her 8 hours to get through them all. 10 minutes, 17 hours. 15 minutes, 25 hours. So on and so forth. Even this small insight brought me great comfort and introduced me to a small community of fellow English teachers.

    • claraweingarth
  14. I typed TweetDeck into the Internet browser on my phone and was able to immediately connect it to my Twitter account (I do have the Twitter app). A bit unrelated to my PLN, but I found it interesting and useful that it prompted “Trends for @coffeedegreeiep” that listed 20 hashtags/people based on my previous interactions on Twitter. I searched and followed #middleschoolsped and #virtuallearning.

  15. I browsed the #kinderchat as I teach young children. Something I got from this chat was a new way to engage my young remote learners! One educator shared a google slides presentation all about connected play. There is specifically a column for technology and communication. Many of the ideas and games could be played with my student over zoom while doing remote learning visits. It also gives ideas for questions to ask and talk about during the games/activities.

  16. Mote is an extension that allows you to leave a voice recording for comments on Google Classroom. It’s an easy way to leave extensive feedback and students enjoy hearing your voices.

  17. I followed the twitter chat #ditchthatbook because I actually have the creator’s (Matthew Mercer) book Tech like a Pirate and wanted to see how other educators are using the ideas mentioned in the book. Many teachers explained how to engage their students remotely. For instance, I learned that “Jamboard” is a fun took students can use to collaborate through Google Meet. I also learned useful extensions for Google, such as Mote and an easy way to take attendance during live teaching.

  18. TweetDeck was not that hard to set up because it links right to your Twitter account. I did have a little trouble at first finding a live conversation just because I am new to Twitter. I did find a live chat by searching #edchat. I also searched for the moderator so that I could have one column following #edchat and one following the moderator which gave me the full conversation and was easier to follow. I even added in my own response to one of the questions about how to help students recognize and manage their emotions.

    • Kaitlyn Steckbeck
  19. I set up a TweetDeck, which was at first super easy because you just connect it to your Twitter account. However, I am still getting the hang of it! I am also new to Twitter so that doesn’t help! It doesn’t seem like it is that difficult once I found a live chat to follow. I searched #edchat on the side and hit enter. It was right before 7pm which is when their live chat began. I then saw who the moderator was for the chat and searched his name. I hit enter and was able to see a column with #edchat and a column with all the responses to the moderator. After, I learned this I was able to see the conversation. I even added in some answers, which I was proud of myself for! We discussed ways to help students manage their emotions and I discussed Zones of Regulation.

    • Kaitlyn Steckbeck
  20. I set up the TweetDeck pretty easily. I was already logged into my Twitter on my computer, so when I went to TweetDeck, it signed in automatically. Then, I followed the instructions in the video above (“How to Set Up TweetDeck with Hashtags”) to search for the hashtags I wanted to follow. I clicked the plus sign on the left-hand side of my screen and chose search. Then, I looked up the hashtag I wanted to follow and hit “enter”. Now, the searches are displayed on my page. I did have to remove a few columns that were there by default because they were in the way. I now have searches up for #edchat, #elachat, and #iteachela.

    • Sydnie Stockton
  21. Setting up a TweetDeck is simple. All I did was download the app and linked it to my Twitter account. I was able to customize it as needed. After you set it up you will find a ton of information in one location. I chose to follow #yorkdukes. I would recommend if you are nervous about setting up a TweetDeck – just do it. It is easy and simple.

    • Jason Hirschfeld
  22. I think that a barrier to the Twitter chats might be the set times they are held. The ones I thought about joining were either at a time I was busy teaching, or they had passed and I would need to wait another week.
    I think I would be more comfortable lurking for several Tweet Chats before I would want to comment or answer a question. Also, if they go very fast, I might have to sit tight and just read along for a while, get into a rhythm, before joining in.

  23. I really think that reading through the Twitter chats is so interesting because you get to see so many different ideas and perspectives on the same topic! It is really amazing how open the dialogue is and how easy it is to find new and interesting ideas that you maybe hadn’t thought of before.

  24. I wouldn’t have thought about looking up a hashtag to ensure it’s not being used, that was a very helpful tip that I’ll keep in mind!

  25. I have set up TweetDeck and it is incredibly resourceful! I have been checking out all of the different hashtags (such as: #edtech, #unietd, and #scedchat). There are a lot of resources available to use with students.

    • elizabethyahner
  26. I can see how using Twitter could work in a classroom. This actually changed my mind because it is a quick easy engagement for groups. I think it could be a good communication tool for families as well as a way to get some great feedback from other professionals.

  27. The #sunchat group also gave people opportunities to share tips, and I saw a few great ones in my search. Teachers talked about different ways to get students involved specifically for blended learning. Flip Grid and Edpuzzle were mentioned quite a few times and these are websites that I have been wanting to try as I get more comfortable. This could be a great resource to not only get ideas for the classroom but check in about how these classroom changes are going.

  28. After setting up TweetDeck, I added a Search column for #edtech. If you are logged in to Twitter, the TweetDeck set up is automatic in your browser!

    • Serena Scalzi
  29. I started to check out #ditchbook and was really impressed by all of the links to apps, sites, documents, etc. that I could use with my students.

    • Cara Anderman
  30. I explored my states education chat which is #scedchat and actually found that my state is fighting to find better reform in education and find good representation in terms of senators.

  31. I set up my TweetDeck. I followed the hashtag #unietd because it is for my educational technology and design class. If I were a current educator, I would follow things like #remotelearning and #onlinelearning. I never knew you could follow hashtags, but it was easy. All I had to do was click ‘add column’ and then enter the hashtag that I wanted to follow.

  32. On the Tweetdeck you have the ability to shift the different columns around by dragging the bar under the number of that column to the right or the left. You can also close a column by hitting tool look like a slider on the right and click remove.

    • Hey Kevin, thanks for the tip! Very handy to know. Barry