I have found that most people are either a Twitter fan or they are not. For those that do not like Twitter, it is usually because they do not understand it, or they see it as useless phrases going across the screen. I have learned to view Twitter as a useful learning tool – a personal learning network (PLN). When I use Twitter with my Flipboard iPad application, it even makes it more useful! But that is another story.
Today I want you to consider using hashtags to organize course discussions. University of Texas at Dallas History Professor Monica Rankin has been written about many times for her use of Twitter in the college classroom. She organizes comments from students by the use of a class hashtag. A hashtag is the hash symbol (#) followed by a word or abbreviation. For example, my course is TEDU 110 so I created a hashtag specifically for the students of my course to use – #TEDU110 . THIS VIDEO describes how Professor Rankin uses Twitter with her courses.
A Twitter text is limited to 140 characters. It causes students to be succinct with a post, comment, or question. While this can be limiting for a course discussion, it can also help the student rephrase a comment to the “meat” of the issue. While our courses at WJU may not be so large that they need a Twitter discussion to reach all the members of a class, it is helpful for students that may want to comment but are shy or reluctant.
How will I use a hashtag with my course? First I created my hashtag by going to Twubs and searching for the hashtag I wanted to use. It did not exist so I was able to choose create it for my own. I registered this hashtag to myself so that I can also track its usage. In class, if I choose, I can even tweet from my Twubs page and display the tweets during class. This site also collects videos and images tagged with #TEDU110.
I will then share this hashtag with my students. When we have course discussions, they use this hashtag. By doing this, all of our conversations will be organized together. If one student wants to share a teacher web site or video, it can be shared easily with all the followers of the class and hashtag. If students use TweetDeck or HootSuite, they can set up a column that follows the TEDU110 hashtag. Twitterfall can also be used to display the tweets during classtime.