Monday, July 20, 2015

Twitter for Educators: Accounts & Hashtags

*All ideas shared in this blog post are neither endorsed nor deemed Twitter official rules in any way! Simply ideas shared by a real teacher figuring things out as I go.

If you have stumbled upon this blog post it is likely because you already have a Twitter account, but still have a few questions. Here is an email I received recently from a colleague that likely has questions similar to yours:

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As I composed an email response to this person I found others might want to know these answers too!  So, if you are thinking of diving further into Twitter, here are some things to consider that work for me...

What is your professional goal for using Twitter? Is it to sell an educational product? Is it to network for employment? Is it to network for professional growth? Is it to learn, use, share and grow? Is it some or all of the above? Knowing your professional goal(s) for Twitter will help guide you in who you follow, what hashtags are of interest to you and what chats to engage in.

One Account or More:
Should you have one personal account and one professional account? Here is the hard and fast truth, Twitter is not private, both of your accounts will be found and seen by all.  If you are worried about someone seeing a post that you may not want them to see then you should not use Twitter to post it.  Remember that goal you created for being on Twitter? Stick to that goal, if you are posting more unrelated than related content, then you need to reevaluate your goal for using Twitter.  

Now this is not to say that you cannot post, retweet or favorite an occasional something unrelated to your goal! Actually, if you want others to find interest in you it is important to let them glimpse who you are as a person.  You simply must have a balance in what you choose to post. (P.S. I use a private Facebook account to post only things for my family and friends. However, even that is not 100% private as someone could share what they saw on my account by taking a screenshot of what I posted.  Again, if you fear others seeing it could possibly shed light on you in an unlawful way then don’t post it!) However, I do know of folks that have more than one Twitter account so do not let me stop you! Maybe it is easier to use one to post for your profession versus one for personal, just know that nothing is private on Twitter.

Why use hashtags…
Why would you use a hashtag for your profession? Simply put, to learn, use, share and grow! You can grow as an educator by searching for pedagogical or content knowledge!  Not only can you add to your toolbox, but you can add to others toolboxes by sharing what you have tried or something that you know! Be intentional with your hashtags and avoid going crazy with them such as posting only using hashtags with no content. Check out this blog post on how to have engage in Twitter chats...How To Fly with Twitter Basics. 

How to make a hashtag…
The secret to having one account for multiple uses is connecting via hashtags.  You can create your own hashtags for others to follow! For example, say you teach 2 different subjects and you want your students to post or see posts related to your classes.  You can create your own hashtag for each content you teach and then use the search feature to see if those hashtags are “taken” (this means when you search you are hoping to discover no one, or close to no one, has tweeted using your made up hashtag).  For example, I searched for this made up hashtag and discovered…
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In the search area I typed “#spanish1_stephens” and then discovered “no results” which means this is a good hashtag to use for my Spanish I classes.  Let’s say I teach Spanish 2, I can simply look for “#spanish2_stephens” and likely find that it is available to use.  Let’s say I coach, I can create one for my athletes too! You get the idea.  

Hashtag feeds are not private…
Once you create your hashtags it is important to remember that they are not private.  This means an occasional person might tweet using your hashtag, but this rarely occurs. For the most part the only people using hashtags are those interested in what you are tweeting about or those that “have to” use it (such as your students).

How do others find my hashtags...
Once you have landed on the hashtags you want others to use, you can place them in your bio line. Here is a look at my bio...

Notice the hashtags are a different color, this is because they are hyperlinked.  So others can either search for my hashtag using the search feature OR they can click on the hyperlinks in my bio and it will take them directly to the hashtag feed.

A word on bios...1) don't be an "egghead" replace that generic egg with a picture, preferably one that let's others see you as a real person and 2) make certain your bio tells a little about you/your profession in order to relay to others your goal for Twitter. By letting others know you are a real person with real interests you will increase your followers thus increase meaningful connections.

Inappropriate student tweets to my hashtag…
What if a student tweets something that is inappropriate to my hashtag? Yep, it’s going to happen at least once during the school year and it is your responsibility as the adult to help our youth learn from their mistakes.  I had it happen in one of my classes early in the year. Two students wrote something inappropriate on a whiteboard, took a picture of it and tweeted it.  The students left my class before I discovered it.  Here is what I did...I simply took a screenshot of the tweet and contacted an administrator. I explained I did not want the students to have “a punishment” (ISS or detention) but I did want them to 1) remove their tweet, 2) have a conversation about the negative impact such posts have on their digital footprints and 3) as a result of their actions students unfollowed them as they did not want to be associated with students that were seemingly unkind.  In addition, the administrator had those students call home and explain what happened, then they had a follow up conversation with me.  It was important to me that the incident became remembered as a moment of learning instead of a moment of punishment.  I made a point to tell these students, “We can choose to let our mistakes define us or we can choose to define our mistakes in how we move forward.”  In short, be prepared to have a response plan for when this happens as odds are it will.

These are just a few tips I have learned since I joined the Twitter playground in 2012. Almost all of the information shared in this post has come from personal experience.  On the occasion I did not know how to do something on Twitter, I Googled it or I simply asked my Twitter friends and they helped! If you want someone to join Twitter, here is a blog post to help them get started...Twitter Basics: Hash-Brown Selfie!