Reading & Reacting: How a Common #Hashtag System Could Change Education for Students

Photo: hashtag button [2011-365-199]

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by electriclibrarian

By Evan Scherr @ Evan Scherr: Just Thinking Out Loud blog

While not exactly the most dramatic of posts, I like the core idea of what Sherr is advocating here. I have been preaching the power of tags and hashtags to my students for the last few years, especially when we venture into areas of research. I even employ class tags for certain kinds of activity. However, I think there are a lot more possibilities that I have yet to explore and leverage with students. Scherr has inspired me a bit to re-imagine some of my previous ideas.

At the beginning of course. Start by creating a hashtag for the content in which you are going to teach. If you blog post an article about your newly created hashtag. Tweet it, post it, do everything you can to spread the word. Encourage other educators that you know to use your hashtag for that specific content and to create their own new hashtags for other specific content.

The idea of having students generate a hashtag based on the content that we are addressing and trying to make that as public as possible, encouraging other teachers and students to potentially use it, seems an idea worth pursuing. The real trick will be about how exactly to share it and if I can draw others into the mix.

You will also have to use the hashtag to connect with other users of that hashtag. Think about the age group that you teach and are targeting. If younger this makes a great circle time teacher-lead activity. If older it makes for a fantastic inquiry-driven project.

I don’t think it is quite enough to just start using one on Twitter or Google+, but we’ll see what happens. Something tells me that it will require a greater breadth of communication to achieve usage on the scale that Scherr is advocating.

As I mentioned earlier, the possibilities are truly endless. If K12 educators began to develop and then use a commonly accepted hashtag system you would essentially be cataloging the Internet. Not only would you be benefiting the current generation by creating an easier way to connect, gather and share, but you would be also giving future generations an easy way to look back and see how we learned and how we used social media to deepen our own understandings, connect globally and become responsible digital leaders.

This is where Scherr begins to lose me a little. I am just not sure how practical the idea of a common system actually is. Everything changes so fast and trying to document it alone would be a Herculean task, probably not even worth pursuing.

What I am thinking already is how to adapt some existing instruction to emphasize the use of hashtags. As I mentioned, I have been introducing the concept of tags, how to parse them from content use them as keywords for various kinds of searches. Yet, I have not completely stressed the hashtag, specifically. It may be useful to conduct a couple of demonstration searches, using hashtags in a handful of different spaces just to see what the results are, as well as incorporating more social media searches into the overall research phase. As mentioned, I have been doing it but I think I must do it in a more purposeful way going forward.

Maybe more than anything I need to start practicing using them with much greater frequency and purpose, in a more ritual way. Then I need to encourage students to do the same, remembering to use them with greater regularity.

Image: iPad

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5 thoughts on “Reading & Reacting: How a Common #Hashtag System Could Change Education for Students

  1. Sheri

    I’ve been thinking about this as well. I wrote a post about an idea — use the hashtag #edquery to ask questions. If we all check that, we can help each other and redirect to solutions and references. By starting with that tag — we can begin to fine-tune and redirect to other or new hashtags to discover the answer to the original and further queries, and build a crowd-sourced response through the resulting final tagged search. So start with #edquery — get responses, then fine-tune to another or new hashtag with tweeters adding more info. Here’s my post: What do you think?

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      I think this is a great idea! In fact, it is much simpler than I would have ever thought of doing on my own. Genius, really. I am not sure how the fine tuning or switching would work entirely, but I am adding the search to my TweetDeck now. Thanks so much for reading but for sharing your post too. You have a new #edquery advocate.


  2. evanscherr

    Hi Fred,

    Thanks for breaking down my post. I’m not sure what you mean by “not the most dramatic of posts” but I’ll try to expan upon my thinking here. I’m happy that the post started a dialog. It’s important that we begin thinking about the role that technology will play in our lives.

    When you think of the hashtags that are so common now in EDU, for instance #EdChat, or #EdTechChat, you have to understand that there was a point when nobody knew what those were. We had a beginning and through their usage in tweets people began to catch on. It also took blog articles to further the understanding. So there was a beginning, which is where I think we are with a common hashtag system around specific content/projects/lessons.

    I think there is a lot of power in using hashtags to categorize content. My theory is that if there were a way to use common hashtags that the potential for learning, collaboration, and sharing good go deeper. We have something in place that is not that hard to understand. We just need to refine it to make it work for our needs as educators.

    I started a G+ community to further the discussion of this. I invite you to join it.
    I think the more minds we get thinking about this the better our chances are to see it begin to work to the benefit of learning.

    Again, thank you for taking the time to write this. I’m happy to continue the discussion further.

    1. Fred Haas - @akh003 Post author


      I am grateful that you found the post and even read and responded. Please don’t get me wrong, the dramatic comment had more to do with the idea being a cool spin off other ideas I have seen, but more than anything it was not quite the fare that seems to get me aggravated and spur me to write. No offense was intended.

      I think this is a great idea. The more we, as a community, get in the habit of using #hashtags in a methodical way and continue spreading the word the more useful the idea becomes. Yet, like the messy nature of the dynamically changing and untamable Internet, always leaves me wondering how effective we can be. No doubt a little goes a long way and I am definitely on board. I joined the group too.

      Thanks again for the conversation,

      1. evanscherr

        Hi Fred,

        Believe me, no offense was taken. Thanks for joining the group. I look forward to your input. My feeling is that this is going to start messy, but then learning is messy. We try, fail, reflect and then try again. Hopefully with every new try we fail a little less and get closer to having an actual product that makes a difference to the many that use it. I’m happy that you joined the group.


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