Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Power of a #Hashtag

Before 2007, this little symbol "#" was known as the pound key, then a techie and former Google developer by the name of Chris Messina changed the Internet world for the good. Saying "for the good" is obviously an opinion statement but I feel like it opened the world of educational knowledge up to me like never before.

The ghost of hashtag past: It started with a whisper. Not literally, but that's how it felt. I was what is affectionately known as a "Twitter lurker." I would troll my Twitter feed for interesting topics based on people that I either knew personally or that seemed to have interests like myself. One night I "favorited" a tweet with a star of the ever educationally amazing Greg Bagby. (Odd that I just had to go look up what was like/heart before the change). Greg was actually in the middle of a Twitter chat- and I don't even know which one, but he very welcomingly invited me to join. I hesitantly started answering based on the Q1...A1 model of Twitter chats and Greg very patiently continued to retweet my answers and tagging the hashtag because I would forget the hashtag at the end of my answer. And so it began.

I saw value in this thing that I had kind of poo-poo'd before. The ability to ask deeper questions and truly see the path of thinking in questioning from a variety of viewpoints was fascinating to me. Not everyone thought like I did and that was a welcomed challenge to me because I love to learn. In the beginning I would find myself looking for #edtech, #byotchat, #gwinchat, and #tnedchat. I found myself growing my mindset and my contacts. I finally understood the term PLN (professional learning network)- and it started with a whisper of "Hey, why don't you try this chat."

As Twitter world progressed for me, Greg and I started our own Twitter chat hoping to pull in educators from the Chattanooga area (and beyond) that had an interest in things EdTech. It was called #ChattTechChat - all of a sudden not only was Twitter helpful to me but I felt empowered to be helpful to other educators through various worthy topics (at least in my head they seemed worthy).

The Ghost of Hashtag Present: As my PLN grew, #ChattTechChat merged with #TnTechChat and my world grew exponentially as more moderators were added. Every Tuesday, I plan around 8pm EST to be a part of this Twitter chat. I also find myself being pulled into different chats these days- #edtechbridge, #edtechchat, #sblchat, #personalizedPD, #divergED. A few state chats have also been on my radar from time to time. Twitter has opened the door for many face to face connections too. I've visited schools, meet up with Twitter friends at conferences, and now have "go to" people when I'm thinking through an idea or have a problem I need solved. Yesterday, while being a guest on the podcast "Leadership, Technology, and Learning" I mentioned to Mick Shuran, Scott Hargrove, and Christopher King that Twitter is now my first line of attack. It's where I go to get answers because it's often quick and I have the luxury of multiple viewpoints in one place.

But lately hashtags have become more than just an educational help to me. I find myself typing in a hashtag to read articles about Alabama Football, I find myself typing in a hashtag to learn about a current event. And just Tuesday, a simple hashtag called #GivingTuesday inspired me to make a donation to one of my favorite non-profits- my school.

The Ghost of Hashtag Future: There is a hashtag that hangs out fairly lonely in the Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram is called #CCSLearns. I use it when I post something I see eduawesome happening at my school, Chattanooga Christian School. It's been around for a while and occasionally I will stalk it when I'm feeling a little nostalgic or need a "pick me up" from a particularly challenging day at work. But I want this hashtag to become SO MUCH MORE. I want it to become a Twitter chat for the base of CCS teachers/admins/parents/students. I want it to be a place where we can discuss the hard parts of educational technology at our school. You might be asking yourself...why on Twitter? Why not do that in a meeting or in a Google document? Valid questions!

I believe opening the hard questions to get viewpoints beyond our own school allows us all to see what other schools have done, what other teachers in other schools think about, what the world outside Charger Drive finds important to concentrate on. A "school-based" hashtag with a global audience leads to transparency and authentic dialogue. It also models to our students and parents digital citizenship skills.

Is my wish a pipe dream? Maybe...but that's the beauty of labeling something "The Ghost of Hashtag Future."