A few weeks a go I wrote a 3 part series on Twitter, and in it I describe about how I completely changed the way I do professional development on Twitter. In a nutshell, I no longer start with signing up and tweeting the first day. I always show how to use Twitter without ever signing up. I believe it's important to establish the value in using it rather than using it and attempting to find the value.
What a lot of people don't realize that Twitter is a very powerful search engine. Just like Google, if you know how to use the search effectively you can find pretty much anything. And one of those effective ways is leveraging the power of hashtags.
What is a hashtag you ask?
From The Twitter Fan Wiki: Hashtags are a community-driven convention for adding additional context and metadata to your tweets. They're like tags on Flickr, only added inline to your post. You create a hashtag simply by prefixing a word with a hash symbol.
Basically, its a tag in your post so that you or someone else can find it later or track it as it is happening. For example, lets say you are watching the Super Bowl. You want to hear what other folks are saying about the game. You can do a search (on search.twitter.com) for the hashtag #SuperBowl and see what others talking about. Many TV shows, events, companies, and more are creating hashtags to monitor conversations and just generally engage with other followers.
Right, but how does this help you find stuff for your classroom?
Well, there are loads of great educational hashtags that have been created that you can search out and see what folks are posting. Are you a Social Studies teacher or need history resources? Check out #sschat. Maybe English is your thing. So there is #engchat. Perhaps you are looking for just general education resources. Then you should do a search for #edchat.
You may notice that many of the EDU hashtags include the word "chat" in them. There are some great chats on Twitter around various issues in education. (I wrote about this a while back.) Jerry also has a great page of how to take part in the EDU Chats and the times of various chats as well.
Oh and I get asked a lot how to create a hashtag. Simple my friends, simple. You just create it! There isn't a special form or permission you need in order to make a hashtag you just make one. My advice is, however, do a search on Twitter for the hashtag you want to use, just to make sure other stuff isn't posted to it already. (That can save a lot of time and embarrassment later.) Once you have it in mind, start using it. This can be great for schools/districts or classrooms to create tags to allow other members of the community to see whats being said to follow along with events, games, etc.
The point of all this is that while you may be a connected educator or you use Twitter regularly, there may be some educators around you who just don't see the point. Or they say they don't want to use Twitter. Well, the hashtag provides a way for anyone, no matter who, to reap the rewards of the information that flows across the Twitterverse and have it delivered to you when ever you need it.