Two years ago, I would have had no idea how to use a hashtag, let alone be someone advertising for Twitter’s use for professional development. Luckily, at a conference this past year, that changed. I was introduced to some wonderful Twitter hashtags that completely changed my view of Twitter.
When I first learned about Twitter, it was explained to me to be very similar as Facebook in regards to it being a place for people to share out what they were doing or what they wanted the world to know. Later, when I heard about Twitter as professional development, I was confused to how that works. I knew that if I followed people that were sharing things I was interested in, I could learn things. However, I was unsure how to find people to follow.
The first think I learned was how to search for a hashtag in Twitter. If you have not done this, you will use the search bar that is at the top right of the webpage, or at the top of the mobile app:
For example, you could search “#spedtech” and see every post that includes that specific hashtag. Sometimes it takes a bit of playing to find a hashtag that is active. While #spedtech, #specialeducationtech, and #specialeducationtechnology all seem like they would have the same content, you will often find that one variation of a group of words will be more active, with more people using it.
I was very excited, and followed a few people that were posting things that I found interesting. This made my default feed much more geared toward what I found useful when I opened twitter, but I still needed to search each of those hashtags to see content I was interested in… and possibly the most difficult part for me… remember which hashtags were the active ones that I wanted to read. I would love to say that I have a phenomenal memory for such things, but that just isn’t the case and so I would find myself entering various combinations looking for the ones that I had liked previously.
Possibly the most amazing invention, in my opinion, in regards to Twitter as a professional development tool, is TweetDeck.
TweetDeck is a website that links to your Twitter account. It provides columns that you can customize with content. It starts with a column for your default feed, as well as columns for notifications and scheduled posts. However, the best part comes in when you search a hashtag. Once you search a hashtag, it will automatically generate a column in your TweetDeck that shares every tweet that has that hashtag. It stays current as new tweets are posted with that hashtag and keeps everything organized. When you close the TweetDeck window, your customization stays and when you reopen it, the columns remain. This makes it easy to follow specific hashtags and use Twitter as a professional development tool.
Assistive and Inclusive Technology Hashtags:
If you are new to using Twitter or are simply looking for some new hashtags to follow, here are some excellent options:
#atchat- This is an active twitter hashtag that professionals, assistive technology users, and students use to share ideas and tips for using assistive and inclusive technology as well as UDL principles throughout the week. However, the most active time for this hashtag each week is on Wednesday nights from 7-8pm central, when #atchat hosts their weekly chat. Each week, a moderator shares 7-10 questions over the course of an hour that everyone is welcome to respond to. Resources are shared, problems are solved, and it is a great way to meet other people who are involved with assistive technology.
#watrn- If you are from Wisconsin— or just want to learn about AT topics along with those from WI— this is the hashtag for you. The Wisconsin Assistive Technology Regional Network is a grassroots group of AT professionals from Wisconsin who meet quarterly to network, develop skills, and increase the capacity of assistive technology understanding within the state. #watrn is our Twitter hashtag and gets used by all to share resources and ideas.
#edtechchat- This is an active hashtag that focuses on all types of educational technology. While not specific to assitive technology, much of what is shared with this hashtag is Inclusive Technology or can be used to provide access to all students.
While I follow many hashtags, these are my favorites to get started. Of course, there is also the #disruptiveteaching hashtag if you want to follow more about my site and topics that will change the way you look at and teach in your classroom. If you have other favorite hashtags for professional development, please leave them in the comments to share!