#Hashtags in the Writing Classroom

hashtag

Hashtags are used to group messages and label topics. Today, hashtags are widely used in the social networks as a markup for groups of interests that belong together and a language for expression that is used outside the traditional sentence structure. Steve Boyd in a blogpost describes hashtags as “twitter groupings” that can be “wonderful for serendipity.” Hashtags are to Twitter as Likes are to Facebook, until Facebook stole the light recently by launching its own hashtagging function.

Read about the origin of Twitter hashtags here.

How do #Hashtags work?

By simply writing the pound symbol (#) in front of a keyword or a phrase (written as one word), e.g. #love, #writing, #instructionaltechnology, etc. you turn the words/phrases into searchable terms and clickable links on your posts or tweets. Depending on your social platform, you will be redirected to a feed of posts/tweets that contains the hashtagged term when you click on them.

For example: Failure is inevitable. Misery is optional. #365empowerment (A hashtag project that I started on Facebook before hashtags were possible on the platform!)

Due to its searchable nature, hashtags allow trending topics/terms to be featured in your social networks. Twitter shows an updated feed about the most popular hashtags in its streams.

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Using #Hashtags in writing instruction

Writing instructors may take advantage of the functions hashtags offer to help students engage with public conversations as they learn to write. The following exercises are some of my ideas on how to utilize hashtags in making composition pedagogy more interesting for students:

  1. Use hashtags to group research/writing topics on Facebook groups for schools
  2. Post announcements to class (social media) pages using hashtags to markup categories
  3. Use social media management dashboards like TweetDeck to monitor and manage trending hashtags
  4. Conduct real-time virtual discussions using Twitter streams during lectures or peer review sessions
  5. Really, it is up to your own creativity on how you’d like to use hashtags in your classroom!

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Using dashboards like TweetDeck, students can handpick topics they would like to follow, e.g. #rhetoric, #insomnia, #fitness, etc. as part of the research process. Students may curate useful information, blog links or websites that are helpful toward their respective research projects.

A new language?

Languages evolve. As the impact of hashtags is becoming more profound in the composition process, we as writing instructors should teach our students to be more flexible and rhetorically aware of the language(s) in digital media. Keeping up with the ever-evolving new media is just as important as learning any new skills, since the corporate world relies heavily on the latest computer and mobile technology in their operations. Teaching students the language of digital media is preparing them for the competitive job market.

Do you use hashtags in your classroom/workplace? How do you use them? Share your ideas and comments below.