Twitter. It’s a good thing.

And I know many of you are already big social media fans. But for those who are still just a bit unsure about the whole Twitter / Facebook / Plurk thing, this is for you.

Two pieces of advice:

1. Start small. Use Twitter just for yourself. Don’t use it as part of your instruction yet – focus on using it to grow your Personal Learning Network. Follow and read other teachers and organizations Gather info. Ask questions.

Start here to find helpful users to follow.

2. Use hashtags. Hashtags are a way for you to follow a theme or topic rather than a person or organization. This allows you to cast a much wider net while also helping you find more people to add your Follow list.

The problem?

You can’t follow a hashtag directly through your Twitter account.

This is perhaps the most confusing point for people who are new to hashtags — but it’s important to understand. From your Twitter account you can only “follow” other Twitter users (accounts set up for an individual, organization, project, event, etc.). A hashtag is not a Twitter account that you can click a “follow” button for.

It’s a way to label or tag tweets so they can be easily pulled together. A hashtag is always a word preceded by the pound sign like “#sschat” which users insert into their tweets like this:

Since a hashtag is nothing more than a character string inserted into a tweet, it’s something that you can search Twitter for. So the most basic way to track hashtags through your web browser is:

  1. Go to Twitter Search.
  2. Search for a hashtag you want to track. Include the “#” in your search query. Here’s a search for #historyteacher
  3. Keep that page open in a browser tab, and refresh it periodically to see the latest results. Or subscribe to the feed for your search in your feed reader and check there occasionally for updates.

But what hashtags should you follow? Here are 10 great tags that are a great place to start.

#sschat – Social Studies chat (One of my favorites. Check out their Ning page too.)
#socialstudies – General social studies
#history – General history stuff
#apush – Advanced Placement history
#ushistory – United States history
#civics – Government and civics teaching
#apgov – Advanced Placement government
#historychatHistory chats
#historyteacher – History instruction
#geographyteacher – Geography instruction

Which tags am I missing?