Monday, April 26, 2010

Hashtags for Collaboration

At the recent Pearson CiTE 2010 conference (#cite2010) I heard about an interesting use of the Twitter hashtag to foster collaboration.

The conference attracts K-12 teachers; college teachers, especially distance learning instructors; and IT and other administrators. Pearson sponsors the conference to showcase its elearning platforms. It attracts topnotch speakers and an interesting and varied set of attendees.

One conversation was particularly intriguing. There are several hashtags favored by K-12 teachers but #educhat has become more than just a hashtag. It also supports synchronous chat for an hour most Tuesday evenings. The sessions sound as if they are lively and interesting.

This chat session was originated by an Ontario teacher named Rodd Lucier. It seemed to gain traction quickly and in the course of doing so, also attracted a lot of spammers (what could people like that possibly be thinking?*?). The sessions were paused for awhile but now appear to be alive and well. Best of all, there’s a step-by-step description of how to set up a hosted collaborative series on Lucier’s blog.

This idea was not original to the K-12 people and Lucier. The blog post mentions journalists who had been engaging in synchronous Twitter chat. Looking around, I found that Cisco appears to be using the tool. They have a Twitter account, CiscoCollab, which is active. They also mention a hashtag, #collabchat. I couldn’t find it on, my usual source. I sleuthed a bit more and found another site, What the Hashtag?! Cisco’s #collabchat is registered there, but I see no activity. The chats are taking place somewhere on What the Hashtag, though. This page has a chat transcript that will give you an idea of the kind of dialog that can take place.

By this time I was getting a headache. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is a pretty new activity, but one that seems to have interesting potential for businesses and interest groups alike. I was also wondering if it could be a competitor to paid services like interactive webcasts. But I think probably not for the moment—140 characters still has its limitations. But it may well be an idea that’s useful in a variety of settings.

Any ideas?

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