Starting a School Hashtag – the Good, the Bad, and Everything in Between!

At the start of the 2013-2014 school year, we did not have a school hashtag. I was envious of Leyden High School and all of those #leyedpride filled tweets that I saw each time I opened my feed. Admittedly, I got to the point where I was even having pity parties for myself: Why can’t I work in a cool school like that? Those kids and teachers are so lucky to be using social media in such an awesome way. All our school does is block, block, block. Ugh. After I hit that low point and wallowed in it for a few days, I came to the realization that Leyden High School is really no different from mine. They have a dynamic principal, caring teachers, and talented kids. My school has all of those things too – we were just not doing a very good job of advertising it — yet.

I approached my principal with the idea of starting an Oswego East hashtag that students, teachers, and parents could use when they wanted to post school related accomplishments on social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. He was hesitant until I showed him #leydenpride as well as a few blog posts from both their principal and a Leyden student. Reading about their experiences convinced him we should go for it. I helped my principal set up an account (@EASTprincipal) and together, we drafted his first tweet. We hung signs all around the school with #oewolfpride as well as the Twitter and Instagram logos on them. We also had an announcement made on our student broadcast, and assumed the tweets and pictures would just start rolling in.

Well, we were wrong. For awhile, the only person tweeting was me! Every now and again another student would send out a tweet that only contained the #, no other words. They seemed to be testing the water, in a way, wondering what this new # was all about. For the most part though, our # remained lonely and silent.

After attending the ICE conference this year, I learned about a tool called tweetbeam which creates a live, beautiful display of a hashtag as the tweets are coming in. When I returned to school, the principal agreed to broadcast our school hashtag over the televisions in our school cafeteria. We hung a huge sign encouraging the kids to tweet their shout-outs, accomplishments, and learning to #oewolfpride. We were hesitant – would the kids take this seriously or would we seriously regret giving them an outlet to broadcast their thoughts to the entire cafeteria?

The first two lunch periods went well. I monitored the Twitter feed, as well as the cafeteria, from a second floor balcony overlooking the space. The kids were excited; not only were they posting their shout-outs and accomplishments to Twitter, they were drawn to the televisions to watch their words flash along the screen. Finally, it seemed as though #oewolfpride was going to catch on!

tweetbeam

 

Life was good until the third period of lunch. Like the first two periods, students strolled in and were immediately engaged in the words that were flashing across the televisions. Many of them pulled out their cell phones and began adding their thoughts to the feed as well. I continued watching my own cell phone screen, giddy at all of the encouraging things students had to say about each other, their school, and their teachers. Then, something completely unexpected happened. Now mind you, I was prepared for an inappropriate tweet – the usual “school sucks” or even a negative comment about a teacher. What I was unprepared for, however, was exactly what we got…..

To read the rest of the story, check out my blog post: Learning From Inappropriate Content on Our School Hashtag

To read about some more memorable #oewolfpride moments, check out these posts:

The Day the Students Found their Voice

Connecting with Their Principal Through the Power of Twitter

Celebrating a Culture of Respect and Appreciation

 

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