Written by FE Edutweeters Hollie Barnes and Sinead Blackledge
What’s all this hashtag m’larky?
Within the twittersphere, lives and thrives a large platform of educators who can be found through the field of hashtags, known as #Edutwitter. But what is a hashtag? Well, a hashtag is the symbol # but connected with it are key words and phrases which enable others to search and find connections with those who enjoy similar interests. For example, you might search for #puppies and discover various pictures of peoples pups and connect with communities of puppies!
Embarking into an online community can always be daunting, especially when you don’t know many or any people. Entering #Edutwitter it can be overwhelming, especially when you are greeted with #Edutwitter celebs’ promoting their new book launch or practitioners sharing some fantastic resources.
The search for FE communities
After years of connections what is now a large community of educators was once a place which struggled to amplify the FE community. Key figures and now friends, within the FE community such as Lou Mycroft (@Loumycroft), Joss Kang (@JossKang) and Stef Wilkinson (@Stef_Wilkinson) have brought people together, in particular educators, over the years; Taking it to twitter was just a small part of the bigger picture.
Flash back to the beginning of lockdown, where education had no choice but to shift online. Searching for the FE community was a challenge, there were a lot of Higher Education (HE) but even more Secondary and Primary school communities online, frustrating to say the least. There was a need for someone to represent us and the challenges which we were facing as educators within FE. Both of us came across #JoyFE. A collective, which began from two strong, inspirational women talking on the phone saying, ‘We need to do something’. We watched in awe as the collective grew from strength to strength supporting one another through lockdowns trials and tribulations. Through life and professional uncertainty as well as the mass of weekly changes which were happening to the world, the collective provided support which the FE community needed, safe spaces for conversations, built on core values.
For us, network and connections were established thanks to #JoyFE. Our own professional networks grew from strength to strength and the FE community online was stronger than ever. Flashforward a year, some of these connections are now friendships, communicating online from all corners of the UK, In Fact the pair of us met through #JoyFE ideas rooms and now we speak daily!
Our Journey (January 2021)
In September 2021, we both put ourselves forward to join AP connect. AP connect is a year long professional learning programme which brings educators together and encourages ideas to flourish. Within the AP connect programme, are ‘constellations’ (communities of practice). Within each constellation are a multitude of groups which allow educators to collaborate with each other, get creative with their own practice and make noise about what they are passionate about.
With a plan in mind, we took to the ‘Social Media’ group as individuals, but our ideas grew as a collective.
Hollie Barnes (@hblx93) #FEThanks
#FEThanks began as a small seedling within my own college community. We are lucky enough to have a special thankyou button which enables us to directly say thank you to someone within the college community. One Thursday morning, Stef Wilkinson (@StefWilkinson) encouraged the #JoyFE collective to say thank you to someone. From that moment, I decided made it my mission to say thank you using our internal college system each week. But why should I stop there?
I took to twitter with a generic hashtag of #ThankyouThursday but was there something missing? Some uniqueness which would support the continued amplification of the FE community. That’s when Isla Flood (@Islaflood) mentioned Chloë Hynes (@ChloeFibonacci) had been working on something similar with hashtags for @PDNorth_FE. We chatted, we joined forces and voila! Together, we rebranded to #FEThanks!
If there was ever a time to give educators a little boost, it is now.
Access our copiable template to share with peers and colleagues, below.
Sinead Blackledge (@TutorSinead) – #FabFridayFM
#FabFridayFM began during lockdown 1.0. I wanted staff to feel connected, to feel that they were not alone. I started the ‘SpotifyFriday’ & Friday quiz which received positive feedback. Like many, for me music is something that we all connect with, it can invoke memories from happier times. When the most recent lockdown hit, it was a no brainer to kick start it again. Now I had the #FE community, I wanted to spread this fab feeling to them. After talking with Lou Mycroft, she encouraged me to go for it!
In the same week Chloë and Hollie had put out their hashtags – We were all in alignment, but 3 brains are better than one so rather than having 3 separate movements, we got together and combined them all and alas, the hashtag of FabFridayFM was born.
Next Steps, (March 2021)….
Over the course of the last year alone, we have seen the FE community expand like never before. New spaces opening up along with some pre-existing spaces now thriving through its sustained growth during the pandemic.
We took to twitter to see how the FE Edutwitter community felt about hashtags now in comparison to lockdown 1.0 – here are the results…
The hashtags listed on our tweet were only a small sample of the greater existence within the sector! For example, the #FEResearchPodcast with Jo Fletcher- Saxon (@JFletcherSaxon) and Alistair Smith (@Alistairteaches) has encouraged educators from the sector to take ownership of their practice, follow their curiosity and write it down! – The dynamic duos podcast documents the great work which is going on both in the UK and even out to the Channel Islands.
In recent weeks, we have also seen Jennifer Linsdell (@jnfrlinsdell) and Jason Boucher (@boucher_jason) launch #revEDlution – On tuesday nights the pair open up discussions around the needed changes within education.
Additionally, the curation of #FestivalFriday has not only begun but is an absolute sell out, each week! APconnect has encouraged many educators to come forward and share their great practice and values within education. Each Friday you can join a variety of open spaces ranging from wellbeing to social purpose and talk and listen with other like-minded individuals.
But what about Hollie and Sinead? Well…
#FabFridayFM is LOUD – Requests coming through thick and fast on a Thursday night. A way to boogie your way into the weekend, whether you’re kickstarting your Friday in the staffroom with a brew or working from the behind the homemade desk on your kitchen table. It has been evident from feedback that the feel-good tunes have given people something to look forward to or find some clarity through the lyrics on tough days.
The development and use of #FEThanks is alive and kicking. The template exists as optional and the appreciation is mainly shown through the use of the hashtag. Each Thursday is a joyous occasion where throughout the day we can observe others sharing their appreciation and thanks: some to their online community spaces and others to their colleagues and even their students.
We hope that this is just the start:
Long live the hashtag!
Sinead is an Advanced Practitioner and Tutor of Accounting and Business. Check out her blog, here.
Hollie is an English specialist who loves quotes and stationary. Check out her podcast E&M Booth with Sammy White to hear more!