Looking for clues about the digital future of education...

... and trying to keep an open mind!

Monday, 9 May 2011

#edbigcrowd - Tweeting around the World

Way too much has happened today for me to get my head around in one evening. My Twitter feed is fit to burst and I've still got to get my day job sorted for tomorrow. Still, too many people across the world have been so helpful today that I feel I need to at least give them an update. Here goes...

On Monday morning I was strolling to my school in Yorkshire (UK) contemplating the staff training session I was to deliver at that afternoon’s staff meeting. It was to be about Twitter. I’d been tweeting for about a month and had been impressed with how much good advice had come my way. Surely, I thought, Twitter was something from which my colleagues might benefit.

I’d made a prezi (I'll post this over the weekend) and was feeling fairly confident about the training session. Then I made a monumental step. Not realising quite what I was unleashing I fired off a quick tweet to the 141 people I followed.

Please help! Staff meeting tonight. I want to show colleagues how far a tweet can go in one school day #edbigcrowd PLEASE RT :o)

It was 7.29 am.

Six minutes later I was sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee, listening to the familiar sound of my classroom PC booting up and logging on. “Just check Twitter” I thought, “before sorting my lessons out.”

Twenty people had re-tweeted.

“Not bad,” I thought, and turned my mind to some photocopying.

Within an hour it was one of the top ten trending tweets in New Zealand. Minutes later it was trending in Sydney too. Before I finished teaching my first lesson my tweet was trending in London and Manchester. Another hour and it was into India.

By lunchtime I had a monster on my hands! People had had it retweeted to them several times. Twitterers I had never heard of were sending me data showing me how rapid the dispersal had been. Well-wishers were sending the tweet around and around the world.

Needless to say the point was well made in the staff training that afternoon. A well-meaning tweet sent out into a friendly community reached more people in a few hours than I could have ever hoped for had I used any other medium I could think of. Sure, I had not actually benefitted from the exercise, save from making a few hundred new followers, but the thought of quite how many people had been out there, willing to help my little message on its way, was quite intoxicating. I was giddy with the thought of what I had just done. What if I had really wanted help? How great would THAT have been?

As soon as I got home I went to my Twitter account and started replying to all the personal messages I’d received. Two hours later and I’d reached my status update limit and had to read through the remaining comments sad that I could not reply until my embargo was lifted.

So, what had the experiment taught me?

  1. People on Twitter are generally kind and open-minded, and happy to help out
  2. There is no other way to reach so many people so quickly
  3. Be careful when you ask for a retweet!
It is only Monday evening now and it has been a big day in my twittersphere. The #edbigcrowd feed is still overflowing like the bucket in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. I'm going to have to leave it alone and get on with my marking. When the weekend comes and I have managed to grasp the scale of what has happened here I'll blog with all the details.

Until then, thanks to EVERYONE who retweeted this message. Wherever you are (although I don't believe the person who said they were on Betelgeuse!)


  1. Love it. I teach in the U.S. and can't wait to read more about what you do with this! www.mrsraper.prettyposies.com

  2. Congrats on an innovative idea! I agree completely with your thoughts on the power of social-networking for 'reaching' people, and I hope your colleagues and yourself start to better appreciate and spread the word about the power of this for education.

    Greetings from Perth, Western Australia


  3. I can't wait for the weekend post! I'll share that one too:)

    Missy Lewis
    Indianapolis, Indiana, US
    Home of the Indy 500 & Host of the 2012 Super Bowl

  4. An Australian celebrity (radio personality from memory) offered to donate $1 to a charity per RT, not realizing the power of twitter. He later capped his donation at $5000, well under the amount he "owed" after the tweet went viral.

  5. my handle somehow replaced yours and the incoming stream was incessant. Will consider carefully how I RT again but glad to help.

  6. I know what you mean, Nat. My Twitter feed went bananas! Be careful what you wish for...

  7. Jolly nice work, Patrick! I didn't know you from a bar of soap, but when I saw a trusted follower RT you, I read your polite, personable request. Something about it (and you) made me want to participate. Maybe it was because you teach. Maybe I was keen to help you convert naysayers. Whatever it was, your wording sure helped. I even checked out your ace presentation. Anyway, all power to you, Mate! I look forward to the book, film and action figure! With best regards from Melbourne, Australia, P. :)

  8. I think the 'power' of a tweet, and RT, comes from 140 character expression of a belief - hence the snowball and effectiveness of this element of social networking. Twitter's simplicity is the key.

  9. I agree Mike. Short and sweet is the key. You don't hear everything that people say on your feed (no-one has enough time to read EVERYTHING, do they?) but what you do hear is pithy and easy to connect with.

  10. Kind words, Paul. Thanks very much. Amazing to think this little tweet made it all the way to Melbourne without breaking sweat. Not sure about who'd play me in the film! People in my staffroom say Paul O'Grady (think Dame Edna, but a bit younger!) Not impressed!
    I love the fact that Twitter (and other social media) make the world so different from the one I was born into. Seems to bring out the best in people, at least for now. All the best!

  11. Now this is a very cool inspiring story!

  12. Fantastic! I teach in Hawaii and found this post via a tweet. Can't wait to see more. :)

  13. Great post! I am proud to have been one of your retweeters. The twitter community is amazing indeed!

  14. Since becoming a "tweep" I have realised the power and value of twitter. It has been an enormous help to me professionally. Consequently, I was happy to help a fellow teacher spread the message about the value of twitter. I'm glad it went well for you - here's to innovators!! Cheers, from Kate in Adelaide, Australia :)