Twitter and Social Networking

All Web2.0 tools need to have a certain ‘critical mass’ before they start to become useful – for example, YouTube is only interesting once a good number of people have uploaded some videos.

With Twitter (and other social networking tools) I think you have to reach critical mass in two different ways:

  1. Critical Mass of People. That is, lots of people* have to be using it. (*By ‘people’ I mean people who you may wish to share thoughts with – friends, colleagues, like-minded professionals, others with interesting viewpoints)
  2. Critical Mass of Communication. I know several people who have signed up for Twitter or Facebook (or Bebo, MySpace etc.) and then asked “what does it do?”; “what’s the point?”. Social Networking does not work if users do not attempt to join social networks.

This is analagous to moving home and making new friends. When you move home, you pick a neighbourhood in which you will ‘fit’. In order to make new friends, there has to be a neighbourhood of people (i.e. a critical mass of people with which to be friendly) and also forums for communication. These forums may include the schoolgates when you pick your children up in the afternoons, the local shop, the local pub etc. People who do not communicate with their neighbours do not create friendships.

Following this analogy, online social networking is more likely to be successful if:

  • users choose the right online social network (i.e. ‘neighbourhood’). I don’t use Bebo because none of my friends use Bebo and it seems full of teenagers. I use Facebook because a lot of my friends have accounts and most of my students also use it.
  • users find friends and communicate. Facebook does not work if you join and do nothing else. It becomes less pointless if you search for your (realworld) friends and throw sheep at them; post pictures of yourself; play games with colleagues etc.

This is particularly the case with Twitter. It took me a long time to ‘get’ Twitter. I joined, found a few friends to ‘follow’ and waited. And nothing much happened. (I don’t have that many real-world friends who tweet; and don’t have much time to tweet myself.)

However, things looked up when I started to follow interesting Tweeters – people who I didn’t necessarily know in real life, but seemed to have something useful/funny/current to say. Things looked up again when I started to tweet a little – even if I just retweeted someone else’s previous tweet. People began to follow me as well. Social networks began to grow and so I began to see how this might be interesting.

Two questions remain though:

  1. How do I find the time to tweet, whilst also coping with work, family and the rest of life?
  2. Twitter may be interesting, but is it worthwhile? In particular, can it help with my work as a teacher?

I’ll consider these questions in another blog sometime. Right now, I need to get back to Twitter!

Work Smart 2.0

My top e-learning tip is not specifically for mathematics teachers alone, or perhaps not even just teachers:

New technology is, by definition, fast moving and rapidly changing. There’s a lot of interesting stuff out there and it is very easy to get overwhelmed by it all. I try to handle it by letting the technology take the strain. For example:

Social Bookmarking

Sign up to or another social bookmarking site and add the delicious bookmarking buttons to your browser. As you wander the web, add favourite pages to your delicious account. This has three advantages over using ‘normal’ bookmarks:

  1. You can access your bookmarks anywhere – so when you’re next in the classroom, you can go straight to and see all of your bookmarks. You don’t need to remember the weblinks; you don’t need to remember to bring that piece of paper you wrote the weblonk down on.
  2. You can organise your bookmarks in the way you want. By ‘tagging’ your bookmarks with keywords, categorises your bookmarks how you want.
  3. You can share your bookmarks. By giving people your account name, they can see your bookmarks. This is great for teachers – for example, you can search through the web for good revision sites, adding them to your delicious bookmarks as you go and tagging them ‘Y11Revision’. Then all you havd to do is tell your Y11 students to go to One word of caution though – make sure you only bookmark the sites you don’t mind other people knowing you read!

For example, see my mathematics bookmarks at


YouTube has lots of good revision videos for Calculus. You could create a document and copy and paste all of the weblinks across from YouTube; you could create a webpage and embed the videos into it. The smarter way is to create an account on YouTube and add the best videos to a Calculus Revision playlist that you create. You can embed that playlist into a website or virtual-learning environment.

Other Web2.0 Tools

Social bookmarking and YouTube are two types of Web2.0 tool. You can normally also use the other Web2.0 websites in a smart way to save you time and effort and so make learning more effective and efficient.

  • SlideShare is a great place to find useful presentations.
  • TeacherTube is getting better and better and now contains lots of useful videos for (surprisingly) teachers!

And of course you can always write a blog so that you can keep your notes for lessons online so that you can access them anywhere and your students can see them afterwards!