Several years ago, in Portland, Oregon, I had my first encounter with ‘drum circles’. These are semi-spontaneous gatherings where people drum together in parks and such-like. They taught me something about the art of conversation. Namely that when you enter a drum circle as a stranger, there are certain patterns of behaviour which can lead to being a valuable part of the circle. After sitting and listening to the drums for a while, you add a beat. This beat helps the more proficient drummers to go ahead and syncopate from it. Well, you get the idea.
Last year, I started a joint product with my girlfriend at the time to develop a set of videos on Youtube to help Russian learners learning English. This project eventually led me to start producing mathematics videos based on Cambridge A-level exams. And spreading knowledge of these, embarrassingly amateur videos, led me to Edutwitter …
Which brings us up-to-date. So, I’ve sat on Edutwitter for a few months, probably not following the lessons I learned from the drum circles particularly well, walking through different tribes’ terrains, occasionally prodding people with my stick and noting the response.
Following this brief foray I’ve noticed one specific area where I think Edutwitter can be improved for all those who use it. This is hashtags.
Now in some way hashtags are a nuisance, because they shorten the available writing space. But the possibilities they offer people keen to get an overview of discussion on a certain area are significant. And their use at present feels, at best, chaotic. I feel like there is room for this to be improved.
So how to do it? Slowly – like all good changes – through an ambitious iterative process.
I plan to start adding hashtags to my own tweets following the published system below. I welcome any criticism of this system and expect it to require a lengthy period of evolution. But, just maybe, after that period of evolution, it could be possible to encourage people to adopt it in the interest of serving those in the future that want a handy reference to Edutweeting of the past.
My thoughts are for a 6 digit code including the prefix ED.
In general, zeroes can be used as place holders for any of the 4 digits after ED, so #ED0000 would mean that the tweet was in general about education.
The first two digits after ED will refer to the academic subject, with the first indicating the general subject, e.g. maths, english, physics, psychology, and the second being either a zero to indicate that it is of general application to that subject, or a specific digit to indicate which part of that subject it relates to, e.g. geometry, poetry, wave theory, perception. Clearly these parts of the subject will still be rather large, e.g. geometry would include Euclidean geometry, coordinate geometry, vector geometry, differential geometry etc. The code could of course be adapted in time to allow for further granularity.
The third digit will indicate what the tweet relates to regarding that subject, e.g. pedagogy, resources, recruitment, breakthroughs, conference, literature, puzzle etc., it may of course be that these things are discussed in a blog embedded in the tweet.
The fourth digit will indicate the level at which the information in the tweet is most likely to be relevant, e.g. age up to 5, 5-11, 11-16, 16-18, adult, again 0 allows for something relevant to all age groups.
So that’s it.
The table below is clearly very far from fully populated, but the ability to use a zero as a place-holder means that a tweet related to teaching theatre studies at age 16-18 could be posted with the hashtag #EDQ0D even though as yet topics have not been split out for theatre studies.
I will start to use these 6 digit hashtags on the tweets I write, which will probably be almost all in the area of mathematics and pedagogy, and will gradually update the table of possible values to see if over time it may serve some purpose. Any updates to the table will be such that the old table will be left untouched below and an updated version of the table published above. That way it will be possible, based on the age of a tweet, to identify which iteration of the coding system was being used when the tweet was made.
Clearly very early days, but may eventually, directly or indirectly, be of some use. Any comments on this idea would be gratefully received.
|Digit 1 (Subject)|
|A||Mathematics & Statistics|
|E||Economics & Business|
|S||Design & Technology|
|Digit 2 (Topic)|
|D||Counting & Probability|
|D||Electricity and Magnetism|
|E||Oscillations and Waves|
|Digit 3 (Type)|
|Digit 4 Age range|