This past Tuesday one of my daughters was working on her Math homework in my office. Two of the problems said for her to collect data from a class. For the first, my tech club was still available so she quickly polled the students and tallied the results for her graph. But for the second of the data collection questions, there were no students in my classroom or office.
My first instinct was to tell her to make up the data – the point of the problem was for her to make a pictograph. But instead, I quickly – as in less than five minutes! – created a form on Google and posted on my Twitter account a request for people to respond to that survey. Meghan, Madelynn and I each entered our own choices into the form. By the time we left my office at 5:10pm, we had 40 responses. That was less than an hour later. By the time she did that last problem at home, there were 188 responses. And they came from all over the world! She and her sister sat slack-jawed watching the spreadsheet continue to populate with answers. I edited her form to show that the question was done, but responses kept coming. I did a search on Twitter and my little request for participation had been retweeted 17 times. As of the writing of this blog posting, there are 258 responses for nearly every state in the Union, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, Australia,Thailand, Spain, Germany, Russia, and the middle East!
I had wanted to map the results for my daughter in Google Earth, so she could see where all of the responses came from. I was more than a little overwhelmed, though, at having to manually add in SO many places. As if I wasn’t already tickled enough with my Twitter network, I posted what I thought was a rhetorical question, “wish there was a way to upload list of locations to Google Maps and it would put flags everywhere. Does anything do that?” Within minutes, @glovely had sent me a link to MapAList which pulled the data straight from my Google Spreadsheet! Unfortunately, I had to wait a few hours for our tech services department to unblock the site (*grumble* but at least they were fast about it). In the meantime, @xmath2007 sent me a link to a Google code site that also pulled data from Google spreadsheets. This was awesome too, but I hadn’t recorded location data in a way that would make this one work for me.
Eventually, MapAList was unblocked and I was able to produce a map flagged all responses through the form for which I had location data! And I didn’t even have to go back and reformat any of the entries.
If I had any doubt in the power of Twitter, it would have all been erased by this, but then, I never had any doubt.
Thank you Twitterverse. Thank you for turning a math homework global and making the world a little flatter for my daughter.