My Biggest Take Away from Twitter Math Camp 2014
Here’s what you should know: there is a subset of math teachers who operate just a bit differently than the rest of us. Some of us share a sliver of an intersection with this group, perhaps by way of simply lurking their conversations on Twitter or Blogs. This weird group of educators are mostly just like us, but somehow find the time to write and converse about their experiences in the ill-defined space of the MathTwitterBlogoSphere (MTBoS). Here’s a possible definition of MTBoS by the folks at ExploreMTBoS.wordpress.com:
math•twit•ter•blog•o•sphere – a cohesive gaggle of obsessed math teachers who take pride in freely sharing the best math teaching ideas.
What’s worth knowing about this group is that it is disorganized, pointless, and altogether comprised of non-experts. [No offense.] I know this sounds like a sales-pitch gone awry, but I promise I’m going somewhere with this.
This is a group of educators who are essentially “shooting from the hip” on whatever ideas, topics, and discussions happen to pass through their brain to their fingers, to our screens. Somehow these musings, led by no central mission or agenda, are an emerging and surprisingly cohesive discourse on some of the very most meaningful issues in math education. Indeed, perhaps only the chaotic nature of the structure could have ever produced such a beautiful outcome.
In the same vein, but more shocking to me, there is no point to what they do. As Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) recently argued at Twitter Math Camp 2014 (held in Jenks!), really the beauty of MTBoS is that we can all be selfish and all still benefit. Each individual is pursuing a fierce passion of theirs. In some ways, this selfishness of pursuing one’s own interest in spite of the betterment of the whole is the key ingredient that allows the “gaggle” of passionate pursuits to more effectively approach the type of community, ideas, and resources that are actually required to help one become a great teacher. This also contributes nontrivially to the speed in which ideas are happening within this group. No one is waiting on calls for papers or proposals, but just a few extra minutes with their free WordPress blog.
The last shocking characteristic is quite possibly my favorite and the one that should be most inspirational: there are no experts. Every single person I’ve met with, from Dan Meyer to Steve Leinwand (@steve_leinwand) to Audrey McLaren (@a_mcsquared), none of them claim to be THE or AN expert. I will admit that Steve is probably more likely to be an actual expert than most, but he still is abundantly willing to learn. And that’s really my point. Every single person is a part of the MTBoS as a learner, not an expert. They might share their experiences, but it is almost exclusively for reflection or the benefit of sharing and being a part of a discussion that helps them improve. That’s an amazing quality that is shared by each and every person I’ve met.
If you’re convinced and wondering where to start, you should feel great that you somehow are reading this, which really means you are connected to the MTBoS. The bad news is that this is a metaphorical crumb of the banquet that is MTBoS. Perhaps a fancy analogy will help to really make you want to be a part of the MTBoS:
OKMathTeachers.com : MTBoS :: Star : Galaxy
What I’m saying is that this is nothing compared to what is out there. Sure, you can connect to ~1,700 OKMath Teachers on Facebook. Sure, #OKMath has a little traffic on Twitter. And yes, OKMathTeachers.com is a great place to get your feet wet. But the universe is much larger friends.
I’m also saying that MTBoS is huge and amazing, but not in an overwhelming kind of way. It is incredibly accessible because everyone who is tweeting and blogging is also learning and lurking. And that’s okay!
So, make your way to http://mathtwitterblogosphere. weebly.com and take a look around. Consider starting a Twitter account if for no other reason than to lurk on #mathchat and #OKMath. Consider starting a blog if it even slightly interests you. Check out http://exploremtbos.wordpress.com for more help with getting started with MTBoS.
Lastly, what you should know is that there is a subset of math teachers who operate just a bit differently than the rest of us… and they have taught me an awful lot about what it means to be a great teacher and what it means to be professionally engaged. And best of all, they want to learn from you. At a minimum, I believe that teaching in the age of MTBoS means we have more opportunities for relationships, growth, learning, reflection, and development (all regardless of the location or size of our school) than ever before.
Hope to catch you later in the MTBoS.