I just recently returned from Twitter Math Camp, a grassroots professional development run by members of the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS). It was the most UNBELIEVABLE week of my life. I learned more than I could have hoped, and finally got to #InRealLife meet my internet friends and family. While I was at #TMC17, Dan Meyer posted about Retiring the #MTBoS Hashtag, and I had a lot of emotions. Most of them resembled feeling hurt. This is my internet family. I have always felt a part of the warm and loving mathematical community that he helped shape and mold. His posting was edited and amended over the course of the week, but I still felt…something resembling pain. I think I know what Dan was trying to start, a conversation about making the #MTBoS more user-friendly, but it stung a bit. I’m glad the conversation’s been put out there. And I see our community doing the work to increase our user-friendly-ness.
Before I continue, let me say:
I am a proud member of the #MTBoS. I found Dan Meyer’s blog in grad school, and the 3-act task structure he introduced me to changed my teaching for the better. While I found Dan in 2012 and #MTBoS in 2013, I was a (proud) lurker. I’d tell every math teacher I met about this WONDERFUL group of math teachers who put their classroom content and mathematical souls out on the inter-web for all to see.
In 2015 I boldly used the #MTBoS hashtag for the first time. I started to transition from lurker to participant. But even then, in the prime of my transitional-lurking days, I mostly re-tweeted, and liked, and asked questions offering up little to nothing in return. But that’s what I love about this community. I asked, and asked, and asked, and my #MTBoS family stepped up and gave all they had without critique or judgement.
I’m proud of my lurker days. Lurking was a necessary part of my development as a teacher. I wasn’t ready to put myself out on the internet in 2013, or 2014, or damn, even in 2015 really–I wasn’t ready for that level of vulnerability online.
To be clear: That feeling of not being ready to proactively join the #MTBoS conversation is not to be confused with feeling excluded or unwanted from the community. Although I hear some people did/do feel that way, and to you all who felt/feel excluded I am deeply sorry for any part I may have played towards your feeling excluded from our mathematical family. This family thrives on new additions. New voices. New opinions. We need you in our family, our community, our conversations, and our classrooms.
Twitter is a scary medium to put yourself out there, and its even scarier when you don’t really know #InRealLife the people you’re talking to. But those same aspects that make Twitter scary–talking to those strangers on the internet–is what can make it the best professional development opportunity. Those strangers are online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to give you feedback if/when you ask for it.
Some things I learned as I moved from lurker to participant that might help people who are still proudly lurking. No rush. Move at your own pace. But here’s some things I discovered along the way that might help with the transition:
- When in doubt. Comment on cute puppies, cats, tiny humans, or what ever else floats your boat. I remember this thread like it was yesterday, it was the first time Meg and I talked about dogs! Now, we chat about our fur babies at least once a week. Yes, there is a hashtag #DogsOfMTBoS!:
- Talk about something math-related that may have NOTHING to do with teaching. @cheesemonkeySF, @anniekperkins, and @veganmathbeagle are always posting about really, REALLY awesome math art. I’m currently memorized by the Celtic knot designs they are doing right now. If I wasn’t so into my 10:30pm at the latest bedtime, I would have taken more time at #TMC17 to learn how to draw them. Maybe next year!
- Just adding #MTBoS or #iTeachMath(s) on the end of a tweet isn’t (always) enough to get feedback. There is no #MTBoS high council who patrol the internet moderating comments. If you are looking for specific feedback, tag specific people. When I needed algebra 2 help, I looked to the #Alg2Chat and found Julie ( @jreulbach, and Meg (@mathymeg07) I tagged them when I had a specific question, and I heard back. Find those who teach your content and direct questions their way. You will hear back, and if you don’t, tweet me. I’ve taught everything from Algebra 1 to AP Calc. I’ll do my best to help.
- Chats to look into:
- #MTBos and #iTeachMaths, obviously.
- Chats to look into:
- Set goals and make them public. I told Meg I’d be at TMC17. And it happened!
So with that, come on and tweet with us. Use what ever hashtag you like. I’m going to stick with #MTBoS because to me it means family of nerdy math people who happen to use the mediums of Twitter and Blogging to hold us over until we can meet up, once a year, for nerdy game nights and talking mathematics until WAY past our bedtimes.