Wednesday, August 29, 2012

I do it!

".... And what a person thinks on his own without being stimulated by the thoughts and experiences of other people is even in the best case rather paltry and monotonous." - Einstein
Kevin Honeycutt spoke at our district kickoff on Monday. I have seen him at MACUL but I do not recall Kevin sharing his background. I think it really helped to frame his message based on some of the feedback I heard from other staff. He encouraged us to not be "that guy" who just dusts off the 3 ring binder of lesson plans each year. Go beyond having kids filling out worksheets with the bold words from the text book or having students write for an audience of one. If a student can Google it, then why are you giving a 50 minute lecture on it? Challenge students to think and create. Do not think of technology as a crutch or "cheat" but as a tool that enables us to focus on thinking and creating. These are messages many of us have heard but it does not hurt to hear it again and again.

This past summer I had a chance to attend Twitter Math Camp (#TMC12). Honeycutt shared the above quote which made me start to reminisce and then realize I did not finish (well, ok start) my post about the experience.  You know how so many professional development days you feel like it is just being done to you? As my kids would say when they were younger, "I do it!" That kind of sums it up. Us taking charge or as Fouss put it, "For Us by Us." For a variety of recaps visit Lisa's post and for some history of how it came to be, visit Sam Shah's post. There was even some debate and press in Education Week about the awesomeness of math teachers taking advantage of social media.

I can not imagine what it must be like to teach in a school where you might be one of only a couple of math teachers. Even in a larger school like the one I am in, our experiences are limited to just the ten of us. We have our struggles and are always looking to find possible solutions. There are so many others out there who have experiences to share.  With social media, it has become much easier to reach out and connect with others.

If you have ever thought about what this Twitter thing is all about or what are these blogs people say they are reading and/or writing, something was made just for you to get started.  This guide to Twitter and blogs came out of a session by Sam Shah at TMC. I highly recommend anyone interested in using Twitter or blogs for your professional development, even if you just want to peek, go and visit that guide.

When I first heard TMC was really happening, I was not sure if I should go.  I used money as an excuse to cover up some stupid insecurities I had. For some reason I was thinking because I was not that involved last school year on Twitter like I was the prior year, I should not go.  I hemmed and hawed about it at home and finally my wife said go.  Trying to still use money as an excuse, I conveniently late in the game asked if anyone still needed a roomie. Troy from TechSmith generously offered for me to stay with him. With the money excuse now pulled out from under me, there was nothing I could do but go.

I was secretly excited but nervous as hell. Not sure what I was thinking. I should have known after being invited into the stats circle and book talks and being gently nudged into my first post that in person these folks would not be any different. At first, I did my usual wallflower bit but eventually warmed up and felt at home enough to run circles (he he).

We packed in the days which made my brain hurt but then had great fun in the evening. It was the perfect mix. Big thank you to Lisa and Shelli for putting in the work. The well planned out yet flexibility of the event was appreciated. We even had those little signs outside each room which described the session. Also thank you to Mary Institute and St. Louis Country Day School for hosting us.

I enjoyed the morning work sessions. Not necessarily the Exeter set itself but the discussions about the math that we had. Then there was the morning we broke out into a spontaneous lesson plan after doing the typical baseball diamond problem.

Have you ever been to those conferences where you want to be in different sessions but they are happening at the same time so you have to pick? Yeah, me neither. I'm usually happy if I can come home with an idea or two. The afternoon sessions at TMC were hard to choose from. I needed to clone myself so I could be everywhere. I finally got a chance to sit down with Geogebra, got some handy tips for batch importing into Google calendar and saw how others use Google apps in the classroom and dove into the world of interactive notebooks.

When you hear the phrase "flipped classroom", it can conjure up images of fingernails scrapping across the chalk board to the revolution of math education depending on who you talk to.  To me, I had the image of kids watching video on how to solve a system of equations and then coming into class the next day to practice problems. This experience did not make sense to me or match how I thought students learn best. Yet, having the videos available did make sense.

This was my "a ha" moment and I am glad Troy shared his thoughts. I plan to explore the "Explore-Flip-Apply" model this year.

There were other sessions as well that I was able to walk away with to bring back to my students and colleagues. I even got a chance to play a math board game. This was unlike any conference or PD I have ever been at. It felt strange to come home overloaded with ideas and missing all the fellow attendees friends at the same time.

Thank you to the mathtwitterblogosphere for welcoming me with open arms and allowing me to have an incredible experience.


  1. Yay! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I'm so glad you came.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and especially your vulnerabilities. I too felt like TMC12 was a big "I DO IT!" experience. :)

    This quote sums up my experience perfectly:

    Have you ever been to those conferences where you want to be in different sessions but they are happening at the same time so you have to pick? Yeah, me neither.

    I'm so glad I got to meet you!

    - Elizabeth (aka @cheesemonkeysf on Twitter)

  3. Great thoughts Jamie! I am glad you posted them.