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Twitter Math Camp

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I spent July 23–27, 2014, at a camp. If this doesn’t sound silly enough for a nearly fifty-year-old, it was Twitter Math Camp (TMC). My spouse still hasn’t stopped making fun of it. It might bring to mind that Allan Sherman classic camp song, “Hello Muddah Hello Faddah”:

Hello colleague,  
Fellow teacher. 
Hope this letter,  
Still can reach ya. 
Twitter Math Camp,
Is fantastic. 
Despite that as a whole math teachers are quite spastic. 

Boys were dancing,  
Girls deriving. 
Algebra and stats,  
Math games all are thriving.
The learning was fun,  
The fun times funky. 
Meeting folks with twitter handles like Cheesemonkey. . . . 

“How was it?” FANTASTIC!!! All caps, multiple exclamation points. The best professional conference-like experience I’ve ever had.

TMC Logo

A lot of my personal professional development experiences now come from interacting online—mostly through Twitter and blogs—with an amazing group of teachers from around the world. These teachers have become the self-declared Math-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS). Members of the MTBoS are deluged by interesting reads and intriguing conversations, including accounts of classroom practice, assessment dissection and analysis, activity development, and even discussion of research. Three years ago, a small group decided to meet in real life in the summer, and Twitter Math Camp was born. Last year, the group met at Drexel University in Philadelphia, home of the Math Forum. This year, 150 of us met at a high school with a stunning STEM facility in Jenks, Oklahoma (pronounced “jinx”) for three days.

Participants in Twitter Math CampThere were two-hour morning sessions that ran for the first three days, where we worked with the same group each day. This was no sit and git; it was an opportunity to work with gifted and dedicated teachers at length developing ideas in depth. Each day featured a whole-group keynote (Dan Meyer, Steve Leinwand, and Eli Luberoff); varied afternoon sessions; and flex sessions for people to expand on, extend from, or begin something different than what they had been working on. This structure worked really well, balancing variety and work, depth and coverage. One feature of TMC is the My Favorites presentations by participants when we’re in whole group. These short sharings hit on one or two ideas, practices, techniques, or resources that have made a difference in student learning in their classroom.

Probably as important as all of that was the out-of-meeting time. The majority of us had never met in real life. On the evening before camp, there was a game night in the hotel and a lot of “is that…?” and “who is…?” and “what’s their Twitter name?” (I’m one of the worst offenders, with a nonname Twitter handle, @mathhombre, and a nonpicture avatar.) I was in the awkward position of meeting people that I already considered friends. The dinners, after-hours math, discussion, and games had a bonding effect. I had observed the interaction (a little jealously, to be honest) the previous years and saw how working together in real life deepened and enriched the online relationships. TMC is available to anyone who can make it. A good share of the attendees were semilocal Oklahoma teachers who had little experience with the online community, and they were as much a part of it as the heroes of the community.

The MTBoS does have its heroes: Teachers who have galvanized the community, made multiple innovations that have been widely adopted, shared deeply and personally on their blog, put in time and effort to organize or grow the community, or have inspired and supported many of us to start writing or tweeting. These heroes are down to earth and just as interested in meeting you as you are to meet them.

One benefit of meeting in a community that exists primarily for sharing teaching ideas online is that the camp is very well documented. The wiki, twittermathcamp.pbworks.com, has almost all the information from the sessions and presentations, and the reflection blogposts have been amazeballs. (Some odd lingo gets picked up on Twitter.) My personal reflection is on my blog at mathhombre.blogspot.com.

I will close with an invitation: Consider joining some of your inspirational fellow teachers online by blogging or tweeting. You can always just observe until you feel ready to make the jump. One place to get started is exploremtbos.wordpress.com.


John GoldenJohn Golden, @mathhombre, is a member of the department of mathematics at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He teaches math and elementary and secondary teacher preparation courses. At mathhombre.blogspot.com, he blogs about math games, geometry and GeoGebra, lesson ideas, and teacher prep. 


Here's the link to my more personal reflection: http://mathhombre.blogspot.com/2014/08/twitter-math-camp.html
Posted by: JohnG_57157 at 8/20/2014 4:23 PM


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