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”:
Hope this letter,
Still can reach ya.
Twitter Math Camp,
Despite that as a
whole math teachers are quite spastic.
Boys were dancing,
Algebra and stats,
Math games all are
The learning was
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.
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.
There 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 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.