For what it is worth:

I wrote this in April and never hit publish. I have been letting it simmer. It seems like it might be worth the conversation.

I am on my way home from the #NCSM17 and #NCTM17 conference. I had the privilege of being part of a team of educators who presented at both of these conferences.  We shared a story about how we collaborated K-12 to improve our ability to teach math.

During our story, we shared some powerful #MTBoS experiences that transformed our teaching.  These experiences were so transformative because they simultaneously lived inside and outside of the boundaries of our zipcode.  We worked together in our district, but we also worked together in the Math Twitter Blogoshpere.  We reflected with each other and we reflected with educators all over the world.

I have been sitting in the Charlotte airport for 5 hours. My connecting flight doesn’t leave for two more hours. I have spent the majority of my time in the airport reflecting.

This morning, on Twitter, I shared links to our NSCM and NCTM presentation with several #MTBoS folks who were instrumental in the evolution of my (and my colleague’s) learning this year.  I engaged in a thoughtful, and somewhat provocative conversation with some twitter friends, none of whom I have ever met in person.

Take a look:

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As we talked, I wondered:

  • When and how do we establish relationships on Twitter?
  • Does humility and vulnerability impact who we engage with on Twitter?
  • Does Twitter have a culture?  Is it persavise or incidental?

Shortly after I wrapped up a two-hour reflection session with @Simon_Gregg@nomad_penguin@KentHaines@TAnnalet, and @m_pettyjohn, I read Dylan Kane’s blog post: On NCTM and MTBoS

I found Dylan’s post fascinating. It seems like Dylan is wondering if people who are new to MTBoS know the purpose of MTBos.  I have only been engaged with MTBoS since last May so I would consider myself on the “new” side of the experience. I am not sure what the collective purpose of #MTBoS is, but I have a pretty clear vision of my own purpose.  I actually tweeted it during one of the conversations that I mentioned above.

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Sometimes I do this by just engaging in a problem solving experience.  Other times, I ask for help with a teaching struggle.  I don’t actively remind myself of my purpose, but I think it is usually a motivating factor of my engagement.

I guess I wonder if it is possible for #MTBoS to have a collective purpose.  It is a community right? But it doesn’t have a structure or rules.  There are no bylaws or sign up sheets.  You can’t point to it or place it on a map. It doesn’t really live anywhere.

Yet, it most certainly feels alive.

It evolves.  Doesn’t it?

Shouldn’t it?


2 thoughts on “For what it is worth:

  1. Wow. What a strong reflection, and what sharp questions. I’ll freestyle a bit — mostly to try to process your post — but this post is very strong testament to what’s great about the mtbos community.

    I sometimes am guilty of seeing mtbos in a way that is very unlike the way you describe in this post. The first thing is that I sometimes take mtbos for granted. That has a lot to do with both my personality and my history. The mtbos is where I started — it was my FIRST home in math education, not my second. I got my first teaching job with no edu coursework, and I went to blogs to get my first framework for thinking about teaching math. Because of this, I sometimes take this community for granted, especially compared to people who come to it having experienced a ton of professional communities already.

    (I desperately needed the mtbos but it was always there for me, is what I’m trying to say.)

    The personal side is that I’m a pretty loner type of guy. I do what I do, and I don’t feel like I need a lot of “safety” to take intellectual risks. (It’s always hard to know, but I figure that being a nerdy white guy helps with this. A lot of it is also a longstanding history of zigging when peers zag, a habit that goes back to when I was a kid.)

    The other thing that I’m sometimes guilty of missing is that there really are supportive sub-communities in mtbos. I sometimes look at our community and notice all the ways in which we don’t have little micro-communities — we don’t have people working on projects together, blogging has dipped significantly, there aren’t a ton of formal “projects” that people are engaged in together — but your story reminds me of the ways in which there is a lot of “microstructure” to the community. People have friends, relationships, trusted colleagues. I have that too, and for that I’m just so grateful.

    I could ramble on forever, that’s how rich this post is.

    Anyway, before I do ramble on forever, here are some thoughts on what mtbos does particularly well.

    * Especially in the elementary world, mtbos does a particularly great job of maintaining a supportive culture for doing math. (I’m less sure about the secondary world, but it’s not bad there either!)

    * mtbos does a great job supporting people in the problems they’re having in work. It’s a warm, supportive, encouraging place.

    * mtbos does a great job with certain kinds of mini projects — 3acts, tmwyk, wodb, visual patterns. I don’t know exactly how to characterize the types of things mtbos is good at. I guess we could call this instructional routines? Curricular resources?

    And I’m sure there’s more.


  2. I really appreciate hearing your perspective. Your experience is different than mine and I appreciate the opportunity to change my perspective. Sometimes, I wish I knew a little bit more about the history of #mtbos. When did it officially start? How many people were involved? Who are those people?
    I also wonder, how many people use a #mtbos hashtag? How often do those people tweet or blog? What happens when someone who doesn’t know about #mtbos ends up in the middle of a #mtbos conversation? Does it matter that the person doesn’t know about #mtbos? Why or why not? As you can see, I ask a lot of questions. Some of which don’t necessarily need to be answered, but I wonder them all the same. Sometimes I think the answers to those questions would help me understand the mtbos community better and, sometimes, I think the answers to the questions are probably elusive and amorphous enough that trying to answer them might steer me astray from my own purpose – send me off on a wild goose chase. Not sure. Currently, my greatest struggle with mtbos is not having the time to pursue all of the questions I have. I have so much to learn! Michael, I am so grateful that you shared your perspective with me. In some ways, I am the opposite of you. I tend to gather people up-pull them along with me (for better or worse)- make my own personal community. I have never been described as a loner. Also, I struggle with confidence sometimes. I think the fact you and I are different makes it all the more important that we try to understand each other’s perspective. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.


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