Wow. That was a big title. This post comes out of a number of conversations at Twitter Math Camp, but in particular a conversation with Justin Lanier, Michael Pershan, Malke Rosenfeld, and a rotating cast of others about the changing role of Twitter and blogs in the MTBoS.
A topic we returned to a number of times is the idea that blogs feel like they’re dying, and the conversation is moving to Twitter. Dan Meyer said it during his keynote, and it really resonated with many of the people at Twitter Math Camp. I think I agree. However, it worries me a bit. I think that Twitter does a great job of connecting people and creating conversations. It does not do a great job creating lasting resources that teachers who start interacting withe the MTBoS can access and use to improve their practice.
This idea bothered me. If there are fewer resources available for teachers who start clicking around blogs and Twitter trying to get better at what they do, than the MTBoS is not moving the profession forward in the way I think is possible.
Then I thought about something else Dan said that really resonated with many of us — that we should be totally comfortable being selfish in our tweeting and blogging. We should post when we have something to say, and feel fine not posting when we don’t. This community works best when people are doing and saying things that we care about, that we are doing and saying because they help us, or make us feel better, or they need to be said. From that perspective, Twitter is the natural place to move to. It has a lower barrier to entry than blogging, responds more quickly, provides opportunities to talk to whoever you want to talk to. I support all those things, but I’m still struggling with the idea that blogging — permanent posts that can stick around, and be used by other teachers to learn and teach better — is dying.
As I thought more about it, I realized that blogging might not be as different from Twitter as I thought. Aside from a very small handful of blogs, are blog posts actually doing much besides enriching the current followers of the blog, and anyone who clicks a link on Twitter if it gets shared?
But blog posts aren’t the only counterpoint to Twitter. The Math Twitterblogosphere has created some pretty incredible resources in the last year or two. Tina Cardone’s Nix the Tricks is on a bulletin board above my desk, and I will work harder this year to get my colleagues to read it and talk about it. Geoff Krall’s problem-based curriculum maps are absolutely incredible resources, and teachers I’ve shared them with have absolutely loved them. More teachers need to know about Mathalicious and the Desmos lessons. There are a ton more resources like this — in fact, I created a Resources page to try and help any visitors to my blog who may be new to the MTBoS to find places to go and tools they can use.
Comparing all of these resources with the blogs of the huge number of people in the MTBoS, including a number who I really enjoy reading, I don’t think it can compare. I would rather send a new teacher to any of these more comprehensive, well-packaged, carefully created resources than the Wild West of math teacher blogs. The biggest challenge of the blogosphere, for me, is sifting through a large amount of material for ideas that I can use in my classroom next week. While blogs are valuable resources for reflection, and critical to creating the discourse on Twitter that we care about, they aren’t efficient vehicles for someone who is teaching trapezoids, tomorrow, and needs to lesson plan. But the MTBoS and others more or less affiliated with the MTBoS have created more and more great resources that can help those teachers.
These high-quality resources are what I think can make a difference in the practice of more teachers beyond our circle. These are the resources I can share with colleagues and be confident that they can find something, in a short amount of time, that they can use in class tomorrow, or next week. While I think I’ve been attached to blogging because I’ve enjoyed it so much, and it has made such a difference in reflection about my practice, I don’t think it’s the mechanism by which the MTBoS can best help teachers more broadly.
I want to end by acknowledging again the idea that teachers should participate in Twitter and blogs selfishly. They should participate if it makes them happy, if it’s what they want to be doing with their evenings and weekends. All of the best resources I know have been created by people who are passionate about math and teaching and have enjoyed creating them. I can’t imagine Tina having not created Nix the Tricks. I’ve been blown away by the passion that Karim and Eli put into Mathalicious and Desmos. We as a community have no obligation to create. But I think the potential and the passion are there, and I know I’ve enjoyed what little I’ve had to add. I hope I can continue to contribute, to create some really lasting resources that all teachers can use to do better by our kids. That will be a goal of mine for the coming year.