The incomparable Kate Nowak asked the MathTwitterBlogosphere (MTBoS) to weigh in on these questions in preparation for her talk at NCTM in New Orleans next spring. She’s a featured speaker, and rightly so. Here are my answers.
1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
Dan Meyer, the great pioneer of math ed blogging turned me on to the blogging world. After I watched his TED talk, I noticed the url for his website. I went to it. I have been a changed teacher since. I was sucked in. It was like discovering a lost civilization. His blog linked to other blogs, like Kate Nowak’s and Sam Shah’s and the many other talented teachers who were creating material that made me feel like a rat pushing a lever for more dopamine. I was blown away by this thoughtful, reflective network of math teachers. They gave voice to the same issues of learning and teaching I was experiencing! They wondered, they ranted, they celebrated, they questioned, they created. It was like teaching therapy, entertainment, and lesson inspiration all rolled into one.
2. What keeps you coming back? What’s the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
The blog world allows me to be an invited thief. I find and use lessons all the time that have been vetted by impressive teachers the world over. Which seems like a better sell to students, examples from a textbook leading students to do p. 135 #1-30, or a lesson on how much a 100×100 cheeseburger from In-N-Out costs? C’mon.
I also read for motivation and to reconnect with the heart of teaching. Many posts are not about lessons or activities. They are about the emotions we feel when our best efforts fall flat, when we triumph, when we wonder how to move on. Too many times I’ve told my computer screen, “I’d love to be a student in this teacher’s class.” I’m a better teacher when I interact with the math ed blog world. It gets me to a place of flow.
3. If you write, why do you write? What’s the biggest thing you get out of it?
Content is alway marinating in my brain. If I have to put pen to paper, it forces realizations. I write to flesh out my own thoughts, to ease the mental friction. If I have to put down a coherent flow of ideas, then I have to make sense of what I believe. Writing forces me to develop my own thoughts. I’m always thinking about math teaching and math learning. I owe the MTBoS for the increase. As a result, I’ve also started thinking about learning and schooling in general, in any subject. That’s good for students and for me.
I write because it’s easier to email a link than to constantly have to repeat the same thing over and over to inquisitive parties. If I’m sharing an activity or a position of mind, having a web presence is essential. Explaining, Shot at the Glory is here. See how easy that is?
I also write for the thrill of it. No one knows what will happen. Every post is a small act of creation that goes bouncing around the internet, sometimes slowing down, sometimes stopping, and can at any moment reaccelerate, casting itself into the limelight for another round of relevance.
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to’s? Stories?
Explain WHY you blog and how YOU got into it. What was the tipping point for your entry into this world? Point it out explicitly, beyond platitudes. Show HOW you’re a better educator because of blogging. The current bloggers who just want to see Kate Nowak, speaker extraordinaire, in person will nod their heads, the uninitiated will perhaps think, “huh, maybe I should blog.” Your largest mission lies in winning over the people who show up to your session because they have an inkling to blog and then end up doing so.
I would hope for a link to a one-stop place on your site that pulls together a how-to-start-a-blog and a way to find other MTBoS blogs (David Wees has culled a bunch), so I can refer others in my district to this place.
Show how anyone in the audience can easily be rewarded with rich content on an upcoming topic. Insert crowd participation here.
It might be cool to share and highlight some blogs you like for completely different reasons to give the audience a sense of the diversity in the MTBoS.