Wednesday, August 5, 2015

An Allegory of Passion

Saw this painting, An Allegory of Passion, at the Getty Museum on my way out of LA from TMC15. (By the way, the Getty's AMAZING. I'd go back to LA just to see it again.) Thought immediately that it was a good summation of camp.

My spouse gets endless amusement from
sending me to camp.
Last year I was looking forward to Twitter Math Camp, but nervous. I'm a stereotypically introverted math geek, and people... <shudder>. Of course, these are my people, and it was amazing. Things gleaned from that meeting include Counting Circles and Talking Points, which had huge impact on my practice last year. The subtler effect was making these people whose ideas and opinions matter to me more real, and the whole community as a consequence. I'm kind of a teacher fanboy, anyway, but these are special folks.

And if I thought expectations were high last year, sheesh. I spent a lot of the year telling people that this was the best professional gathering I had ever been to. How could it come close?

By being all these amazing people from this community. Such good folk, sharing their hearts for teaching and students.

Twitter Math Camp has a morning session that runs for 2 hours all three days. Goal is to collaborate on larger projects. Gathered as a whole group, there are My Favorites, 5 minute quick shares of something that makes a difference to your teaching. Each of the first 3 days has a keynote, and then two 1 hour sessions to follow up on work from the morning or on separate topics. Again, much more participatory than at your run of the mill conference. The Twitter Math Camp Wiki has a large portion of materials and resources from all the sessions, and this year a lot of video.

James Cleveland and I ran a morning session on making math games. It was great fun, and a learning experience for us, too. Separate post on that. (I hope.) The only drag about running a session was not being able to attend a session. I'd hear Elizabeth Statmore talk about anything, but the session on Exploratory Talk would be great. Talking points (I first saw at TMC14) was a big addition to my PD and teaching last year. Or to be in a room with the Desmos gurus...

I just want to share some of what has stuck with me.

Chris Shore did a My Favorites on Neuron Stickers. Here's a tip: if you ever have a chance to interact with this guy, do so. Amazing teacher and person. In this quick pitch, he described work with a group of students who had all failed 8th grade math, in an algebra class. He focused all year on growth mindset, and helped students develop their own culture of recognizing big ideas. Not just in math, either. Spoiler of the story: 100% pass rate. See also his Rally for Roatan.

Lani Horn gave the day 1 keynote. She's the very model of a modern math ed researcher. She focuses on important issues, goes about it in a holistic way that respects teachers, and has keen insights into the data she collects and conversations she holds. In particular here, she presented her best idea as to what separates good teachers and great teachers.
  • how do teachers describe teaching problems? Great teachers think of them in actionable terms.
  • how do teachers represent instruction? Great teachers are heavy on context and student voice.
  • how do teachers interpret their situations? Great teachers have beliefs built on connections amongst student learning, mathematics understanding, and ideas about teaching. She described this as ecological thinking. Research shows this is the most difficult thing to affect in teacher candidates.
The afternoon sessions were basically time with my favorite teachers. Megan Schmidt  led a session on powerlessness in teaching. It was a deeply moving session. I'm a big believer in 12 step programs, AA gave me 30 years with my father I would not have had otherwise, and Megan has been brave enough to bring that kind of grace and support to the MTBoS. Read her post about it. Sadie Estrella led another confidential session afterward, where she conducted a half hour of excellent and energizing teacher stories.  It was indeed a half hour of cool.

Day 1 closed with Art Benjamin's Mathemagic. I'm not super-keen on his TED talks, but wanted to give him a try in person. I still don't know what to make of him, and wonder whether he's confirming more biases, ruining more good problems, or just putting a fun face on math. He didn't seem to have a sense of the audience, though. I did make a GeoGebra version of his guessing game that doesn't give away the trick, though.

Some of the Day 2 favorites that stuck with me include: John Stevens and his MTBoS search engine. Great address: . I use it all the time. Glen Waddell talked about the deep and relationship building practice of high fiving his students on the way into the class. Not because of a school policy, but because he commited to them to do it. When do you get a high five? When you do something awesome. Heather Kohn did a bit on her use of 3-D printing in a Desmos project. I've got to look into that. (That link goes into an effort for 3-D teachers to share resources.)

Day 2's keynote was Christopher Danielson. (Video, text) The most productive man in math ed. Books, new math memes, Desmos activities, Oreo controversies... what hasn't he done? His message was simple:
Find what you love.
Do more of that.

Which he then proceeded to model for us by showing how much of his work grows out of his love for ambiguity. This gets to the heart of one of my beliefs about teaching: it is personal. It's a deeply human activity. The best teachers are ones who have found a way to make their teaching true to themselves. Giving up authority - in the you're an author of your teaching sense - is a soul killer.

I think what I love about math is play and puzzle. In grad school I used to tell people they paid me (not much, of course) to play. There's a lot of play in my classes, but I need to work on the sharing of it.

In the afternoon, I went Lani's session on eliciting student thinking. She's writing a prequel (based on real classrooms, of course) to the great 5 Practices book. This will be good - especially for my preservice teachers, I think. Bottom line: foster intellectual risk taking. I followed that up with Robert Kaplinsky's session on formative assessment by questioning. Two pointers: avoid yes/no questions and hit the hows and whys. David Coffey (via Twitter) thought her list of "Belonging, competence, meaningful, autonomy" sounded a lot like Brian Cambourne's list of requirements for engagement.

This afternoon also saw the big news of Math Forum moving to the NCTM and Nguyen and Vaudrey as Barbie and Ken.
For some reason no one was taking pictures of Ken.

That night the California guys and Mathalicious put on a Bar-B-Que. I got to listen to Lisa Henry relate the tale of the Twitter Math Camp. This is a special community, but I don't think these would happen without her and her husband. Mil gracias, compaƱeros.

The third day keynote was Barbie herself. In an amazing performance of comedy merged with move you to tears love of students and community, Fawn presented teaching as a web of relationships. Parents, administrators, colleagues and students. Focus on what is important, make no excuses, and give your best. Because these parents have given you their best. If you have had any exchanges with Fawn, you respect her. If you only watch one of these, watch Fawn. You have to make it through some MTBoS stuff, but that is really making it clear how we are this community of colleagues. "Of course it's hard. It's not worth it if it's not hard"

In the afternoon, I got to meet Bruce Cohen who has some beautiful GeoGebra. And watch Dan Anderson recreate it in processing on the spot - man's got skills. Then we sat down in a mini GeoGebra user's group. Despite MTBoS being Desmos first, GeoGebra is still there.

Sunday is the wrap up, a few more favorites. I did a favorites on Tumblr, at Hedge's request. Made it in a Tumblr post. Are you on Tumblr? Let me know. There's the start of an Activity Bank - hope that develops. Curation is really an open problem to me still. Princess Choi gave a hilarious pitch for her student created videos. Lisa summed up, well and emotionally. And announced TMC16 in Minneapolis.

So see you next year in Minnesota!

PS. Many better reflection posts than this one at the archive. Elissa Miller was prolific in reflection. And Sam Shah's turned into a state of the MTBoS. Also has the TMC15 song...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the recap John. It's much appreciated for those of us who could not afford to attend.