Here are two reasons to be encouraged about the work and vision of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, followed by my hope for its future.
NCTM is obviously interested in recruiting new members, along with all of their new ideas.
Two years ago there was a panel discussion dedicated to technology in math education which featured a bunch of math Twitter-types. The following year saw an entire strand dedicated to ideas from those math Twitter-types. Then the math Twitter-types occupied the opening keynote at this year’s Nashville regional conference, immediately after which Robert Kaplinsky took my favorite photo from that conference.
— Robert Kaplinsky (@robertkaplinsky) November 19, 2015
Mark it, friends, or correct me if I’m wrong: that’s the first appearance of a current NCTM President at what the Twitter-types call a “tweetup.”
Just five years ago, these Twitter-types occupied the fringe. It’s so nice to see everybody making friends and learning from one another. This only bodes well.
NCTM’s new conference website has promise.
The history: Zak Champagne, Mike Flynn, and I ran Shadow Con as an experiment in extending the face-to-face conference experience. We offered speakers a more powerful platform on the web for interacting with attendees (live and virtual) than NCTM’s existing read-only conference program website.
We reported the results of that experiment to NCTM’s executive team and that was the last any of us heard from them until this year’s regional conferences when they tweeted out their new conference website. Look at it!
The featured speakers at the regional conferences each get their own page on a WordPress installation. On first glance those pages look just like a conference website. Title, description, and time. Just the facts. But speakers can add files, videos, and other resources. Then there is a comment box where attendees can get in touch before and after the session.
A colleague of mine remarked: “It’s a mixed bag.” Yeah, but what a mix!
Out of the 28 featured sessions across the three regional conferences, seven presenters don’t seem to have visited their page. That lack of attention has basically zero downside. Their pages look just like they would on any read-only conference program website. Title, description, and time. Just the facts.
And across the other 21 sessions, there is a pile of activity!
- David Wees asks Jon Wray to clarify his session description. Savvy shopping, David! Helpful replying, Jon!
- Christina adds a Yelp-style review to Graham Fletcher’s page telling people they should definitely come to his session. Great social proof, Christina!
- Donna Leak’s page has video of her presentation. Video!
- A presenter had to cancel her session but leaves behind an apology and her slides!
- David Barnes collects tweets from his session and adds them to the comments afterwards. Tweets!
- Math Twitter-types like Annie Fetter, Kate Nowak, and Max Ray trick out their pages with resources and interact with attendees like the web veterans they are!
All of this is possible without NCTM site’s but none of it is easy to do and none of it is easy to find.
So here is my hope for the future of NCTM conferences.
Extend this website to cover all presenters from all NCTM conferences and offer it to affiliate organizations for their conferences as well.
I want to click Annie Fetter’s name on one page and see all the talks she’s ever given, across geography and time, including five years ago at some random state affiliate conference I never knew existed.
I want to search for “Kate Nowak NCTM” in Google and find her past conference pages and also her upcoming talks.
Before I attend a conference, I want to locate presenters whose talks seem to provoke a lot of online discussion afterwards, and then attend those.
If NCTM makes this commitment, they’ll increase their value to current and prospective members several times over.
For current members, they increase the value of conference attendance and decrease the pressure on attendees to attend every session. (Expect the question “Will you be posting your resources to your page?” to float around Twitter in the weeks leading up to every conference.) The conference page will connect attendees and speakers in the twelve months between annual conferences.
Prospective members, the kind who wonder “Why NCTM?”, may start to land on conference pages more often than Pinterest boards when they search for resources. As those prospective members explore the resources on those conference pages, NCTM can recommend journals, articles, books, tasks, and other conference pages that may also be helpful. NCTM can point those visitors to upcoming conferences and sessions on those themes, converting non-members into members and members into stronger teachers.
Until future notice, I am a single-issue voter in all NCTM elections and this is my issue.