Here is the promise:
There is a community of math educators that meets online at all hours of the day. They trade support and resources and many of the educators who meet there will tell you it is the most indispensable professional development they have ever experienced. If you lack support in your school or district, this community might actually get you through. I’m referring to the the Math Twitterblogosphere, or the #MTBoS, an abbreviation that is as unwieldy and charming as the community it names.
Here is the reality:
Where am I? Who are all these people? Is it rude to just say something to somebody? These conversations look interesting but do I just … jump in?
Here is an ugly bit of unexamined privilege:
It'll be tough to top this for Today's Most Interesting Tweet. How do we help new Tweachers understand that "jumping in" is always okay? pic.twitter.com/lhJTSldwJb— Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) April 14, 2017
Loads of people informed me immediately that, nope, Twitter only works that way if you already have lots of followers, if you’re already in the community, and that it also helps to belong to a demographic that is accustomed to being listened to all the time.
People informed me that their first leap into this teaching community was scary, that getting “shot down” was bad, but bad also was simply getting ignored.
I decided I didn’t want to ignore a tweet from a newcomer to the Math Twitterblogosphere. So about a month ago I wrote up the designs for a Chrome extension and hired a freelancer to build it. The extension highlights tweets from users that meet any criteria I choose.
Here is my “Welcome to the #MTBoS” rule. It highlights tweets from anyone with fewer than 100 tweets, people who are likely new in town, so I can make sure they hear from somebody.
The results have been a blast. I don’t break much of a sweat on these welcome wagon tweets. “Never stop tweeting” is my standard greeting, after a more personal remark. Other times I try to connect newcomers to the resources they’re after. Regardless, people are generally really excited to receive these quick tweets.
Big moment in my life right here- official welcoming to #MTBoS by THE Dan Meyer. Thank you for making my Friday afternoon!! https://t.co/0hJS5qs5cI— Ms Grove (@MathyMissGrove) May 5, 2017
That’s someone whose day got made because this little Twitter extension made it easy for me to make sure she didn’t get ignored.
You can make someone’s day too. Loads of these newcomers aren’t following me. Many of them are looking for classroom teachers to follow. Many of them are looking for people who are only a couple of years ahead of them in their careers, not ten or twenty.
You’re welcome to install the same extension, without any warranty, and with only the most meager set of instructions. (If I start hearing that a bunch of you want to install it, I’ll give it a proper download page with a proper set of instructions. 2017 May 25: Updated with that page.)
Hey. Good work, everybody. People are writing dissertations about us. People from outside mathematics education are looking in at us as a model for professional community. This place is special. Let’s keep expanding it — its numbers, its representation, and its heart. This is one idea I had recently. What’s yours?
Michael Pershan offers his work towards community building: comment on more blogs.
Elizabeth RaskinMay 22, 2017 - 3:27 pm -
That’s nifty! I’m in the “being ignored sucks” camp so whenever I can I scroll through #mtbos and find tweets that have no or few replies and try to respond if possible. If I have nothing to say on the topic I usually retweet if it’s been 12 or more hours to make the question fresh.
Michael PershanMay 22, 2017 - 3:39 pm -
I like this call to action a lot more than ‘be selfish’! Though maybe ‘be selfish’ is the advice we want to give noobs. MTBoS experts should be a bit less selfish.
This extension is a lovely idea.
I’ve been playing with moving more of my MTBoS life back to blogs, away from Twitter. I wanted to read and comment on a wider variety of blogs, so here’s what I did.
(1) I gave away my Twitter password to a loved one. My MTBoS attention (maybe not yours’) is a zero sum situation. If I’m spending time on Twitter, I’m not spending time reading blogs and commenting. And I like comments, and want to encourage blogging.
I also turned on email notifications so I’d be sure to respond to anyone who wanted to chat.
(2) Problem: I used Twitter to find blogs, and my RSS was badly out of date. Fortunately, the @mtbos_blogbot account follows a lot of blogs. I used a fancy website to turn the blogbot account into an RSS feed. I subscribed to that RSS feed in my preferred reader (The Old Reader, always The Old Reader) and, tada, lots of blogs to follow.
So, that’s my little pitch. Twitter is great (though maybe not for me right now) but I’d hate to imagine a MTBoS with less blogging. Blogs are special. Keep commenting.
katenerdypooMay 22, 2017 - 11:56 pm -
the twitter thing is sort of a reason i fell out of MTBOS. initially i was really excited and tried to participate a lot, but after a certain moment i felt like all the action was happening on twitter and being in europe meant that time-zone wise most of the real-time action was out of reach and when i could look at twitter, it became this overwhelming mass. i started to develop fear of missing out and this feeling that i’d never break into the “inner circle,” which was simultaneously a middle school-like desire to hang with the cool kids but also a nagging fear that since i wasn’t in it that i wasn’t a caring enough, creative enough, good enough math teacher. so i purposely took a step back from everything.
Useful feedback for Twitter vets.
Dan MeyerMay 23, 2017 - 3:43 am -
I almost wedged in my usual appeal to selfishness, which lately draws its fire from this Watson quotation. We are only experiencing half of a #MTBoS, half an NCTM, half a life, if half of humanity is excluded from those forums and benefits. Our MTBoS is bound up with theirs.
Never stop commenting. Your infodiet isn’t what I need right now, but I admire its thoughtfulness.
Heidi SabnaniMay 22, 2017 - 4:34 pm -
Brilliant! I think this is a great opportunity to reach out to others. I’ve had some limited response from MTBoS over the last two years, but I am sure there are people who are even more new to all of this than myself.
Dan MeyerMay 23, 2017 - 3:47 am -
Right! After hanging around for awhile, you start to realize that you’re a #MTBoS vet!
Sam ShahMay 22, 2017 - 5:00 pm -
I noticed you were doing a lot of welcoming lately! Lovely to see how that connects up with this extension.
cheesemonkeysfMay 23, 2017 - 11:03 am -
Everybody feels weird at first, but the more you jump in, the more comfortable you will become. Good stuff gets forwarded, responded to, or commented. At its heart, there is an element of basic trust involved, but please know that many of us only started tweeting and blogging because we were desperate to find the people like you who are out there! So do what you need to do – lurk, tweet, blog, comment. The #MTBoS operates on the butterfly principle!
Scott FarrarMay 22, 2017 - 5:02 pm -
I noticed you doing this, great idea.
I do predict others may want to utilize the addon, but does that behavior scale? Or even if it does, is that what we want to do at scale? Perhaps there’s a phase two after welcoming.
What might phase two be?
Inviting to a #chat?
Asking a question back?
Getting more followers and followees to these new members?
Dan MeyerMay 23, 2017 - 3:50 am -
I actually think Sam Shah & his crew have some good second steps written up already. But none of them really nail the feeling of getting some spontaneous feedback from a stranger on something that interests you. That’s how this project came together.
Christine NewellMay 22, 2017 - 8:54 pm -
Well this is just plain awesome. Great idea, Dan! I’m totally in, and I love Scott’s idea of phase 2 as well. Looking forward to building our community more intentionally!
Megan BartleyMay 23, 2017 - 6:19 am -
You have probably seen this YouTube video of Pixar guru Randy Nelson. But if not, it is worth watching. I love applying the idea of “plussing” to tweeting. :) And who does not love old school Pixar? I like to use this to help build the culture of collaboration in my classroom.
Robert KaplinskyMay 23, 2017 - 7:54 am -
I wanted to share my thoughts on this part: “Loads of people informed me immediately that, nope, Twitter only works that way if you already have lots of followers, if you’re already in the community, and that it also helps to belong to a demographic that is accustomed to being listened to all the time.”
I totally get this. True, if no one is following you, few will see what you tweet. I remember it not feeling great that my first tweets got very little feedback (and I think it was well over a year before I got my first comment on a blog post). It usually does get better though and like most things, it takes time and effort.
It is similar to being the new kid in school. Most of the other students already have connections and are not looking out to welcome the new kid. You might reach out and not get a warm welcome, but usually there are some people there who will love to make you feel like a part of the community.
Personally, I found it helpful to get interactions going by replying to people’s tweets and including hashtags like #MTBoS.
Michael PershanMay 23, 2017 - 11:19 am -
On the one hand, I want to say to anyone who is blogging: let me know! If you want a comment, ask and you shall receive. Literally anytime anyone has ever asked me what I think about a post I have commented, and tried to comment generously.
But is this what people really want?
The real joy, it seems to me, comes when you’re noticed. It feels good to get attention for my writing, especially when I don’t ask for it.
That’s part of the tension with the sort of community we’re living with, it seems to me. Part of the fun is ‘earning’ attention. The rewards are lesser if you ask for it. (Not that they should be lesser. But I think this is experientially true.)
I don’t know if there are any implications to this observation, even if it’s true.
Michael’s quote in his senior high school yearbook.
KathyMay 23, 2017 - 11:48 am -
Can I ask a dumb question? How do I install the extension? Thanks :)
KathyMay 23, 2017 - 12:14 pm -
Nevermind :) Dragged and dropped it into extensions :)
SarahJuly 25, 2017 - 5:38 am -
Your post nails it… And I am reminded of my first tweet about a year ago. I was still pretty new on twitter and didn’t know exactly how hashtags worked. I tweeted with no followers so I figured it was low risk… but I was still terrified. And within the hour got a response from one of the presenters I had seen at NCTM the year before. I FREAKED out. It is surreal to get acknowledgment for a contribution. Ever since, I have been generous with commenting, likes, and sharing tweets and ideas because it can keep someone in a conversation they might otherwise leave or not participate in. It’s makes for a good community. Or like what Randy Nelson says in the video attached above, when you amplify and “plus” the work of another it allows for collaboration. Commenting and sharing is collaborative in nature because it amplifies and “plus”-es the work of another. Thanks as always.
Carl OliverJuly 27, 2017 - 7:56 pm -
This looks really cool. Thanks for making it.