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.
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.
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.