Math Rocks Mission #4: Twitter Me This

Your mission—should you choose to accept it—is to try your hand at Twitter. Maybe for the first time, maybe for the first time in a while, maybe in new ways, maybe with new people.

This mission, combined with our blogwork in Missions #1 and 3, will provide you a sure foundation for all future Explore MTBoS enterprises. You’ll be platformed up and ready to mingle by the week’s end.

Twitter is chatting with the world. It’s microblogging. It’s the world’s best teacher’s lounge. It’s a free-flowing and wide-ranging conversational tapestry, a place to ask a pressing question, let off some steam, share and reshare resources, find inspiration and encouragement, and crack hilarious jokes. It’s a great place to listen in, vet an idea, and let your colors shine through.

All this in 140 character bursts. Day and night. With #copioushashtags and @KimKierkegaardashian.

Having timely, thoughtful, and charming interactions from a whole world of online colleagues? Yes, please.

Step 0: The Account

We already created our Twitter accounts in Mission #2, but there are a few more things you can do to get properly set up before beginning the mission.

One thing that makes Twitter so powerful is being able to follow people. In your case, you’re probably going to want to follow some fellow elementary educators. Here’s a list of folks to follow if you need help getting started.

If Twitter forced you into following accounts that you aren’t particularly interested in, not to fear—you can unfollow them as soon as you finish the sign-up process.

You’ll want to upload an avatar, or else present yourself to the world for the time being as a dashing and comely default egg avatar. And in your Twitter profile, it’d be a great idea to include the URL to your blog. That’s a great way for people to find their way to your site!

The next step in your mission will help you to get going further with Twitter, but if you’d like some further orientation on how math teachers can use it, there’s a great guide over at the weebly site. Here are just a few small thoughts that might be useful to you.

Different people use Twitter in different ways. You’ll find the way that works for you.

Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t reply to you. It may mean they are super busy and might not be checking their tweets a lot—Twitter is a funny combo of synchronous and asynchronous communication. Or it may be that they have a zillion followers and they get overwhelmed and they also have a mile-high stack of papers to grade. And sometimes, you know, they may just not have anything to say. Twitter’s a nutty, fragmented, free-for-all. Things get lost in the shuffle. But think of the insanity as a feature and not a bug, and please don’t take it personally if someone doesn’t respond to your tweets.

Since there are only 140 characters in a tweet, people sometimes write tersely, which can come across as very direct — but mainly that’s because of the lack of characters to type things like “oh wow, neato! one thing i was wondering is if…”. Often sentiments can get truncated. Tone can be tricky on Twitter, but practice helps and you can always ask for clarification. Also, don’t forget that you can always send multiple tweets if your thought needs more than 140 characters to be expressed.

For Twitter to really work, you are going to want to commit to trying it out for a week or more, and that means hanging out. If you just sign up, tweet the mission, and then sign out, you aren’t going to be having mini-discussions and reading other peoples’s mini-discussions! So for this week, at the very least, check your Twitter feed regularly! Write to people and reply to people! Toss out your random musings. Really give it a chance. See what it’s like —and we hope you’ll see what’s caused so many math teachers to fall in love with Twitter.

You might be tempted to make your Twitter account private/protected when starting out. This might provide you with a sense of security, but people can’t see what you tweet if you’re private. It’s a good idea when you’re first starting off and trying to find good people to interact with—and they’re trying to find you—that you should probably keep your account public. And in a while, when you have a good number of people to tweet with, then you can switch your account settings. Also, I’d say the majority of math teachers hearabouts have public profiles. Again, you’ll figure out what works for you

The advice on this page for getting started with Twitter is good to read if you’re still apprehensive. And if you think it will help, you can read the experiences of how some math teachers started out with Twitter here. But our hope is that with this flurry of people using twitter this week, you’re going to have a comfortable way to get involved. Jump in!

This is a cat picture.

Step 1: The Mini-missions

So you’ve got a Twitter account, and you’re not afraid to use it. Fantastic. Below you’ll find a list of some mini-missions. Don’t dawdle, because they’ll self-destruct in three minutes. #jk You’ll engage with them as you wish—as many or as few of them as your schedule and taste admit—but here are two arbitrary goals for you that I just made up, one qualitative, one quantitative.

  1. Make sure you do at least one Twitter mini-mission that sounds superfun to you, and do a Twitter mini-mission that is outside of your comfort zone—that gets you to try something new.
  2. Pick a number between 5 and 10. Got it? Now double it. Add two. Cut it in half. Do at least that many mini-missions.

All right? All right. Let’s go.

Twitter Mini-missions:

  • If you’re new to Twitter, announce and introduce yourself in a tweet and include the hashtag #MTBoS. (Note that a hashtag is simply a tiny phrase included directly after a pound symbol in your tweet. That way if you want to see all tweets about the mathtwitterblogosphere, you can tell Twitter hey, find all tweets with #MTBoS in it and Twitter can show you all tweets with #MTBoS in it! At heart, it’s a search tool. There are hashtags for all sorts of things, but no need to worry about then now.
  • If you’ve done Twitter for a while, announce and introduce yourself in a tweet in a way that sheds some new light on who you are. Surprise us. Include #MTBoS.
  • Pick three people you follow, but with whom you haven’t interacted—recently or ever. Say hello and introduce yourself to them, beginning your tweet with their Twitter handle – @[Twitterhandle].
  • Pick three people who follow you, but with whom you haven’t interacted—recently or ever. Say hello and introduce yourself to them, beginning your tweet with their Twitter handle – @[Twitterhandle].
  • Open up the #ElemMathChat and/or #MTBoS feed and peruse it. Retweet something that you find compelling.
  • Announce a blog post you’ve written, new or old. Include #MTBoS.
  • Share a blog post that you’ve read recently that blew you away. Include #MTBoS.
  • Share a question that’s been on you mind about your classroom practice. Include #MTBoS.
  • Take a photo of your chalk-or-smartboard, or of a piece of student work. Tweet it and include #MTBoS.
  • Share an online math resource you really love. Include #MTBoS.
  • Tweet something mundane about your life. Include #MTBoS!
  • #makeupawackyhashtagandtrytogetittocatchon.
  • Respond to a famous person or guru’s tweet.
  • Tweet a favorite quotation or fact about mathematics. #MTBoS it up.
  • Share something awesome about your day of teaching. #MTBoS.
  • Share something hard about your days of teaching. #MTBoS
  • Open up the #ElemMathChat and #MTBoS feed and find some new tweeps to follow.
  • And while you’re there, send a reply to a few interesting tweets you see.
  • Tweet a tweet that’s exactly 140 characters long. #sosweet
  • Think of someone whose tweets you appreciate. On Friday, give them a #FF (Follow Friday) shoutout.

Step 2: The Blog Post

After you complete Step 1, you’ll have some new Twitter experiences under your belt. What better way to reflect on them than to blog about them? The interplay between the longer-form reflection and exposition of blogging and the rapid-fire conversation on Twitter is part of what makes the MTBoS tick.

Here are a few writing prompts that you might convert into a blog post.

  • Pick a tweet that you read and liked. Blog about what it made you think about.
  • Or maybe it wasn’t a single tweet, but a conversation you had. Blog about those ideas.
  • If you’re new to Twitter, what is something that has surprised you about it?
  • If you’re an experienced Twitter user, describe and reflect upon how you tend to use it.

Also, something worth noting about blogs is how to handle comments. In your blog’s Settings—perhaps under Discussion or Comments—you probably have several comment moderation options. This video explains it all. Moderating comments give you more control over what shows up on your blog—and not after the fact—but it can slow down conversation. Not moderating comments can let conversations proceed more naturally, but it may mean having to delete a little spam here and there. Just some thoughts for your consideration.

And speaking of comments…

Step 3: The Comment (Comment, Comment, Comment, Commet Chameleon)

Once you’ve written your Twitter-themed blog post, drop a comment at the bottom of this here Mission #4 post announcing it and offering it up for others to comment on. Also, you should tweet out your post on your Twitter account! Include #MTBoS. If you have room in your tweet, also include #ElemMathChat.

Finally, just like last week, you’ll go comment on the blog posts of the three people who commented directly above you. You’re of course welcome to comment on any of the other blog posts, too, and we encourage you to browse the comments to see which posts sound most interesting to you. But, if you play along with this chain mail flashback, then everyone gets at least three comments on their blog—at their site, not a response to the comment here—and everyone likes comments. So please play nice!

Stay safe out there, agent. See you in the Twitterverse!

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From Exploring the MTBoS Mission #2 by Justin Lanier (with minor adaptations)

Math Rocks Mission #3: Goal Setting

To help you explore the Math Twitter Blogosphere, you’re going to be doing a bunch of different missions. Each of them is going to end with you doing a little reflection related to what you did. Thus, it’s important (at least during Math Rocks) to have a blog to write on. Although we are going to be asking you to keep a blog throughout Math Rocks, we are not going to be making you continue it. One thing we want to convey during this experience is that there is no right way to participate in this weird disjointed passionate community. Do what moves you. Do what makes sense for you.

Part of this experience is going outside of your comfort zone and exploring various things to see if any of them will prove useful for you. So try out keeping and writing in your blog while you’re in this cohort and see how it goes. If it turns out you find it useful and want to continue posting regularly, great. If not, that’s just as great. You have to do what’s useful for you! That being said…

1. You are going to write a blog post on the following prompt.

  • What are your goals for yourself for your math teaching this school year? What are your goals for your students’ math learning this school year? What obstacles do you think you will face this school year that may affect your ability to achieve these goals? What ideas do you have right now for how you might overcome these obstacles?

2. Just like you did after writing your first blog post, drop a comment on this post announcing it and offering it up for others to comment on.

3. Also just like last time, comment on the blog posts of the three people who commented directly above you. You’re of course welcome to comment on any other blog posts, too. This way everyone gets at least three comments on their blog – at their site, not a response to their comment here – and everyone likes comments.

4. This is a great time to explore the features of WordPress (or whatever service you are using to host your blog). You all made your blogs pretty quickly this week so now is a good time to explore the management tools you can use to customize your blogging experience. If you use your Google-fu, I bet you can even uncover some videos that will explain and walk you through some of the options available to you.

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Adapted from Exploring the MTBoS Mission #1 by Sam Shah

Math Rocks Mission #2: Getting Started with Twitter

The other tool you’ll need this year is a Twitter account.

Ready to get started? In this mission, we’re going to guide you through setting up a Twitter account, help you decide your Twitter ID, and talk you through privacy settings.

If you already have a Twitter account, skip down to step 4.

If you’re new to Twitter, don’t fret, it’s a cinch! It will probably take you no more than 10 minutes! And that’s if you’re slow at typing.

If you really have no idea what Twitter is or how it works, watch this short video. It’s corny.

Here’s a link, just in case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G4__htJ-IdU

We’re going to post the steps to sign up below, but we also want to share these eight videos with you. They are to-the-point and made by a teacher for teachers dipping their feet in.

1. Sign up for Twitter and get a username

To sign up:

  • Go to http://twitter.com and find the Sign up box.
  • Enter your name, email address, and a password
  • Click Sign up
  • On the next page, select a username. This is a unique identifier for you on Twitter. The one you want may not be available, so you might have to think of a few possibilities.
  • Double check your name, email address, password, and username.
  • Click Create my account. And you’re done! See, simple!

2. Say who you are

You will get to upload a picture that will represent you on Twitter. You can always change the picture later! You should definitely upload some image. The picture that you use gives everyone reading your tweets a super quick way to recognize you. You’ll have to make the decision whether to use a picture of yourself, or of something else. It doesn’t really matter.

You will also have to write a short description of yourself. Do this. Seriously, let me say that again, do this.

What is common to all of these is that they all talk about teaching math. That is super important…trust me. When deciding whether to follow someone on Twitter or not, most of us use this description to decide whether you’re worth following or a spambot Twitter account!

3. Decide your privacy settings

Here’s where you need to think about how public you want to be.

My recommendation is that you initially Twitter with public settings, so that whatever you tweet can be seen by anyone who goes to your Twitter page. That’s probably not quite the advice you expected. But when you start tweeting, you’re going to be finding people to follow, and people are going to be deciding whether to follow you back. And when someone is making the decision whether to follow you or not, they will often go to your page to see who you’re talking to and what you’re saying. If you’re not public, they can’t see anything. So my advice is to start out public and just remember to keep it professional.

However, after a while, once you’re gotten a core group, if you feel you want to go private and let your hair down a little, it’s really simple. You go to setting and click the checkbox:

Then anything you say after you go private is protected. That means only people that you approve to follow you can see your tweets. Of course, regardless of whether you are protected or not, you want to make sure that you’re being professional, especially since your followers can take screenshots of what you say and share those with anyone they want.

4. Follow, read, and tweet

  • Follow @bstockus and @reginarocks
  • Explore tweets in the #ElemMathChat hashtag.
  • Tweet something. If you’re not sure what to tweet out, here are a couple of ideas:
    • What is one thing you are wondering about during our session today?
    • What is one thing you are looking forward to this school year – it doesn’t even have to be math related.
    • Share a link to an online resource that you like to use in your planning.

Be sure to include the hashtag #rrmathrocks in your tweet.

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From http://mathtwitterblogosphere.weebly.com/signing-up-with-twitter.html

Math Rocks Mission #1: Getting Started with Blogging

In order to explore your curiosity this year and to reflect on your learning, one of the tools you will need is a blog.

We have two different missions for you, depending on if you have a blog or if you don’t.

If you don’t have a blog, look for the section of this post titled “ACK! I need a blog! Stat!”and only read that. Just skip to that part. Like now! GO!

If you already have a blog, look immediately below to find the section titled “I have a blog… Now what, Mister?!” 

I have a blog… Now what, Mister?!

Your mission is threefold.

1. You are going to write a blog post on one of the following two prompts.

  • What is one of your favorite open-ended/rich problems?  How do you use it in your classroom? (If you have a problem you have been wanting to try, but haven’t had the courage or opportunity to try it out yet, write about how you would or will use the problem in your classroom.)

  • What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!

Just pick one prompt and post about it!

<rant> Now some part of you might be thinking: my rich problem isn’t rich enough! I’m embarrassed by it! I am new to teaching — so my classroom isn’t really distinctly mine yet. So I don’t have a perfect answer to the prompts! If that happens to you, just write about something similar. But I said this last year when getting people to write their first post: If you feel like you aren’t awesome at teaching, welcome to the club. If you feel constantly like everything else you see out there is better, welcome to the club. So if you’re new to teaching and have material that you’re proud of it, post it! We’re all starting this at different points, but the one thing I’ve learned is that I can steal ideas or be inspired or commiserate with first year teachers as easily as a veteran teacher. So try not to be self-conscious and obsessive. We’re all here to reflect on what we do, and to learn from each other. We’re not trying to be the best and we’re not out to impress each other. We’re out to get better. No one in the mathtwitterblogosphere is judging you, but yourself. So if you’re a sucky writer, own it and don’t worry about not being Tolstoy. If you feel like what you want to write has already been said on a lot of other places, write it anyway. This is you, for you, by you. Phew. </rant>

2. You are going to write a comment on this blog post – the one you’re reading right now. Your comment will say:

  • Your name
  • Your Twitter handle (which you’ll have by the end of today)
  • Your blog name
  • The title of your post
  • The URL of your post
  • One (or two) sentences from your post to capture a reader’s interest

Example

Hi, I’m Brian Stockus. You can find me on Twitter @bstockus and on my blog, Teaching to the Beat of a Different Drummer. The title of my blogpost is aptly named “Explore MTBoS: Mission #1″ (http://bstockus.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/exploring-mtbos-mission-1/).

I was going for originality.

To entice you to read what already sounds like a real page turner from the title alone: “Have you ever done something for a terrible reason, but then it turned out to have good unintended consequences? That’s what happened to me when I tried out a new activity in my classroom geared at test prep that ended up empowering my students and gave me greater insight into their thinking.”

3. Once you’ve posted your comment advertising your blog post, look at the three previous comments (the ones above yours). Read the posts of these three people and write a comment on each of their blogs! If you are one of those eager beavers who are the first three to post, just find three comments as people begin to post.

ACK! I need a blog! Stat!

You made it here! Phew! Now for your mission. Your mission has a few parts…but don’t be daunted…

1. Come up with a blog title. It can be funny, it can be serious, it can make no sense, whatever. However, my one admonition: don’t spend more than 10 minutes coming up with this blog title. The more you struggle to choose it, the more annoying it is going to be, and I’m afraid you’re going to use this hassle of coming up with a blog title to be enough to stop you from blogging. This cannot happen. Not on my watch! So 10 minutes is all you have.

2. Start a blog. If you have no idea how to do this, go to my favorite blogging site wordpress.com and get a blog! Here’s an awesome two minute video showing the process.

The link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N0zXEwtjCI

3. Write a short blog post on one of the topics below. Yep, you’re already ready to go. See how easy setting up a blog was? EASY!

  • Who are you? Introduce yourself! How’d you get into teaching? What do you like most about your job?
  • What is one of your favorite open-ended/rich problems?  How do you use it in your classroom? (If you have a problem you have been wanting to try, but haven’t had the courage or opportunity to try it out yet, write about how you would or will use the problem in your classroom.)

  • What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!

I suppose it can be a long blog post, too. Whatever floats your boat. If you’re adventurous, bonus points (okay, there aren’t really points) and twenty unicorn rainbows (these are real, however!) if you include an image or a video or a link.

<rant> Now some part of you might be thinking: my rich problem isn’t rich enough! I’m embarrassed by it! I am new to teaching — so my classroom isn’t really distinctly mine yet. So I don’t have a perfect answer to the prompts! If that happens to you, just write about something similar. But I said this last year when getting people to write their first post: If you feel like you aren’t awesome at teaching, welcome to the club. If you feel constantly like everything else you see out there is better, welcome to the club. So if you’re new to teaching and have material that you’re proud of it, post it! We’re all starting this at different points, but the one thing I’ve learned is that I can steal ideas or be inspired or commiserate with first year teachers as easily as a veteran teacher. So try not to be self-conscious and obsessive. We’re all here to reflect on what we do, and to learn from each other. We’re not trying to be the best and we’re not out to impress each other. We’re out to get better. No one in the mathtwitterblogosphere is judging you, but yourself. So if you’re a sucky writer, own it and don’t worry about not being Tolstoy. If you feel like what you want to write has already been said on a lot of other places, write it anyway. This is you, for you, by you. Phew. </rant>

4. You are going to write a comment on this blog post – the one you’re reading right now. Your comment will say:

  • Your name
  • Your Twitter handle (which you’ll have by the end of today)
  • Your blog name
  • The title of your post
  • The URL of your post
  • One (or two) sentences from your post to capture a reader’s interest

Example

Hi, I’m Brian Stockus. You can find me on Twitter @bstockus and on my blog, Teaching to the Beat of a Different Drummer. The title of my blogpost is aptly named “Explore MTBoS: Mission #1″ (http://bstockus.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/exploring-mtbos-mission-1/).

I was going for originality.

To entice you to read what already sounds like a real page turner from the title alone: “Have you ever done something for a terrible reason, but then it turned out to have good unintended consequences? That’s what happened to me when I tried out a new activity in my classroom geared at test prep that ended up empowering my students and gave me greater insight into their thinking.”

5. Once you’ve posted your comment advertising your blog post, look at the three previous comments (the ones above yours). Read the posts of these three people and write a comment on each of their blogs! If you are one of those eager beavers who are the first three to post, just find three comments as people begin to post.

We know this is a lot, asking you, “Hey, start a blog.” But you did it! And you’re going to try it out! And for that, we’re proud. You rock!

******

From Exploring the MTBoS Mission #1 by Sam Shah (with minor adaptations)

Welcome to Math Rocks 2015-16!

We are so excited to learn and grow with you this year in Round Rock ISD’s inaugural Math Rocks cohort! We have two goals we will be exploring and striving toward this year:

  • Relationships – We want you to explore and foster your relationships with math, your students, and fellow educators.
  • Curiosity – We want you to have the opportunity to be genuinely curious in your teaching of math and to foster your students’ curiosity toward math.

One of the ways we’ll be working toward both of these goals is by “plugging in” to the Math Twitter Blogosphere, a network of math educators from around the world. The Math Twitter Blogosphere (MTBoS, for short) is an informal network of math teachers who have found community together on the internet through Twitter and blogs. Over time, this diverse group has grown in number and in scope of activities. They’ve built resources, curricula, websites, and even co-authored a book. They run online workshop sessions, problem-solving groups, and weekly meetings via Twitter and webinar. Their online connections have even spilled over into “real life” with a yearly conference called Twitter Math Camp.

This year you’ll have the chance to explore this online community to see how you can use it as a resource to build relationships and spark curiosity. No matter how unfamiliar you may be with social media, we’re here to guide you. There’s something for everyone in the MTBoS, and we look forward to exploring it with you!

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To give credit where credit is due, we’re basing this work on the MTBoS’s own website dedicated to guiding educators on a tour of the community.