It hurts to say it, but it's true: the math blogotwittosphere is the best blogotwittosphere.
Don't get me wrong, I love my Social Studies/History Blogotwittosphere, but at this point I'm convinced that the math people are having more granular conversations. For a while, I thought that the Social Studies people had the edge because we have our own EdCampSocialStudies . But then I learned from Kate Nowak that Lisa Henry and Shelli Temple are hosting a Math Camp in St. Louis this week that sounds awesome:
This week, over forty Mathematics teachers from around the country will come together in St. Louis to watch presentations, have conversations, be inspired, and do the unglamorous work of improving their practice. There is nothing unusual about this - millions of teachers volunteer to take time out of their summer to attend conferences that are superficially similar to this one.
A few major differences, though - most of these teachers already "know" each other, but have never met. The participants are the presenters, and vice versa. Registration is free. Every detail of Twitter Math Camp - guerrilla professional development for DIY teachers - was planned by the participants themselves through Twitter and a wordpress site. Says Elizabeth Statmore, "Many of us have become practitioners who use our lesson blogs as our thinking-out-loud online reflective journals and Twitter conversations as our real-time, crowdsourcing, crowd-supportive interactions."
At a time when education is rapidly becoming more prescriptive, standardized, and profit-driven, these reflective practitioners are taking control of their learning. For more information see http://needaredstamp.wordpress.com.
The huge, built-in advantage for the math people is a common canon. Everyone needs to teach how to multiply positive and negative numbers, and there are really only a handful of useful algorithms and useful conceptual frameworks for that problem. As a result, the math community can have richly detailed conversations about the particular pedagogical moves that they are making in teaching a lesson, and other teachers are likely to have feedback on the approach, the materials, the assessments, and so forth. When I read math blogs, I see videos of particular teaching practices, examples of specific problems, and lots of very specific criticism (from authors and commenters) about specific teaching moves.
In history, we lack the shared canon. You and I might both teach U.S. History, but I skip reconstruction where you dig in deep there, and you teach the Great Depression from a social history perspective but I'm really focused on the growth of the federal state. We share resources on #sschat, and we blog and share ideas, but actually there is much less close conversation about how we actually teach our particular lessons. My hunch is that if you did an analysis of math blogs and history blogs, you'd find much more conversational back and forth&mash;commenting, posting and such—with the math blogs. Team Math is just better at talking to one another about lesson planning.
So if you are in the Math Blogotwittosphere, kudos and keep up the good work. It's a treat as an outsider to look in and watch the inspiring work you are doing. When I get down on the direction of education in this country (which is not an uncommon phenomena), few things get me more excited than teachers coming together online "to conduct the unglamorous work of improving practice." If you are a math teacher and you aren't in the mix yet, there is a list of math bloggers here to get you started.
Now for those of you in history and the other subjects who are collaborating with your peers online, I love you, too. But check out the math folks, and look at how they have conversations that dig down into the lesson level, the activity level, the problem level. There are some great examples there for inspiration.