Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Twitter and My Conference Experiences

Twitter and My conference experiences:
I have had to opportunity to attend 3 conferences recently:
ATOMIM – in Maine
PCMITLP – Park City Math Institute Teacher Leadership Program in MA (town right next to me)
Twitter has shaped how I experienced these conferences.
For ATOMIM – I found out about it on Twitter.  I knew Dan Meyer @ddmeyer and Tina Cardone @crstn85 were both speaking.  Dan was the keynote speaker and speaking to a large group.  I went in and grabbed a table up front.  There was one woman there and  I introduced myself as Jennifer and that was her name, too (@michaelismath) (lots of Jennifers in this story).  We were checking each other out, had she heard Dan before, did she know about this or that.  Was she on Twitter?  Yes, she was.  Did we follow each other?  Yes, we did, how cool.  She knew Denis @mathdenisnj from NJ and twitter and he was joining us for another session.  I already followed Dennis on Twitter too, so no need for Jen to introduce me.  (Edited: I had Denis as Bob Lochel from Philly, sorry Denis) Did the rest of the conference and met up with Tina afterwards.  She was meeting Tracy (@tracyzager) from Maine and twitter after to chat, would I like to come?  Of course, I follow her on Twitter and it would be nice to meet her in person too.  She brought along her friend, Shawn (@towlemath) from Maine.  I did not follow Shawn but I added him to my list.  We had some great conversations.  Turns out Shawn would be traveling to CT for the conference I would be speaking at in CT.  Great conference, great day, great connections because I felt so comfortable.
Along comes PCMITLP.  Again this happened through Tina.  I applied and got accepted to attend this two day weekend conference.  I had heard about PCMI and its three week summer conference for teachers to do some challenging math all three weeks.  This seemed like the perfect taste so I was excited.  I invited my colleague, Kathy (@kd5campbell), who is on Twitter now too.  Only 35 people were allowed to attend to keep it more intimate.  We would be working together the whole weekend.  When I walked into the room, it was so nice to know so many people already – Tina, surprise – Shawn and Tracy from Maine, Heather (@heatherkohn) from Marlboro, MA, Wendy (@wmukluk) came in from NY (all from Twitter).  And, Beth (@bethdore) was there.  She was my student teacher a few years back, so it was nice to connect again.  We got to work doing some problems that are best explained here in Tracy’s post.  Our groups kept changing and we got to network.  Most people were on twitter so I started following them.  I met Cortni (@cortnij) from CT and turns out she would be at the next conference I was going to in two days in CT– ATOMIC and so was...Shawn from Maine.  Great, the fun would continue.  Overall, it was a great atmosphere and experience and I loved it. 

Next up is ATOMIC in CT.  My friend, Jennifer (@jensilvermath) from CT and twitter asked me over the summer if I would like to speak about MTBoS and Twitter as a PLN.  Sure, I would be honored.  I spent most of the fall collecting ideas to share, editing my keynote, adding more as more awesome tweets were posted and more great ideas were shared.  It was the ever changing keynote.  I found out that Rafranz Davis (@rafranzdavis) would be the keynote speaker.  I had heard of her in some circles, so time to start following her and see what she is all about.  At ATOMIC, I was going to present and also set up a MTBoS booth.  We had our first one at NCTM in Boston and it was so fun to connect and meet everyone I follow from Twitter.  It was like instant family.  The booth was the place to be.  People would rather hang out at the booth than actually go to the sessions.  It was powerful.  Jen and I set up our booth with lots of donations from our Twitter friends (thanks Max @maxmathforum from Mathforum/NCTM, thanks Desmos @desmos, thanks Andrew Stadel @mr_stadel from Estimation 180, thanks to Christopher Danielson @trianglemancd for the awesome tiling turtles and a signed book), thanks to Jen for her proradians, thanks to Ilana @tchmathculture for her donation of her book).  Really, these are amazing math people doing amazing things and the booth is a way to share that greatness.  I attended Rafranz’s keynote speech and did not know what I was in for.  She spoke to a room of 500 attendees.  She spoke about her teaching experience and how it has changed over time but the biggest change came with MTBoS!  Wow, she mentioned it – to all these people, how cool.  And, then she polled the audience (wow, that is what I was planning to do in my talk).  She asked how many people were on Twitter – about 30 hands out to 500 went up.  I have to admit, I felt a little deflated, but optimistic.  Then, she asked how many people blogged.  Interestingly, I raised my hand and so did the woman next to me.  We were the only 2 in the whole room.  This was crazy to me.  How were all of these teachers not connected to each other.  Why are they not getting all of the great stuff that twitter has to share?
The ATOMIC conference is organized a little differently than other conferences which has its good and bad parts.  Prior to the conference you must sign up for sessions – there were four sessions.  It is good because people are forced to have a plan and know where they are going.  It is also nice for the presenter because they know how much stuff to bring and plan for.  At most other conferences, if it is not interesting you, you can get up and leave.  You can chat with your friends there and decide last minute what you want to go to.  However, you might get shut out of one you really want to go to because it is full.  So, here I had Rafranz setting me up for a great chance to get people connected to Twitter and the MTBos but I knew I only had 15 people signed up for my talk.  That is okay, you have to start small.  I commended the people who came as they were following her challenge and taking that first step.  I did poll the audience.  A few people had at least heard of Dan.  Most people did not know what a 3-Act was.  I think 2 people had a Twitter name.  And, 6/12 knew about Desmos.  I used plickers to collect this data so I could show them those.  I planned on starting with the poll so I could know the direction my talk should go – how much depth to go into (or how simple to keep it).  I had a lot of slides (shhhh, 61) in my keynote, but there is just so much goodness to share.  If the conference were still two months away, I might have gotten to 100 slides.  I put all this goodness at the beginning of the talk and then the how do I get started on Twitter at the end.  Jen S from CT and twitter who had invited me to speak and was helping me with my talk suggested putting 3 or 4 fun activities up front, then do the how to tweet piece, then more sharing ideas.  Priceless feedback and it worked great.  I didn’t want to just stand up there and say “this is why you should be on twitter”.  I wanted to share and show them Barbie Bungee ( I had Barbie waiting on the tables for them), show them cup stacking, show them solve me puzzles, and we did a 3 act.  I wanted them to want more and I think it worked.  And, I did get through all of the slides.  I may have overwhelmed them a bit but when I go to a conference, I like to have something I can bring back to the classroom and use and that’s what I gave them.  I asked them to take a risk and try something new – not 20 things – just one thing.  Here is my keynote.
 Jen S was an organizer of the event which helped to conveniently have our booth as the first one when you walked in so we could grab (I mean greet) people on their way in and introduce ourselves.  It was also right across the room from my presentation so I could steer them there as they left.  And, as a side note, she gave me Talk 8 (thanks Jen).  People who went to the presentation did stop by, took some goodies, asked so more questions.  Shawn from Maine was at our booth in an NCTM capacity.  Cortni kept stopping in to say hi.  Rafranz hung out at the booth with us for a while.  I have seen a few newbie followers on my twitter feed, so I am following them right back.  It was Max Ray who really gave me the push from NCTM in CT in 2012 and maybe I did that for a few new people yesterday.
Now for a few pictures of the CT conference:
My table set up with Barbie:
Twitter Handles before and after
Booth fun and goodies:

Even better, tiling turtle fun:

Kudos if you made it this far!


  1. I sure asked the right person to do the job! You were great - the booth, the presentation - spot on! I'm sure we reached more than a few folks and opened their eyes to new possibilities. Thanks for bringing the love to CT!

  2. "And, then she polled the audience (wow, that is what I was planning to do in my talk). She asked how many people were on Twitter – about 30 hands out to 500 went up. I have to admit, I felt a little deflated, but optimistic."

    This just means there's lots of work to do! Glad you're out there doing it.

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