Monday, 11 November 2013

MAT: Hashtag, You're It

Pic by Errol of Debs and Errol
Intro: Back in September, I signed up for "Explore MTBoS", an eight week event connecting math educators online. This is the fifth post connected to that event. If this is your first time on my blog, welcome! For the record, I post about writing in addition to math teaching. I also have a second blog, "Taylor's Polynomials", a story about personified math. Find it here:

This week's mission also came from Julie Reulbach (@jreulbach). It asked us to attend a Twitter Chat. This is one of the uses for Twitter #hashtags; during a scheduled time, everyone wanting in on the discussion can use and track the tag to see the Q&A and related commentary.


Hate to start with a nitpick, but bit of a problem with this one. The Subject Chat felt US centred. After a whole year, I'm gradually coming to understand things, like "Geometry" involves lots of proofs, "Algebra 1" is Grade 8 or 9, and then I don't think "Algebra 2" comes immediately after it... does it? But Trig features in at least one of those, right? Look, is there a primer on this stuff somewhere?

There's your problem...

Joining a chat when I don't know the course feels like walking into a room of Marvel comic fans and chatting about DC Comics. Sure, we all like the same stuff and I'm probably bringing something relevant, but I'm not exactly on the same page here. Now, as an alternative, the post offered two UK chats - and a spreadsheet of 200+ others. Holy cats! 200?!?

In Week 4, with all the Global Math choice, a few were offered up for those with "no time to peruse and choose". That might have been nice here, outside of course codes. That said, I get that it's impossible to know what will appeal to the individual, and I may be the only person who had an issue with this at all. But that made this feel less global.

As it is, I might have joined "Canadian Ed Chat" on Mondays, except I'm almost never home on Mondays when it's going on. (Anyone out there been to one?) So despite my above complaints, I went for the suggested StatsChat on Thursday - for reasons I explain below.


Let's switch to something very GOOD that was done with this mission: helpful hints. While I can see it being possible to track the conversation through a hashtag search, I sense the need for refreshes, and you'd need another window to actually participate/tweet out. This always felt like a bit of a hassle. The suggestion was TweetDeck. And I went with HootSuite.

Sometimes I feel like I'm constantly going against the grain. Don't get me wrong, I often like that I do that! In this case, it's because I signed up for HootSuite back in mid-July, before TMC. (I also blog on Blogger because I started there before knowing lots in MTBoS were using WordPress.) So this was simply a matter of asking for a password reset, because aside from a second brief foray in August, I haven't been using it.

Tweaking HootSuite to monitor a chat turned out to be ridiculously easy. It's in columns (the same way as TweetDeck, I guess), so I just had to enter the hashtag. I ended up going with StatsChat, as I said, for a few reasons:
1) It felt more generic, like "Middle School Math" feels generic.
2) It was on Thursday, the first evening when I'd actually have time - term marks were due in Thursday morning.
3) I like statistics. I'd been meaning to at least try a statschat. I also think in this age of rising technology that it's going to be one of the most important things in math.

Random aside, I tuned everything in an hour early - and @jkindred13 became my 300th follow - then went to do the dishes. Came back just before 9pm to find the following. Cute.
If only we could all take a nap when bored.

As to HootSuite, it did the job. Discovered that if something is retweeted, it shows up twice - I guess that makes sense. Also, it waited with a bit of a buffer if I was off looking up a link or something. Generally five tweets but sometimes seven? Or nine? Showed up when I clicked. Not sure how that works.

As to the chat itself... it was interesting. There were three questions sprinkled through, namely:
Q1: What is your students' biggest struggle with probability? (I think dependence, and english quirks.)
Q2: What is your favorite probability activity for stats? (I'm not big on activities. I know, I know.)
Q3: Do you teach the birthday problem? (I do it as an intro to the course.)

There were other asides, like about videos - and I plugged @RogoNic because how can you not do that regarding stats videos - and in the end I learned a couple things and followed a couple others. The storify is here. But I'm not sure it's my thing. (Possibly because I'm an introvert? I don't chat much in real life.)

I likely won't be able to follow up this Thursday, because I have a major presentation on Friday that I'll be freaking out about. Beyond that? I guess I'll play it by ear. Glad I did it, at the least.

Wow, this feels like a short post. #ITalkTooMuch


  1. I always enjoy reading your posts. Thanks for honestly sharing your perspective of the chats. You made me pause and think (again)….which is always a good thing! Glad that you found the StatsChat helpful. Following your plug, I'm going to check out the @RogoNic videos. Thanks for the suggestion. Hope that your presentation on Friday goes well.

    1. Thanks for the vote of confidence there! I'm glad I can make people think. As to the presentation, I think it went well enough - one more thing I need to get around to blogging about.

  2. Your post had me giggling. Especially the part about American math true. I might try out Hoot Suite just so I can see the cute little owl. Tweet Deck doesn't do anything quite so cute as that! Thanks for sharing!

    1. I'm never sure if my style of humour is appealing to folks, so yay! Owl itself only seems to be a popup - though I've learned that '' seems to be connected to HootSuite too. Thank you for commenting!

  3. Brilliant blog post! I share your frustration at the American course chats - good analogy there with the Marvel/DC! This has been my least favourite mission as I'm not at all chatty especially with strangers so I will flit in and out of the chats as I see fit as I have been doing since before the MTBOS and since you are in the same boat I don't feel so rebellious and bad about it. Thanks for sharing :-)

    1. If enough people rebel, are they really rebels? Hmm. Thanks for letting me know I'm in good company! I do find talking to strangers is somehow easier online - though I suspect that's a bad lesson to pass on. Anyway, feel free to chat with me any time even though I'd say I'm "stranger" than most people.