Sunday, 19 January 2014

Return of TMC Indecision

Do I go to Twitter Math Camp, or not? Wait, haven't I written this post before? Aha, but new year, new problems - and probably not the ones you think.

For those who need the context, Twitter Math Camp is a cross border gathering of math educators. It started in 2012. I went last year, and sort of live-blogged about it. The question is whether I go back, and this time the question doesn't arise due to any sort of scheduling conflict. No, this time it's all personal.

Let's break it down with the TOP 5 REASONS I MAY NOT ATTEND TMC14.

5. It takes someone else's spot.

It's a certainty that there will be more people wanting to go than the facility can accommodate, given the growth from year 1 to 2. If I'm on the list, that means someone else isn't. And there's a very good chance that the other person is more deserving, seeing as...

4. My teaching skills are not unique.

I have something of a reputation in my school for singing math. That's so commonplace in a group like TMC, that even though I presented Musical Math there (to one person), I was overlooked by an entire songwriting group until I said, "Uh, maybe I can help?" I suppose I also draw characters, but Justin Aion and Ben Orlin have that covered. Beyond that, as far as teaching goes, I'm a white male. There will be no shortage of those. To condense this argument to a few tweets:
Thoughts at the last TMC
Then as far as technology goes...

3. I'm limited to my laptop.

Those earlier concerns were new, this one's old. I teach on a smartboard, yet my cell phone is 12 years old with an antenna. Come to think, I'm not sure I've ever actually sent a text. So given the choice of my non-unique skills (I'll hazard teaching or otherwise), versus those of someone you can actually get AHOLD of, it should be no contest. Particularly when you consider how...

2. I'm introverted.

I may be a unique individual, even if my individual skills are common. But I'm an individual who sits back and observes unless I really feel strongly about something. (Et cetera - for the long version, read my post here.) Maybe you can spot me in two pictures from the entirety of TMC last year. And while this makes me a good candidate to sit back and write the chronicle - that IS what I did that last year. Don't feel like doing it again. Besides, there will be other introverts there, so see Reason 5.

And then there's the real kicker against attending TMC14...

1. This very post will make it awkward.

"Hey look, it's that guy who wrote the post about not coming. Why is he here?"
"Should we try to cheer up the technophobe introvert by the wall?"
"Oh, let's ask the guy who talks about being invisible if he wants to be in the picture."


Because even if you WOULDN'T say those things, that's the stuff that will now be playing in the back of my mind. So this post may be it's own self-fulfiling prophecy, in that by posting it, I won't be coming. Yet I don't feel I could go WITHOUT throwing these mental blocks out to the masses - to do so would be like I was hiding my true feelings.

I also wonder just a bit if anyone else feels the same.

Now, as far as arguments FOR going to TMC, there is, of course, the Professional Development itself. Lots of learning. There's also the new location. And finally, there's the chance to see people (again) in person -- though here I don't feel the same thrill as others. Perhaps it's the introversion, though I also suspect I'd be a disappointment, as I'm far more interesting online.

Those Pros don't currently outweigh the Cons. But I'll continue to think it over. Just like last year.

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose."


  1. Reason #2 reverberates in my head. From the outside, it seems TMC is the live version of the Mtbos ethos of sharing. I'm much more likely to be found on the receiving end only (too shy), and I feel like that would just be wrong. Better to leave the slot open for someone who will joyously give.

    1. I have a certain fascination with the idea of "inside" and "outside", so thanks for commenting! Weirdly enough, even past the shyness, it's like the more I learn, the less likely I am to share, because I don't feel like my stuff is any good compared to the rest. (Ignorance is bliss?)
      That said, I don't think it's wrong to only receive - you can take what you receive along with you and use it to help others elsewhere, or at a later time. As with any PD. It merely seems like a bigger deal owing to the nature of the event. I also think a lot of the "My Favourite" sharing on the last day at TMC13 was due to people feeling similarly, so you never know.
      I'm aware I'm poking holes in my own argument at this point, but I'm good at being a devil's advocate. There's some other remarks that have been made to me too, which I'll sum up in a separate comment below. But in brief - as long as you're okay with your level of involvement, I wager other people will be too.

  2. Here's a thought...

    Since the TMC is based on all sorts of social networking amongst math teachers, would it be possible to have an online portion to the Camp? Live streaming of talks, or even an chat window open for the moderators to take questions?

    1. Chris actually tossed that question out to the masses. The counterarguments are that streaming stuff live is hard to do well, changing aspects like bandwidth, and moderating - though certainly individual presenters are welcome to attempt it. (I seem to recall someone Skyping Dan Meyer last year, but perhaps that was a myth?) Also, the point of the camp is a physical meeting, as the online presence is continuous the rest of the year. Add to that my own intuition, which says that if I haven't found/made the time to go through the backlog of "Global Math" sessions, taking the time to go through TMC sessions may be only marginally more likely.
      It's not a bad thought. But I don't think the presence or absence will necessarily change my argument either way.

  3. I attended TMC13 last year, and I treated it as more of a "get to meet these online people" than as "I want to learn something to make me a better teacher." Did I learn while there? You bet. Did I get to meet most everyone I'd been interacting with online? Sure. But...I can't justify the expense (and time away from family) to meet up with people and attend sessions that I could read about in blog posts. While there was some collaboration in morning sessions, it felt sort of rushed and I'm concerned these conferences are not producing anything new but are rather just an exchange of ideas. Which is fine, just not for me.

    As for your thoughts posed here, I suppose you have to decide whether you'll get something from attending to benefit your students that will outweigh the discomfort that you may experience. But, I can confidently say that you have a unique take on mathematics that needs to be experienced. While comics are not quite my thing, I definitely would not have thought to personify math, which is something unique you bring to the table.

    1. That's an interesting take on things - the fact that the morning collaboration itself was based on the US curriculum (or problem sets) left me feeling at a bit of a loose end too... yet at the same time, I guess that meant a lot more of it was "new" for me. Of course, I didn't go to "meet these online people", so much as I went to "find out what the deal was". (Well, there were a couple people I was hoping to meet.) Now that I know the deal, that could be part of my hesitation... I need a more tangible "reason", as I continue to figure out if it is for me.

      Surprised (in a good way) that you consider I have a unique take that "needs to be experienced". Thank you. Still, I can't help but wonder whether it's in any way valuable. As they say, just because something is unique doesn't make it useful.

  4. Just want to summarize some thoughts here from tweets people have sent since I posted this up... mostly for me, but you can read too, obviously.
    -Michael Pershan thought that the very fact I was blogging with questions like this meant I brought something to the table. It's like the complete flip side to my #1 point; this post somehow makes it LESS awkward. Been wrapping my head around that. The caveat is that the stuff I bring has value... which is a difficult thing for me to judge.
    -Bob Lochel recommended considering reasons I NEED to attend, and that's a good question. As I'm not presenting, am not prone to initiating interaction, and can get some of the pedagogy from blogs, perhaps I have no need to attend? Unless it becomes a regret that I don't.
    -And a number of others remarked along the lines of "do you feel it is worth the time and effort", "do you value what you will learn there", and the like... which I feel is true from a professional standpoint, but I'm less certain on the personal standpoint.

    One final thought I had is that I could register, then if I change my mind, give the position to someone else. Well, the analysis will continue, thanks for the remarks.