Thursday, July 31, 2014

Seeking in the MTBoS

A recent post by Greg Taylor got me thinking about what I'm actually looking for when I started to engage in the MTBoS (Math Twitter BlogoSphere).  Initially, I was just exploring the space to see who and what was even out there, hoping there would be somebody who would want to help me develop my new Statistics class (about 2 years ago).  Since then, I have just been content with finding stats teachers on Twitter and following their blogs.  My best discovery, Glenn Waddell's blog, has supplied me with all kinds of good ideas that I've put into practice.

TMC14 (Twitter Math Camp) was awesome last week.  For the first time, I feel like I was finally able to meet all of these people I saw online, along with a ton of other stats teachers who I had no idea existed (I have a feeling they didn't know I existed either).  More importantly, I started to get to know this group of awesome people and see the huge variety of personalities, types of schools, personal interests, etc that is just hard to see through a Twitter feed.  At the same time I met people in real life, I finally got some traction on understanding how to communicate with this group via Twitter, a skill that will serve me year-round.

Getting back to Greg's post, I had my first negative reaction to my awesome week after reading.  It triggered the realization that I didn't find what I was looking for deep down -- somebody who wanted to completely take apart and redesign high school stats.  Everyone seemed to have a basic mental framework for how stats worked and wanted to incorporate new activities, ways of explaining, and tech tools into that framework to improve their course.  I wanted to completely dismantle the course and build it back up with the core elements I value -- real-world application, fun and engagement, minimal homework, and lots of student autonomy.  Over the past couple of years, I've been doing this on my own since I've been fairly unplugged with the community (my class site, my rationale for my outline), but I want that to stop.

So my plea: is there anyone out there who just feels like stats class is fundamentally flawed, who is willing to break completely from a textbook, who wants to try full-on project based learning in stats?  More than sharing lesson concepts or activities, but a full-on commitment to design a new course that we co-teach during the year?  I hope the design process we engage in leads to the ability to reuse many of the videos, homework problems, projects, and assessments that we've used before, but if it doesn't and that reason matters, I want to build out whatever resources we need.

I'm so thankful one of my co-workers was open enough to teach my current version of stats with me this upcoming year so he can question and help me refine the course.  Maybe, once we get into the thick of the school year, I won't feel this isolation with stats anymore.  However, I still want a teammate in the thick of the design process (now) who is as bothered as I am by typical stats classes and thinks there is something to be found by creating an effective project-based curriculum.  I don't care how much or little you know about stats -- I was clueless two short years ago.  I just want somebody with the same mindset and goals.  Thank you.


  1. I admit to being curious as to how my post prompted that realization. As far as "reinventing" stats goes, I'm definitely supportive of endeavours like that, though I fear I myself wouldn't be able to do more than cheer you on. The main reasons being: 1) I teach "Data Management" in Ontario which has some key differences as compared to stats in America (which I discovered last year); 2) I'm not a very "project based" "no textbook" kind of guy (issues with groups too); and 3) I'll have to more or less drop of the face of the e-universe for two weeks because I'll be taking an August trip with a bunch of teenagers to perform a play.
    If you do have an idea you want to bounce off me though, feel free to send me a message any time! I'll also see what I can do about signal boosting to find others.

  2. You bring up a good clarification: I'm not looking to convert anyone's beliefs -- I'm looking for someone whose beliefs already overlap with mine and is looking for a like-mind to design with. In the design process, I would want to argue about the best way to get students excited about statistics, not whether or not student excitement is a priority. I would want to argue about how to design the most effective projects and project process, not whether or not projects should be used as the primary means of introducing and practicing content.

  3. I wasn't focused enough at TMC to actually create much, because I'm too interested in talking to people. But now that I'm home and zoned in, I see what you're asking for.
    I don't teach from a book and I've out together a lot of activities but I don't love it. I'd love to work with you on this.

  4. I didn't produce a whole lot of anything down at TMC for the same reason. But that's awesome that you're up for this :)

  5. Thanks for this, Andy. It puts into words some feelings I've had about the 8th grade curriculum and what I would love to do with problem based learning. I'm not sure if I'm quite on your level, but I hope you go for it -- and blog about it!