Breaking into Twitter (Exploring MTBoS Mission #2)

Explore MTBoS

(For the next several weeks, I will be participating in Explore the Math Twitter Blogosphere missions.  Click the link above to find out more.  It’s not to late to start!  To check out more about Mission #2 and using Twitter in General, click here.)

I never really understood twitter.  These were some of my twitter hang-ups:

  • I do Facebook, why do I need twitter?
  • It limits my characters.  That’s annoying.
  • None of my friends Tweet, so why should I use it?
  • I don’t really care what the Kardashians or Kanye West are thinking right now. So why should I follow anyone?

Those were my hangups.  But then this summer I attended the Seimens STEM Institute and they got me singing a different tune.  From almost the first day, they had us each sign up for a Twitter account and slowly taught us the awesome collaborative power of Twitter.  And I slowly I realized that each of the things I disliked about Twitter, were in fact some of Twitter’s greatest strengths, such as:

  • Twitter can be an exclusively professional networking tool.  Because I use Facebook for friends and family, I don’t need to Tweet things I normally would post on Facebook.  I use Twitter exclusively for improving my teaching.
  • Limited characters means that I end up doing more listening that talking.  I struggle sometimes to condense words.  This means that when I’m chatting on Twitter, I have to think hard about what I say.  That’s a good thing because it makes my comments more valuable to those who I converse with.

Who to follow?  In August of this year, I discovered the MTBoS website, which lists several prominent bloggers and tweeters. (Click here to read more from MTBoS about how to get started using Twitter and who to follow.) As I’ve followed these people and used resources that they’ve created and blogged about, I’ve started to develop a superstar mentality about them.  The regard I have for @Jreulbach, @fawnpnugyen, @ddmeyer, @mr_stadel and @cheesemonkey is probably not as high as the level of regard my students have for One Direction, but it’s the closest comparison I can think of.  And unlike One Direction, these people actually respond to my tweets, which feels a bit surreal because I respect and admire them so much – sort of like Josh Groban responding to me thanking him for a great concert, but better perhaps. One of my mentors, Bob Lochel, described it this way, “When you find that you’re the sharpest crayon in the box, it’s time to find a new box.” Twitter gives me a pretty big ‘box of crayons’ with lots of different colors to choose from depending on what I need.

Just to give you a sample, here are a few of the great tweets that have helped me out over the last two months:

One of the best things about Twitter is that, when I am struggling to come up with a good idea or resource for teaching a concept, I can just ask a question and throw the hash tag #mtbos on it and almost always someone will come through for me. Like when I asked this question:

… and got this response

…which led me to create this worksheet

Road Trips.docx

Not only do I get ideas from twitter, but its also one of my favorite places to share ideas.  I love my coworkers, but sometimes when I happily skip into one of their rooms to share a new idea that I’m so excited about, I don’t really get the best reception.  They are kind and polite, but they sort of brush it off.  Not so with my math Tweeps.  They get excited about the things I’m excited about.  It’s nice to have someone appreciate and even use the ideas that I share.

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