Carl's Teaching Blog

A place to talk about teaching and learning

Category: Conference Talks (Page 2 of 2)

Airport Thoughts after #NCTMRegionals MLPS

It’s quite unsettling flying back to NYC,  less than 24 hours after another major world city faced an unimaginably horrific terrorist attack. I’ve found that in the darkness behind the worst acts of humanity is always outmatched by the brilliance of humanity’s acts of compassion. My thoughts, and surely the thoughts of everyone leaving the Minneapolis conference center, are with the people in Paris. 

My faith in humanity happens to be at a local maximum after the #NCTMregional in Minneapolis, which hit me with a fire hose of hugs, math, and possibility for 3 days. I feel like I’m still dripping with excitement after spending the time volunteering with the program committee, giving my first ever NCTM talk, and helping out at the MTBoS booth. It seems unlikely that I’ll be able to squeeze all of the cool stuff that happened into a blog post, but it seems like it’d be fun to try. So here goes!

Program committee-ing

My work on the program committee began a year or so go, and so was one of the longest projects that I ever took part in. Robert Kaplinsky wrote an article that summed up the initial meeting. Following that planning, meeting we did our best to recruit a really solid group of speakers that could provide an interesting array of talks. Surprisingly, I only see talks in snippets, as my role as program committee kept me running from room to room during the sessions. It was slightly frustrating to miss talks that are mere feet away, but it was great to help the event run smoothly. 

During the event my role was to monitor every talk happening along one hallway of the center. For each talk I would greet the presenter, thank them for coming, help get them set up, and watch to see if the room would hit capacity. When rooms hit capacity, that meant telling people they couldn’t view it, even if “it’s the only other K-12,” and  “the other one I wanted is closed,” and “I can just stand in the back, no one will notice!” Later on I would stop by each session to count their participants.  This is where I could sit down to enjoy a little of the session, but then I’d have to come back to each room to ensure they don’t go long, when the next presenter should be setting up (assuming the next presenter actually shows up). 

Volunteering as a program committee member let me peer behind the curtain and learn how these conferences function. Planning for these took place many years ago, and by the time the conference started, the NCTM event planners already had the difficult work finished. Signs for all of the talks were organized by room before they left NCTM’s Virginia headquarters. Being so throughly planning meant they were free to quickly respond to MTBoS emergencies, and made it so the program committee could focus solely on the presentation content. It made me think about how many logistical things I should try to relive from the shoulders of my staff and students.

Were I to do it again, I would have tried to see all of the people who I invited to talk. It might have been nice to provide a little personal hello, but with all the running around I didn’t have time. I especially want to thank everybody on my Strand who may not have been able to show up for whatever reason, but was still there in spirit:David Wees, Megan Schmidt, Justin Aion, Bowen Kerins, Rafranz Davis, Christopher Danielson, Justin Lanier, Chris Hunter, and anyone else who I may be temporarily forgetting, thank you all!

Delivering a session

Funny story. So Megan and I are getting ready for our talk. There are already about 6 or so people there while we do some last minute powerpoint-ing. All of a sudden Matt Larson president elect walks in through the back door. He doesn’t sit down, instead he walks right up to us and says “Hi Carl, Hi Megan!” I was thinking “oh my gosh, he knows our names! He thinks we’re special delicate flowers!” (Yes, I know our names were in the program book, the sign outside, and lanyards around our neck, but don’t rain on my pararde). He said he was going to watch but wanted us to know he would be leaving early. Hopefully I didn’t appear visibly shaken when we got started.

The talk went great, but was largely a blur. I know that the participants totally got into our statistics activities, and we had good conversation about the data as well. Here are the slides and the handout that we prepared.

Helping at the MTBoS Booth
I was helping set up the booth when it hit me. The NCTM was changing fast. It was less than a year ago that this booth was just an blog post, but the conference staff was speaking about it as a if it was going to be a fixture. Only a few months ago it was running off of Tina’s phone, and now they provided complimentary Wi-Fi and electricity which costs other vendors hundreds of dollars. It’s a small but clear sign that the NCTM is listening, and that more ideas may be brought to life in the near future. Don’t worry about things getting high-brow too soon. While the booth has corporate sponsorship, it still had the shower curtain from my hotel room serving as a projector screen.

The booth still provided was a super interactive time with activities from @mathonastick in addition to others. Visitors could play with the pattern machine, tiling turtles, and some of Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180 activities.  I wasn’t able to get down there for a whole shift, but I did get to sneak them leftover snacks from the NCTM break room. I could hang out for a little while and chat with whoever, including a teacher whose school has a “Trap Team.” It also got to hangout at the Math Forum booth/NCTM booth and chat with them, and contribute to the giant business card menger sponge.

This trip was exactly what I needed to help me get this fall started and I was lucky to have the chance to help NCTM (Thanks Fred!). Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below…

#NCTMBoston Jealousy coverage. All the Storifys, and links to slides, from this years conference.

So a couple of days ago I was in a warm, safe environment, learning a lot about math teaching and interacting with people from all over the country.  Yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to be back at home teaching.  The last marking period just ended lots of kids need help to finish the projects they need for the grade. We also have this big school-wide field trip that I hadn’t fully planned, we call them “Intensives.” The whole school was preparing for these and it felt like I wasn’t pulling my weight. But mostly, and let’s be real, my kids NEED me.  Instead of listening to the advice of @crstn85 and many others, I took the last bus out of South Station and went in to work.

When I got to work I discovered that work was…just another day at work. Noone REALLY would have missed me, except the personnel secretary.

So then I came home and tore into twitter and started trying to piece together what I could have gained from spending another day learning and growing, and I made a bunch of Storifys to sort of capture the thinking:

Storify stories that I made:

Slides

Slides

Other Storify Stories from around the Blogosphere:

My #MTBoS Booth Ideas For The Upcoming NCTM Conference In Boston

So a while ago Tina Cardone mentioned the idea of having an #MTBoS booth at the upcoming NCTM Annual Meeting in Boston.

Since then I’ve been thinking about how this whole thing could be good not just for the #MTBoS, but also for the NCTM as well, as it could proactively address 2 of the common criticisms when it comes to these events.  People often complain that the conferences have a lack of internet, that talks don’t contain the most up-to-date information, and these could be addressed pretty simply with a little bit of organization and coordination.

1.  Internet Access

From what I understand, internet access at a conference center like that is going to be mad expensive.  As long as there is a cellular connection, a Wi-Fi hotspot could provide internet access to a presenter and perhaps a few particpants with computers, which could really transform some of the possibilities for a presentation.  Three or four people with hotspots could possibly provide connections for everyone in the room with a device.  Suddenly, the conference is taking a couple of strong steps towards the 20th century and with just a small bit of coordination from the #MTBoS booth.

The booth could help provide a place where the organization for this internet access could happen.  Before the conference, presenters could go to some website and announce that they would welcome having people come with Wi-Fi hotpots. The participants with hotspots can go on the same website, and let the participants know that they will be coming.  When the conference starts, those people can stop by the booth where someone may be ready with extension cords, surge protectors, and cardstock table tents.  The participants can write the SSID and password information on the table tents, and the table tents can provide a little advertising to draw people back to the booth.  The participant can then leave from the booth and head up to the presentation room, introduce themselves to the presenter, set up their WiFi spot near an open outlet, and enjoy the talk that they were planning on going to anyways.

Having participants and presenters work directly to have internet at this conference will be a good way to showcase the importance of having internet access at NCTM conferences.  At the same time, NCTM would probably have to pay craploads of money for internet access because I’m assuming that is what conferences charge.  The NCTM is, at the end of the day, just a bunch of teachers getting together, so there probably are not funds available in the near future to bankroll internet access for their conferences.  A crowd-sourced solution like the one above may be the best way to provide access to conference-goers for the near future.

2.  “Un-Conference”/Open Spaces Meeting

If you look at the conference program, most of the talks will be done by 4:30.  They shut things down at this early afternoon time perhaps to give participants time to reflect on what they learned.  Perhaps the booth could, with just a touch of organization, allow people to come together and do that reflection alongside many other like-minded teachers.  The term “Un-Conference” may be a bit of overkill, but the concept seems to be what I’m describing.  For an hour or so, at the end of each day, people can come together and hang out around the booth, or other locations, to talk to, and learn from, each other.

Anyone conference participant can decide that day to bring up a topic for conversation. Perhaps someone wants to show off a new idea that they learned.  Maybe a number of people want to talk about current events that are on a lot of people’s minds.  Or maybe a presenter, who had a lot of discussion going in her talk, could offer her participants a chance to come back and finish the conversation.

At the end of the day, the people could come to the booth, see which of the things they want to talk about, and then join the rest of the interested people to talk in the food court, or an empty room, or perhaps at a nearby bar.  It would only require that the booth have a cork board and some post-it notes, but it could make for a valuable addition to the conference program.

So those are my ideas, what do you think?

Carl’s NCTM Experience: Hyman Bass And Theory Building

2014 NCTM Annual Meeting and Exposition

This year’s annual meeting took place one short drunken stumble away from Bourbon Street at the New Orleans conference center.  The entire space was used by the NCTM conference, and they still had sessions hidden away in deep recesses of the center as well as in the Hilton which was a onerous 5 minute walk down the street. Selecting talks at this event was a constant struggle between dozens of excellent speakers.  The best algorithm that I found to choose which talks to go to was to attend the talks that people smarter than you recommended. Using this method, and a little ‘phonebook’-style searching, I ended up attending and learning from the following talks. After three action packed days I came away with a lot of ideas, and a lot of notes, but nothing really concrete.  So in order to squeeze every little bit of learning out of the experience I am going to write up as many talks as I can remember here on the blog.

The Mathematical Practices of Finding Structure and Making Connections

Hyman Bass – Slides

This talk had a number of situations that push students to think deeply about solving problems and making connections between the ways you can solve problems.  For example, slide 2 shows a problem that students can understand as a visual problem or as a problem that can be dealt with by adding the pattern of odd numbers.  He went on to show how a generalization of this problem could be expanded to larger squares, (but the slides shared on the NCTM website don’t seem to have all of the things that he talked about).  The connection between a geometric representation of something that can be expressed with an equation was the big concept and slides 3 and 4 show two geometry problems that can have similar math connections and produced genuine “Aha’s” from the crowd of math educators.

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