# Math Rocks Redux Part 1

This time last year, @reginarocks and I kicked off our inaugural Math Rocks cohort. We spent two awesome days of PD together with a group of 30 elementary teachers which you can read about here and here.

And this time this year, we kicked off our second Math Rocks cohort which you can read about in this very post!

For those who want to stick to the present and not go back into last year’s posts, Math Rocks is our district cohort for elementary teachers to grow as math teachers. Our two focus goals for the year are building relationships around mathematics and fostering curiosity about mathematics. The cohort meets for two full days in July followed up by 9 after school sessions, September through January, and a final half day session together in February. It’s intense, but so rewarding to get to work with teachers for such an extended amount of time!

I want to write a post about this year’s Math Rocks cohort to give you some insight into what stayed the same and what changed. Now that we’ve gone through this once, we knew there were some things we wanted to tweak. Without further ado…

One thing that stayed the same was kicking off Math Rocks with a little Estimation 180! The purpose behind this was twofold. First, we did it as a getting-to-know-you activity. Once everyone was ready, we had them mingle and make friends while answering questions like:

• What is an estimate that is too LOW?
• What is an estimate that is too HIGH?
• What is your estimate?
• Where’s the math? and
• Which grade levels could do this activity?

Second, throughout day 1 we snuck in a couple of activities like Estimation 180 that were created by members of the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS for short). Later in the day we introduced the cohort to the MTBoS, and it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh by the way, remember those Estimation 180 and Which One Doesn’t Belong? activities we did? Those are created by members of this community we’re introducing you to. Isn’t that awesome?!”

Last year we did a community circle after the Estimation 180 activity, but I scrapped it this year in order to streamline our day and add time for the biggest change to day 1, which I’ll talk about in a bit. Instead, we moved right into the ShadowCon15 talks from Tracy Zager and Kristin Gray that serve the purpose of setting up our two Math Rocks goals.

Just like last year, we had the participants reflect before Tracy’s video. They had to create three images that symbolized what math was like to them as a student. It’s fascinating (and concerning) to see how many images involve computation facts practice of some sort:

Even more fascinating (and sadly disturbing) was listening to participants’ horror stories about fact practice as a child. One person talked about the teacher hitting students on the back of the hand for getting problems wrong on timed tests. Another one said the teacher had everyone in class hiss at students who got problems wrong. Hiss! Can you believe that?!

We only made a slight change to this portion of the day. Last year we prefaced each video with a description we got from the ShadowCon site. This year I let the talks speak for themselves. It seemed more powerful to let Tracy and Kristin build their own arguments without priming the pump so much.

I mentioned earlier we left out the community circle in the morning to make room for the biggest change to day 1. Let me tell you about that. Introducing goal #2 leads us into one of the biggest components of Math Rocks, joining Twitter and creating a blog. In order to build relationships and foster curiosity, I want my teachers to experience being members of the MTBoS during their time in Math Rocks.

Last year I gave directions here and here on our Math Rocks blog. I shared the links to those two blog posts and set them loose to get started. To say we ran into problems is a vast understatement. I severely underestimated the support needed to get 30 teachers with widely varying comfort levels with technology connected to Twitter and blogging. No offense to them – they were great sports about it – but I definitely threw our first cohort in the deep end and I’m lucky (and thankful!) they all came back for day 2.

This year I slowed things down quite a bit, and together we walked through the process of creating a Twitter account and a blog. I ended up spending about an hour and fifteen minutes on each part. That’s how much I learned from last year’s experience! Slow and steady wins this race. For those who were comfortable getting started on their own, I gave them their tasks up front here and here so they didn’t have to sit and wait for the rest of us.

Oh, that reminds me of another behind-the-scenes change this year. Instead of using a blog to share missions, I decided to try Google Classroom. I made separate assignments of creating a Twitter account and creating a blog, and the documents I linked in the previous paragraph were linked to those assignments. I haven’t done much else with Google classroom yet, so I’m not sure if it’s going to be a better choice or not, but so far it’s working out okay.

Doing all of that pretty much took up the rest of day 1, with the exception of a little Which One Doesn’t Belong? to give us a break between introducing Twitter and blogging.

All in all, I’m happy we were able to keep so much of day 1 intact. I feel like the structure of it does a nice job of establishing our goals for the year and I’m happy I was able to find a way to get everyone connected to Twitter and blogging in a less stressful way.

Day 2, on the other hand, is completely different from last year, and I look forward to writing about that in my next post.

# EdCamp Dallas 2012: Blogging in the Classroom

This past weekend I attended edcampDallas. I had never heard of an edcamp until I joined the mathtwitterblogosphere back in August, and I count myself lucky that I stumbled upon the Dallas camp happening on September 29. I almost missed it!

So for those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I encourage you to visit the edcampDallas site linked above. There’s a great section titled “What is EdCamp?” that includes information and videos. Until you have time to do that, I’ll summarize it as follows: a conference put on by teachers for teachers. That hardly does it justice, so when you’re done reading this post, go check out the link!

I attended three sessions on Saturday, and learned a lot from each of them. I’m going to break my notes and thoughts on each one into its own blog post. The first session I attended was called “Blogging in the Elementary Classroom” by Cynthia Alaniz. The session was generally about blogging in the classroom, but Cynthia did a great job of focusing on her personal experiences to get ideas flowing from the rest of the group.

Basically what Cynthia does is collaboratively create a class blog with her 4th graders. She uses the blog as a tool to teach students about writing for a digital audience. While Cynthia writes most of the posts early in the year, she skillfully transfers responsibility more and more to the students as the year progresses. At first they might make suggestions about post topics, but eventually the students generate topics on their own and write the posts themselves.

Cynthia also teaches her students how to be responsible digital citizens as they learn how to comment on the blog. The students learn about proper and improper blog comments and the effects comments have on readers.

In addition to teaching writing skills, Cynthia uses various parts of her blog to teach other skills as well. For example, she uses the site visit counter to practice place value, estimating, and subtraction. The students also learn about geography as they learn about the different countries that have visited their blog. Cynthia keeps a large map out in the hallway, and anytime a visitor stops by their blog from a new country, the class marks it on the map.

What I really like about Cynthia’s blog is that she’s giving her students an authentic audience. When students read a book, for example, they know they have a place to share their thoughts about it with real people! The even get to interact with these people through the site’s comments. Cynthia isn’t artificially inventing a motivator for her students. The blog weaves itself seamlessly into the students’ work while giving them an age-appropriate experience with becoming digital citizens. The students love taking part in it and seeing how they can impact the lives of others beyond the walls of their school.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend checking out the blog:

http://mrsalanizclassblog.blogspot.com/

The class will appreciate it, too, because their goal is to have 25,000 visitors by December, so you’ll be helping out the class while seeing firsthand the power of blogging in the classroom.