Wednesday, August 2, 2017

TMC 17 Recap

Last year when I traveled to Minneapolis for my first TMC, I did so without knowing anyone. I met people through speed-dating and the newcomer's dinner but didn't feel like I forged any lasting relationships. I made a deliberate attempt to overcome my introverted nature this year by having a roommate, reaching out to people whose flights arrived at the same time as mine, and being a mentor for a first time attendee. Those three things sound fairly simple, but they are huge steps for me.

This year I was able to attend the pre-conference on Wednesday before TMC began. Seeing the new Geometry tools made me really excited to be teaching geometry again this year. I went to the "Dive into Desmos" group first thinking that I was in the intermediate/advanced category. As it turns out, I was easily able to accomplish the beginner tasks on the scavenger hunt but got stuck early on in the intermediate. I still have so much to learn! Then I went to Michael Fenton's session where we worked through the Point Collector task as students. I hadn't used that particular activity with students before, but I really enjoyed being able to see someone else model how to use a Desmos activity. I've never used teacher pacing before, but it's value was immediately obvious. As intimidating as it can be to try something new like this in class without any training, as I sat in the classroom, I was thankful to have already had experience using Desmos with a class to be able to reflect on as I watched Michael model the role of the teacher. After lunch, I went to the Activity Builder creation session. I've used a ton of different Desmos activities in my classes (my girls LOVE Desmos and ask for it!), but I have never created my own. I know where to start and the basics of the set up, but I've never followed through on it.

My morning session from TMC was the Classroom Chef with Matt Vaudrey and John Stevens. I've read their book and done almost all of the activities that we did during the sessions, but, like with Michael the day before, it was really helpful to see someone else (and in Matt's case, the person who created the activity) model the role of the teacher in a classroom. I didn't necessarily leave with new ideas, but instead with better questioning techniques and refined details about how to facilitate student learning.

I was incredibly intimidated to present at TMC. I've presented at several conferences over the past few years, and, after the first time, I haven't been nervous. David Butler made a comment at the closing session on Sunday that "everyone is worthy to present" at TMC, and while I love that sentiment, this group of rockstar teachers often leaves me feeling inferior. I actually texted a colleague those exact words just minutes before my session began.

The other afternoon sessions I attended taught me about the Active Calculus open source e-text (which looks like an amazing resource for my calc honors class), watching Chris Shore use the clothesline to make sense of numbers (another moment of watching an activity I've done before done by "the master"), and Jonathan's calculus for middle school teachers session. Although I'm familiar with calculus and teaching it for the first time this year, it was fascinating to see the concepts explained at a level that middle schoolers would be able to understand. As we try to expose more students to calculus in future years, the simplicity and elegance of conceptual calculus will certainly become more useful.

Carl Oliver's keynote on Saturday made me reflect on my own experience of the MTBOS and what my involvement has looked like. I often feel like I'm not whatever enough in this community, but I think from the feedback of my session and conversations throughout TMC, I've started to feel as though I do have useful ideas to contribute. Carl encouraged us to #PushSend. There are countless times that I have started an email, a tweet, or a blog post only to end up deleting the entire thing. Carl's charge to #PushSend will remain with me in those moments of feeling inferior and encourage me to reach out.

I left this year feeling like I can really become part of this community if I'm willing to put myself out there a bit more via both this blog and Twitter. I've decided that my #1TMCThing will come in two parts. The part for me involves engagement with the MTBOS. Posting more, responding more, pushing send. The part for me students will be Desmos Activity Builder. I'd like to create at least one of my own. After watching how Matt/John, Carl, and others integrated their own activities into tasks that had previously been done without Desmos, I realized the power of being able to create ABs tailored to my class and my students.

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