Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Late to the Party

Exploring the #MTBOS Mission #1: An Introduction

Hi! I'm Matt Leiss. I'm a newly certified teacher in Toronto, Ontario. I did my undergrad in Math at McMaster University and after a few years found myself in Ottawa where I completed my B.Ed degree. I had a great experience at teacher's college and almost two years after graduating I am still excited and passionate about teaching in general and math education in particular. I'm trying out as many roles, jobs, grade levels and entry points to this career as I can. I'll try to keep my happenings posted on twitter (@mrleiss)!

I want to write about what drew me into the #MTBoS and a bit about my relationship with technology. So here it goes!

About a year ago I took a position with an online High School startup company to develop a course in line with the Ontario curriculum. My math background is/was definitely strong enough even though I took the Junior/Intermediate stream during my B.Ed (I specialized in Pure Math during my undergrad) and I had done some basic website design in high school so I knew a bit of html and knew I could find tutorials to walk me through other stuff as it came up. I didn't (and still don't) have a lot of experience creating web content, filming videos, editing photos, etc. My main experience with Learning Management Systems (LTS) was with how badly they were used during my undergrad to store course outlines and host unmoderated discussion forums.

I had just been given an iPod Touch as a gift from my wife (I had been talking about getting one for about two years). I should note I only ever had a cell phone for about 6 months, way way before they were SMART. I have tended to take to new technology slowly, begrudgingly while rambling things about being a luddite at heart.... So I took to the podcasts, the googles, the web and eventually to the twitters. It was very slow at first. I think I added the promotional accounts for the online school, the principal, and some of the other staff and that was about it.

My big break came when I found the podcast "On Online Education" by Eric Wignall. I listened to the episodes on the subway to and from the tutoring centre I work at and have continued to listen to them even after I stepped back from creating content for the school. (I haven't been able to find anything by him recently but if you know of other work of his or twitter contacts please post it in the comments). One episode really rocked my work. It was an interview with Maria Anderson (@busynessgirl). I have probably listened to it a half dozen times now.

Somehow through Maria I found David Wees (@davidwees) a fellow Canadian, whose last name I assume is pronounced similar to mine (although I could be way off too!). Through these two fine folks I found some of the other rock stars of the #mtbos. Too many of you to mention; not enough of you I have dropped into my digg reader account or have been able to follow your blogs. I keep wondering if there is a way to just add all the blogs from someone else's list and then either remove or edit that as I go. Perhaps it's better to have to add blogs a few at a time so I get a better grip for what's there. I don't know?! I'm still learning how to do this internet thing!

The Explore the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere Missions (here) came up while I was swamped working a contract at a private international school to teach high school math (and eventually accounting) to Mandarin speaking students from China. I wanted to take part in the challenges at the time, and I think I half did a couple of them, but I did gain a lot from lurking the posts and seeing the half conversations with other great math teachers on twitter. Just like blogs, I'm still learning and use basic twitter on my iPod to browse posts, get notifications, and favourite things I want to read later. I have tweet deck with lots of columns on my computer and am always hoping to check there more often and take part more. I added a few lists from others to my general feed and am not sure that was the best approach for me. I'm sure I'm going to go back and forth between keeping a limited scope feed and a big net approach of trying to get it all in.

The Missions gave me the chance to find a LOT more of you, to learn about the math chats (need to get more into them...), the global math department, so many things. I also got to start to learn about you as people. Listening to Infinite Tangents by Ashli (@mythagon) and reading Justin Aion's blog (here) have really helped me to get to know the community as a place to come for support on bad days and to feel connected to what is going on in education on a wider scale then I would know without it.

Just like the iPod Touch, I've been talking and thinking about getting a tablet for a while now mainly because I want to read more online (mainly your blogs, but also for the AQ and PD courses I need to start taking soon) and so I can blog more on the go. My laptop battery has been fried since one of the cats chewed the cable one too many times so it's a plug in only machine. I'm hoping to go through all the challenges this spring (unless other opportunities get in the way) and blog more. Having a place to put my reflections and ideas is going to be good for me.

My last thought for this post is that I use linux on my laptop. I think I like the challenge of having to learn how to do things, even though it can be really frustrating too. Currently I'm running Xubuntu 12.04 LTS and am having a few funny glitches, but nothing major. Geogebra and Desmos run well on it (two of the math technologies I am in shear awe of and only found because of the #mtbos) and my Dropbox and Google accounts/files seem to be fine opening in linux day, on my iPod the next, and on the windows machines I have access to at jobs. 

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