You’ve probably noticed some changes here at the blog. I decided to go through the hassle of moving platforms for one big reason: forums. WordPress.com doesn’t support the use of forums, and I wanted forums very, very badly. I think it’s worth telling you why.
The value of any professional resource–book, conference, course, PLC–lies in the thinking it sparks in you, and how that thinking impacts your practice. That’s why I wrote a thought-provoking book, filled with a mix of meaty ideas and practical details: I’m hoping to stimulate thinking that leads to positive actions in classrooms. There’s something that comes in between reading and actions, though, and it’s something I can’t put in a book because that’s not where it happens. That thing is processing, and it happens within each reader and among readers in conversations, writing, and personal reflection.
I love the image of teachers gathering together in coffee shops on Saturday mornings or in classrooms after school to talk about their thinking as they process this book. It’s a hoot to imagine where those conversations might go because I know the book will be a totally different read for different readers, depending on which questions each reader is currently asking and which problems of practice each reader is wrestling with right now. Reading is a always a partnership between an author and a reader, and I’m about to partner with thousands of different people who each bring individual experiences, contexts, curiosities, and personalities to our interactions.
So my first motivator is it would be a crying shame for me to miss out on all of that!
I have a second motivator. There has been a fair amount of angst in publishing in recent years about what will stay and what will change with the advent of new technology. “Will people still want to read books in the age of the internet?” has been the dominant question. The answer is undoubtedly yes. Despite all the fears and worrying, most people feel like Kristin.
@TracyZager Cannot wait…digital is great but I need to hold the actual book and put post-its all over the place!! So exciting!
— Kristin Gray (@MathMinds) January 4, 2017
Changes in technology have made publishing a beautiful paper book easier (wait until you see the vivid color throughout this book OMG), but they haven’t led to books being replaced by screens, as once imagined. As a book-lover who lives in a house full of books and works for a publishing house situated over an independent book store and across the street from a public library, you can imagine I’m happy about the durability of paper books in the 21st century.
That’s not the end of the story of technology and books, though. I find myself wondering what changes in technology could mean for the reading of a book–rather than the form of a book–in the 21st century. And that’s where I see a lot of promise.
Over the past several years, I have wholeheartedly joined the community of teachers in the Math-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere. I learn daily through conversations on twitter, longer conversations via our blogs, in-person conversations at conferences (even at a conference of our own), conversations in chat rooms at our webinars, and conversations via video chat, phone call, email, and direct message with colleagues all around the world. In short, we have learned how to use technology to further our conversations–to think individually and together in a supportive, welcoming, professional guild. My in-person PLCs have benefited from my larger community because we have a constant influx of new ideas to process together. In short, it’s the greatest place ever.
I wondered about creating a similar place to host conversations about the book. In-person book clubs and staff-wide PLCs are fantastic, but not everyone has access to one of those. Twitter is great, but most teachers aren’t on twitter. It’s also easy to miss conversations or bits of threaded tweets because it flies by. Blogs are essential, but they’re scattered across the internet. Facebook book clubs are–well, we’ll see about that one. I honestly have no idea what to expect, but I’m going to give it a try for sure because that’s where most teachers are. That said, I know lots of people who either don’t use facebook or keep it solely for their non-professional life.
I’m sure we’ll talk in all those places because we tend to talk where we are, but I wanted an additional place, a designated place with no sifting needed where people can come together and think. I wanted it to be a place with the culture of the MTBoS: where thinking-in-the-raw is welcomed and treated with respect. I certainly plan to moderate toward that culture, but I’m counting on you to create and support it with me.
And, selfishly, I wanted it to be a place where I could listen in on and participate in the conversations sparked by the book. I can anticipate what lots of them will be about, but I also know I’ll be surprised and that’s a delightful idea. I’ve built the forum with this spontaneity in mind. I’ve started seeding some topics to get us going. They’re focused on the Calls to Action in the study guide, which are suggested places to put your book down, go try something specific in your teaching, and then report back. But I’ve also structured the forum so that participants can start topics of their own and take the conversation where they need it to go.
I’m hoping some of you early readers will help out by starting or joining conversations soon. As you read or finish a chapter, pop by the forum and process out loud with the rest of us. Tell us what your in-person book chat talked about, or what idea keeps rattling around in your mind. Tell me what you disagree with, what resonated, and what the implications of my arguments are. If you wrote something up on your blog or had a conversation on twitter, link it in the forum so people can check it out. I’ll do my best to curate conversations so people can follow them, and I certainly see myself as a participant, learning alongside and from everyone else.
The forum is an experiment. We’ll see how it goes. But I’m optimistic that creating a place to ground and capture the rich conversation people around the world are having may improve many readers’ experiences with this book. It will help them talk through their thinking, learn from other people’s thinking, and reflect meaningfully on which changes they want to make in their professional practice. And it will help them grow their own professional communities, bringing in new colleagues who listen respectfully and share thinking generously.
I think it’s worth a try. That’s why I built it. Now we’ll see if they–you–come.