notes on learning, design, tools, & life

Thinking about the math education blogosphere

I’ve never really been a blogger, despite trying my hand at it on various occasions over the years, but I have been very interested to see the recent crop of new attention to blogging in what I think of as the “meta” blogosphere.

All of these folks are compelling to me in various ways, although I don’t read every word that each of them writes. They all fall in the camp that is meta-focused on the web itself—folks who work on and depend on the web for their livelihoods, who contribute to its well-being, have a strong vested-interest in various foundational aspects of the web, and who correspondingly tend to have strong opinions about how things are going.

I even think all of this is incredibly important to worry about, but it’s not exactly a club that I want to be a part of.

No, I want to be part of the club of math education bloggers. (Even though I can’t because I don’t teach math.)

Years ago, a friend recommended to me Dan Meyer’s TED Talk, Math class needs a makeover. It’s a great and short presentation, where Dan makes a compelling argument about being less helpful and giving students more room to pave their own path to a solution to a problem rather than spelling out the steps. When was the last time you encountered a problem worth solving, where the process for solving it was all completely laid out for you anyway?

Dan, it turned out, has a blog. And over the years, he’s grown in popularity, and through his site I’ve started keeping up with more and more bloggers in this math & education community—folks like Audrey Watters and Michael Pershan and José Vilson. Meanwhile, my career has taken its own turn from focusing my time primarily on making websites to teaching people how to make websites.

And this is really the point isn’t it? I mean, I want to protect the health of the web as much as the next nerd, but to be honest, I’m not sure I ever really see a lot of new thoughts in the “Let’s talk about the web and publishing and technology” circles beyond what I recall from the days of Webmonkey, or A List Apart. Focus on the content, the web is for sharing, writing and linking are the native building blocks of the medium, we all should probably figure out how to write and how to make type work.

Let me be clear: I’m glad that folks are still making those points, and I’m sure that I will continue to try to hammer those things home myself, especially given that I’m now in a role where I’m regularly shepherding new folks toward working increasingly with the web as their means of making ends meet. If I have anything to add to the conversation from the past 15 years, it’s that currency matters and the idea of a stream or a river feels pretty apt when it comes to the web. In other words, the web is living, and it matters that the important pieces are revisited and freshened up for folks who are coming to these ways of thinking about the web now. (Maybe they’ve been doing something more interesting with their lives for the past 15 years.)

But I also want things that are new to me, that I feel like I can engage in. Streams I can jump into and splash around, where people aren’t focused on the nature of water or how it’s flowing.

I want to jump in with the people who are looking for the fish, and are still excited every time they catch another.