Episode #15 : How To Get The Most Of The Conferences You Attend

Mar 11, 2019 | Podcast | 0 comments


Conference season is just around the corner for us at the time of this recording. We attend various conferences throughout the year and a big question that we always have is, “Is this going to be worth it?” In episode 15 we want to give you 5 TIPS on how to get the most out of the conferences you attend and also what can you do if you can’t attend a conference this year.

You’ll Learn

  • Practical tips to build a community while at a conference.
  • How being picky in your session is a good thing.
  • Why we should use this experience to learn about our “blind spots” in education.
  • Why we need to address in-equity in the classroom.
  • Tips to help you build a habit when implementing a new resources/tool/routine.


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Kyle Pearce: Conference season is just around the corner for us at the time of this recording. We’re attending NCTM in San Diego, OAME in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, and we’ll be in Texas at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching, CAMT in the summertime as well as some others coming up in the fall.

Jon Orr: I know a big question I have about conferences has always been, is this conference going to be worth it? The conferences are a lot of money, time away from home, your family, and your classroom.

Kyle Pearce: That’s why we created this episode so that we could give you five tips on how to get the most out of going to conferences so they are worth it.

Jon Orr: So let’s dive into this episode to go through four tips focused on how to make the most of your conference experience as well as one additional tip on how you can access free learning online right from the comfort of your own couch.

Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m John Orr. We are two math teachers who together-

Kyle Pearce: With you the community of educators worldwide who want to build and deliver math lessons that spark engagement-

Jon Orr: Fuel learning-

Kyle Pearce: And ignite teacher action. Are you ready, John?

Jon Orr: I am, I am. Welcome to episode 15 on the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast, how to get the most out of the conferences you attend. You’re going to get five tips to make a conference worth it.

Kyle Pearce: Before we get to the episode, one of the books that John and I most recently read this year is a Twitter recommendation from David Petro and it was called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. Believe it or not, both John and I actually listen to this book in audio format while driving, running, or relaxing, probably while doing the same things that you’re doing while you’re listening to this episode right now. Now, you can get this book and one other book for free because Amazon’s Audible platform is offering two free books by going to makemathmoments.com/freebook. That’s makemathmoments.com/freebook. If you like podcasts, then two, three audio books with Audible is the way to go.

Jon Orr: Let’s not waste any more time here. Let’s dive into some quick conference wins.

Kyle Pearce: All right, John. I’m really excited about this episode, not only because I think these tips are going to be really, really helpful for people who are listening, but also because it’s getting me excited for the conferences that we’ll be attending in just a few weeks time.

Jon Orr: Why we created this episode is to help you make the choice whether that conference that you’re signing up for is worth it. Every time I think about going to a conference, Kyle, I definitely think about that question like, “Is this going to be worth it?” For me, for a long time, I would go to a conference years ago. I would think, “If I went to this conference and I get resource out of it, I feel like it was a success.” That was always in my mindset. What were you always thinking about when you went to conferences?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I’ll be honest, the first conference I ever went to was the OAME Conference, and I was going because I was on the planning committee when we had OAME here in Windsor and for me I had never gone to a conference before. So for those who are going to a conference for the first time, I think just going and experiencing it, you’re going to learn a ton. But I feel like after that first initial experience, you have to start trying to figure out like, “How am I going to maximize my experience when I go?” Because there’s only so much time. It does cost a lot of money. Like I say, that first conference I think is well worth the price of admission, the cost of going as well as the time sacrifice from your family and friends and other outside of work sort of duties that you have. But then, after that, you can get really trapped into kind of learning the same thing over and over again.

Kyle Pearce: So that’s sort of what this episode’s all about, right? How are we going to help someone who’s going to conferences? Maybe they’ve been to a conference before, but they’re feeling like, “I’m maybe hearing the same messages and maybe just missing some of these other opportunities.” So why don’t you get us started John? What’s one of our tips here to help people when they are getting prepared to head out to a conference and then obviously once they’re there?

Jon Orr: Yeah, I’ll get to that tip right now. Before we do that, we want to remind you or let you know that at the end of the episode in our show notes, we are sharing a couple of resources that you can take away actually with you to your conference. We call this the Conference Companion which summarizes some of the tips. It’s kind of like a sheet with to-do lists as you get to a conference reminds you of these tips that you can put into place. So you can download that from the show notes page going forward. But that first tip that we want to share with you out of the four tips plus bonus tip is you can go to a conference, not only to just get the good resources. We want you to make sure that when you go to a conference, the big idea here is that you’re building your community.

Jon Orr: I’m an introvert, and it sounds funny I am on a podcast weekly talking to you, Kyle and many different people, which is branching away from what is a comfort level for me to talk to so many new people. It’s been pretty exciting for me. But I am an introvert. I shy away from a lot of social interactions. I’m the guy that at the party is standing off to the side with his one or two good friends and avoiding some of meeting new people. When you go to a conference, I tend to do that too, and I find that I kind of cling on to the teacher that I went with or the one person I know, and I don’t branch out. But that conference is about networking, and it’s about meeting math educators from all over the province or the state or the country, and building that community can be so important.

Jon Orr: So we want to give you a couple of tips on how to build that community. I think one good tip is that you could bring a co-worker with you to allow you to kind of have more confidence so that you can meet other people. That’s one good tip. Bring somebody else with you. I know Kyle, when we go together I feel a lot more confident as an introvert meeting new people.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, for sure, John. It’s kind of funny too, going back, I had this image in my mind of I think last year when we went to OAME, and after going to dinner… Or no, actually it was in the summer when we did the OTF Conference, you and I. We had sent basically an open invite to the group saying, “Hey, listen. We’re going to go to this restaurant. Here’s a form. Fire in your email address if you’re interested in coming to dinner with us.” Obviously, I made the joke that you were going to pick up the tab, which obviously everyone knew you were kidding.

Kyle Pearce: But we ended up having dinner with probably 25 different people from this conference, many of which whom we had not met before. We may have had a conversation with online. Although some might call me more of an extrovert, I feel like it’s an exhausting process. I definitely do a good job at doing the social interaction, but I find it very challenging. It’s kind of scary. I get anxious, probably very similar to how you feel. I remember when we went back to the hotel room that night, both of us just being mentally exhausted. But it was exciting because we had learned about so many new people. We had made so many more connections.

Kyle Pearce: So even though it’s scary upfront, it’s so worth it in the end. It’s like an investment, right, in your own professional community.

Jon Orr: Right, and especially when you go to conferences where you’re meeting people from all over the country, the province, you’re making those connections. Score those emails. Score those Twitter handles. Figure out how you can connect with them further because oftentimes, in our own departments or our own schools, we are kind of lone wolfs, right? Not always everyone in your area or group is doing what you’re doing that you can chat with to get feedback on. When you go to a conference, it’s more likely you will meet someone that is experiencing the same struggles that you’re having or wondering the same things, especially when you go to the same sessions. So get their email address, get their Twitter handle, connect with them somehow.

Jon Orr: Actually, on our Conference Companion, there’s a spot for that. You write down all these people’s connections. It reminds you to do that. One other good tip we can give you is that, and this is something that I used to avoid all the time is like, when you walk into a workshop at a conference, there’s sometimes tables or round table set up. I used to try to avoid. I’d go to an open table, and I would try to be like, “Okay, I don’t know anybody in here. So I’m going to go and sit over there where it’s open and no one’s there, and maybe I will get lucky, and no one will sit beside me.” That’s my introvert talking, right?

Jon Orr: But as I branch out, I now choose to sit with other people, and I’ve quickly realized that with doing that, my conference experience has been so much more rewarding because when it comes to when the presenter says, “Okay, now talk at your tables,” most people are like, “I don’t really want to do that.” But when you do, you get so much more out of that workshop or that experience.

Kyle Pearce: Right. I always say that we as teachers, all we are grownup students, right? We all act in many of the same ways that our students do. When you start mixing things up, if you know you do, let’s say, visible random grouping where students come into your class, and you’re mixing kids up, if you ever ask students whether they like that or not, they’re probably going to say no. The reason why is because we feel the same way when we go into these conferences, and we don’t know people, and we’re not sure. It doesn’t matter how confident you are, you still feel a little bit awkward. You’re like, “Oh, I don’t know if these people want me to sit with them.”

Kyle Pearce: But just by doing that and just breaking the ice, I find just by saying hi and having a quick chat, it can be so helpful to just, first of all, kind of lower that anxiety that you might be feeling when you’re not comfortable sitting around new people. But then, by doing that, you can also focus in more on the actual learning and focus less about who you’re sitting with or whether you’re feeling awkward or not. So those are great, great tips. Another one too, I would mention here with this building community piece, so not only going into a session and sitting at a table with maybe a group of people that you don’t know, but something that I do, and I know you’re big on this too, John, oftentimes we’re presenting together at conferences or workshops. But when we go into the conference, we sort of just go off on our own.

Kyle Pearce: Even if I’m traveling with a group from my district, they won’t see me pretty much all day. I just kind of go off on my own. It’s not because I’m super eager and excited to go meet new people. I’m doing that because of the reasons we had already mentioned, that there’s huge value. But really, it’s because I’m trying to go, and I’m trying to figure out what it is that I need. What learning do I need? Instead of sort of conforming to the group. If John, if you will want to go and you feel that you have a learning need over here, it can be really easy for me to go, “Yeah, I guess I’ll go with you for that.” I’m sure I’ll learn something from it, but I could be sacrificing maybe the more timely learning for myself by going to this other session, and like you say, the benefit being, “Hey, go sit at a table. Go introduce yourself and build your community.” So that’s number one there, John. Number one is build your community.

Jon Orr: Yeah. Then another way to build that community that we’ve done before is a lot of these conferences, the bigger conferences, they have social events the night before or one of the nights of the conferences. For example, I’m thinking about the NCTM National Conference, and they have like a games night or a trivia night. Don’t skip on these. These are great ways to also build your community. You can meet a ton of people, capture their contact information, follow up with them. It’s definitely made a difference for us. I know when we went to NCTM Conference in San Francisco in 2016, we made a point to go to the Desmos games night, and we met a ton of people that we’ve talked to online, but it was so interesting meet them face-to-face.

Jon Orr: We also went to the trivia night I think the next night. So that was pretty cool, and we met a ton of people there. It just changed the conference experience to meet some of the people that you’ve either interacted with online or heard about on a podcast or you saw at a session. So definitely, don’t skip on those social nights because, as an introvert, it is easy to say, “I’m going to go back to my hotel room and just chill for the evening, and then I’ll do some more conferencing the next day.” But don’t skip on those. Make it rewarding. Make that conference worth it.

Kyle Pearce: Really, when you think about Making Math Moments That Matter, you’re making that conference, making moments that you’ll remember. It’s really easy to lose some of that learning, right? There’s lots going on there. So go to those social events so that you can pique the brain of a presenter, right? I had the opportunity at NCTM last year to meet some people that I had never met before. Mike Flynn was one of them and got to pique his brain about some of the ideas he had shared us. Steve [inaudible 00:12:51] got to have lunch with him, and Robert Kaplinsky, met him for the first time last year as well. We got to have some really, really great deep discussions about ideas that I had formed in my mind based on what I was hearing from the session, but maybe I wasn’t quite clear on, right? So it was great to be able to kind of ask some more probing questions and kind of go a little bit deeper.

Kyle Pearce: So that’s number one. That is build that community. How about number two, John? What are we looking at as tip number two.

Jon Orr: Tip number two, we are calling just be picky. What that means is we want you to choose sessions that are going to push your learning, help you learn the most. So think about what learning goals you want for yourself and your teaching and choose sessions, very picky. Like you mentioned, Kyle, don’t just go to one that your friend’s going to because they’re going to, and you’ll be with them and that you don’t want to be by yourself. Choose ones, be selective. For example, one way you can be selective is go to sessions you know the participants names.

Jon Orr: If you know some of the presenters and recognize names, oftentimes if you go there, you get a little bit more, and it’s kind of like what you’re looking for to learn because you’ve followed them or you’ve seen their stuff online or you were already out of presenting. You know that that was a great presentation. Go back to that or go to that presentation. Oftentimes those presentations will hit home with you a little bit more. You’ll get another kind of tidbit to take with you, a good learning experience for you there. That’s one way you could be picky. Kyle, what’s another way we could be picky?

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, absolutely. That for me, I think, and just to kind of elaborate on that, the first conference I went to, I felt like I didn’t necessarily know what I was doing at all. So I just sort of went, and I just looked at title. So titles is great. But like you’re saying, by actually looking and seeing certain presenters and the more names you start to know, the more you might get an idea of what their stick might be. So that can be really helpful to start maybe giving you an idea of some maybe high impact sessions that you want to head to.

Kyle Pearce: But then on the other end, we want to also pitch balance here and say… We don’t want to just be going to all of the same sort of names that we know, and there’s many reasons for that. But one is this idea of like tunnel vision. I often talk about Dan Meyer and how he had a huge influence on how I teach. Every conference I go to, I’m definitely keeping my eye out for Dan Meyer. But now, I’ve been to quite a few where now I’m realizing, I’m like, “I love going. I have never been to a Dan Meyer presentation that I haven’t loved and learned a ton from.” But now I’m going, “Wait a second.” I’m like, “I’ve got to also expand my horizons a little bit.” So that’s when you might start to go, “Okay. I’ve got a couple of presentations by these particular people.” Maybe especially people that maybe you’ve heard are good presenters, but you’ve never had the opportunity to see or hear. But then also looking for content or topic-specific sessions and taking a chance.

Kyle Pearce: So even if you haven’t heard this person, I know for you and I, something that’s on our radar right now is trying to think around the idea of equity. We not only equity in general, just making sure everyone can access the math, but also thinking about some areas where we might have some blind spots. Only recently, you and I, John have sort of really realized that, “Oh my gosh, we know a lot about maybe this one chunk of the math education space, but there’s so much more out there.” John, I think you have an example you want to share about maybe one of the many blind spots that you and I both have and we’re looking to address that in the upcoming conferences that we attend as well.

Jon Orr: Yeah. I think one of the big goals for me to go to this conference and future conferences is to get different perspectives from different teachers and their experiences in the classroom and things that can help me address my blind spots. So one example where I had a blind spot was I have this talk that I do that I go to workshops or districts or conferences on the hero’s journey, which is about heroes and stories and fictional heroes and stories all have that similar path and how we can use that path to help push our students and put them in productive struggle and how we can attach value to meaning.

Jon Orr: A teacher pointed out to me at one time that the images of the heroes I was showing up on the screen to start off that talk were my heroes or the heroes that I knew about, and I was missing heroes from other cultures, other stories, other people that were not like me. I looked at that, and I’m like, “Yeah. You’re right. This is Superman. This is Neo from The Matrix. This is Frodo from the Lord of the Rings.” These are all the heroes I’ve read about, and it was only my perspective of heroes and the stories that I was using. I was missing all these heroes from other cultures. I started to think about for myself like, “Okay, that’s a huge blind spot for me because what am I doing in my classroom that also shows that same bias or that same blind spot? If I didn’t even see that for going into different workshops and conferences, what am I doing in my classroom that doesn’t show off different cultures and different stories?”

Jon Orr: So I’m so glad that that was pointed out to me, and I now know that I have to do a lot more thinking about how to include these other cultures in my teaching because I wasn’t thinking about that, and that’s on me. But now that I am, I got to make a change here. So I’m really excited to use this conference experience that’s coming up to help me learn about this, and I know that you’re making a point of this too. We’ve got a couple of sessions that we’re pretty excited to check out to help us eliminate some of these blind spots or address these blind spots.

Kyle Pearce: For sure. For us, there’s this awareness, and I know we’re hearing a lot of this through social networks and conferences. Now we’re becoming at least more aware, and now NCTM, for example, is actually taking action to try to make sure that we’re being responsive to different cultures and not just making the messaging look like, “Hey, all of our speakers are white men in general.” Right? Really starting to realize that, “Wait a second. There’s tons of people with great messages out there, but yet, that’s not what’s being at least portrayed when people go to some of these conferences.”

Kyle Pearce: So for you and I, I know we’ve been looking at the programs at all of our conferences coming up, and we’ve been trying to eye areas that are going to address some of these blind spots that we have, and I know one session that I’m eyeing right now is called hose Mathematics is it anyways? (De)Tracking of Teachers & Students. That’s by Lauren Baucom. She is on Twitter. Definitely someone you want to follow. We’ll put a link to her Twitter handle in the show notes. Her description says, “Ever wonder why ‘some’ math classes are rather homogeneous? Ever notice how some teachers only teach certain student populations? Evidence of tracking of both students and teachers points to inequities in the system of education. We will provide examples of how we de-track students and teachers in our math department to provide access and equity for all.”

Kyle Pearce: When I read that, I’m picturing that is totally me. Most schools that I taught in had a fairly homogeneous student population as well as educator population. That’s something that now that I’m at the district level and I work with 75 schools in my district and I go school to school, I’m realizing, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I have no experience in some of these other scenarios where it’s less homogeneous, the reality in many, many schools and in classrooms.” So I’m really hoping to go to that session and learn a ton from Lauren. Based on what I’ve read on her blog and following her on Twitter, I’m really, really looking forward to it. I think we’re going to learn a ton. John, what’s something that you’re eyeing?

Jon Orr: Yeah. On those same lines to help address those blind spots for me and you, one thing that we could do at conferences, you go to that one, I’ll go to this one, we’ll share back. Another one is one called Lessons Learned on the Intersection of Equity and the Standards, What We Know and What We Can Do. That’s with Peter Coe and Rolanda Baldwin. It’s description is promoting equity requires that we do things like operate on the belief that all students can learn and ensure access to high quality mathematics curriculum. These are easy to say but hard to do. I think that’s the line that kind of got me. It’s easy to say these things, but they are hard to do.

Jon Orr: We’re going to move past rhetoric to hear real lessons learned, designing curriculum, and adult learning experiences to ensure grade level learning for all kids. So I’m really looking forward to hitting that one to help me address the blind spots that I’ve recently been pointed out. So something that we want to start fixing or addressing to fix in our classrooms to help all kids learn. I think that’s what we even… This podcast is about making math moments matter for all students. I think that’s where that blind spot has been that we were saying all students. But I think we weren’t considering actually all students.

Kyle Pearce: Right. I’m just picturing even just that hero’s journey example. I know that that is a presentation and an image that you use for a presentation to teachers. But where else in our classrooms when we’re saying access for all, but then through what we do in our class and what we’re presenting to the class, are some students sitting there going, “Yeah. He’s saying all, but he’s never showing all. He’s never doing all.” Right. So it’s like one of these things-

Jon Orr: I’m not represented there.

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. So these are blind spots for us. So really, after this episode, we really encourage you folks who are going to be going to a conference coming up, start reflecting on like, so what are your blind spots? Right? So these are what John and I are really up to right now. For you, you might be in a different place, and maybe your blind spots are in different areas. So you’ve got to sort of reflect on that and think like, “What do I need in order to push my thinking forward and my teaching forward?” So hopefully, that helps with some of that planning process as you prepare.

Jon Orr: Right. So that is number two on our four tips to make math conferences meaningful and worth it. We’re going to move on to number three, Kyle, which is about check out the goods. This is kind of like what we call, which is about hitting the exhibitor’s area and the publisher’s area. I know for me that I used to miss this. I think my first time hitting the exhibitor’s area, which is sometimes huge depending on the conference you go to, this is where all the publishers from the textbooks show up or all the ed tech companies will be there or people selling resources for your classroom. They’re all there with booths, or you can hit the MTBoS booth. There’s people sharing their ideas there.

Jon Orr: For me, one benefit of going and checking out the goods in the exhibitor’s area was this story. For me, I went to NCTM 2012 in Philly, and I stumbled across this booth. Now, I was going into that with the mindset of like, “I want to see what…” Back in 2012, if you remember, Kyle, this was the iPad craze, right? It was like, “We all are getting iPads in our schools, and you were having iPads.” I was looking for like, “What can I do on an iPad?” I thought this was going to be the savior, right?

Jon Orr: So I stumbled across this small booth with this young guy named Eli. Eli was showing me this new graphing software that I could do on my iPad. I was like, “I can do this on the iPad?” He’s like, “Yeah. We just coded this so that this could all work on any device.” Then I was like, “It’s for free.” He’s like, “Yeah, it’s for free.” I was in love with this, little did I know that that was Eli, the CEO from Desmos at the time. Because of that moment and because of hitting that exhibitor’s area, I started using Desmos I think very early on because I saw him at that booth, and it changed how I use graphing technology in my class ever since.

Kyle Pearce: Awesome. Yeah, and for me, I know now being as a district role, K through 12 math consultant, oftentimes we’ll get a lot of email communication from all of these different possible resources. Right? They’re just doing their best trying to inform as to this resource offers this, and that resource offers that. When you walk in, especially at large conferences, like the NCTM, you go into the exhibitor area, and it’s like, “Whoa. It’s like a city in there.” We’re not saying go in there and spend all of your time or the entire day there. But I actually tried to go in little chunks. So I try to do a little area. Maybe you set up some sort of grid in your head, use your spacial reasoning skills and kind of go, “Okay. I’m going to focus in this area this morning, and then maybe this afternoon, I’ll come back and go to this area.”

Kyle Pearce: What I find is oftentimes, I’ll run into some of these booths from some of the math resources that I’ve seen come across my feet in Twitter or maybe hit my inbox, and I know it’s sitting there as unread because I haven’t had an opportunity to carve out that time and go explore that resource. I could pop by some of these boots and get a mini tutorial on the fly. It’s almost like a live webinar with some of these publishers, whether it’s digital content or printed content. For me, I remember a few years back at OAME meeting Travis Ratnam from knowledgehook, a startup here in Ontario out of Waterloo. For me, I had seen this thing called game show. It was kind of like Kahoot for math class, and I hadn’t really had a chance to kind of tinker with it.

Kyle Pearce: By going by that booth and just getting to meet the CEO of that company, we got to actually have a chat, and I got to kind of pick his brain on the fly with initially some of my wonders, maybe some of my concerns, like, “Oh, well. What about this? Have you thought about that?” And really getting to get more of a perspective as to like, “What are they after? What are these companies? What are their fundamentals? What’s their mission?” Travis is someone who I still stay in contact with today. I try to offer feedback, and he asks feedback, and he’s also created some features that I’m using now based on some of the feedback that we’ve given over the years. So definitely, the exhibitor’s area, that publisher’s area.

Kyle Pearce: The other thing I think that’s really a benefit, and it’s kind of a bonus is just sometimes some of the freebies that exhibitors are given away, right? Sometimes, if you go by White Book, I’m sure they’re going to have some free giveaways, price some discount codes, walking by and getting some stickers from the MTBos table, so that’s the Math Twitter Blogosphere table, meet some of the people you’ve been communicating with online or just go by there just to go like, “What does social media have to offer me if maybe you’re not online?” Folks are there and eager and waiting to try to kind of get you set up and become a part of that community.

Jon Orr: So yes. The exhibitor’s area is huge. It’s like its own little… Like you said, it’s its own little mini conference inside the big conference in some of these large conferences like NCTM. I’ve definitely hit some of those tree trainings. A couple of things that I’ve done was when I was huge into TI calculators, which is a whole number of years ago, TI had a big booth setup showing you how to use the calculator. Desmos is there. They have a huge booth these last few years on how to use their software and new tools and new features that are coming out. You can hit up those, like you said, and get the freebies. I know they always given out stickers and stuff like that. You can buy a tee shirt I think right from them right on the spot too.

Jon Orr: So definitely hit up the exhibitor’s area. It is not to be missed in your conferences and when you try to get the most out of the conferences. Kyle, what is the fourth thing we should be doing to make the most out of these conferences?

Kyle Pearce: The fourth is one new thing. That seems pretty vague, but it’s this idea you know we’re big on reflection here at the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast because that’s the only way that this knowledge is going to stick. So not only is one new thing that you can implement from the entire conference if you’re brave. I like to think about that one new thing from every session that I go to. Even though you might be the type of person that keeps all these notes and then goes back and refers back to them, but carving out just a little bit of time after every session to kind of put that big box on my page, and for you, using the conference planner template that we’ll be sharing the link to in the show notes would be a great spot for that one new thing.

Kyle Pearce: So thinking about, “What am I going to take action on now? What can I put into practice now?” You can also be thinking about like, “What could I maybe have in the back of my mind to revisit?” Can I set myself a reminder in my phone to go, “Okay. I want to dive deeper on this thing. I know I can’t do it next week, but maybe I want to come back to it.” How about you, John? What is one new thing to you?

Jon Orr: One new thing for sure is, and I used to think one thing out of the whole conference but more so, like you just said, it’s what’s one thing I can pull from this session? We have a spot on the conference companion to write your one thing down. But I think when you choose one thing, like you say, you’re going to choose one thing out of the whole conference. That’s a good goal to have because if you choose five things to do new out of the whole conference, then now you’re thinking, “Okay. I got to do this, this, and this when I go back to the classroom.” It can be overwhelming to try five new routines or five new strategies or five different ways to engage your students. So it can be overwhelming, and that’s why I recommend one thing can be great to actually put into place.

Jon Orr: For example, you could write on the Conference Companion the one thing you’re going to try. You’re going to try random groupings as a new routine in your classroom, or you could try like, “I’m going to get my students up and do the building thinking classrooms routines from Peter Liljedahl, get them up on the walls and using the non-permanent services more.” I think what is important about one thing and a tip you can do about your one thing is to build a schedule. I think building a schedule is super important. Make it part of your routine to do this one thing so that you don’t lose track of it because it’s easy to come back to your classroom and then get back in the habit of doing what you always have done.

Jon Orr: I think there’s value to making the schedule to stick with things. We call it don’t break the chain. But for example, I’ve written about and talked about in our online workshop about how to do this more specifically. The example I use in our workshop is that Jerry Seinfeld, the famous comedian, he writes every day. He doesn’t write one joke every day. He just writes every day for a set time. What he says is that he doesn’t do that only when he’s feels inspired to write. He just says it’s every day. What he does is on his calendar. He marks a big X. I draw on Sunday. He writes a big X, checks it off. He did it that day. If he makes the point of like, “Now it’s about marking the X on the calendar and not writing every day,” and then it’s not all of a sudden a huge task to do.

Jon Orr: If you’re saying like, “I want to use random grouping every day,” check off on your conference companion or print out our resource. I checked this out. It’s about not breaking that chain now. It’s just about marking the X. So it’s like, “Oh, I marked an X today. I got to mark an X tomorrow .I got to mark an X the next day. I don’t want to break the chain.” That’s going to be motivation for you to keep doing your one thing from the conference. For me, it’s a great tip to help me stay motivated to try the one thing from the conference because it’s so easy to just get back to class after being away and visiting this amazing conference to just not do it. So we view it as like, don’t break chains. Just keep that chain going.

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. The thing I love about that is if you’re actually… I hate to use the word lie, but I feel like when we say we’re going to commit to something and we’re not willing to actually think about the schedule, we’re kind of admitting that yeah, we’re probably lying to ourselves. Right? Because if I’m not even going to put the effort in a think about what does that look like on my, whether it’s a daily routine or whether it’s a weekly routine or whatever it might be, if I’m not going to take five minutes to reflect on it and think about what that’s going to look like, then it’s not going to happen. Right? We just know that’s going to happen.

Kyle Pearce: A book that I’m going to drop here that I read recently, I actually listened to it on Audible, we mentioned that earlier in the episode is called Atomic Habits. The subtitle is an easy and proven way to build good habits and break bad ones. It’s by James Clear. It is such a phenomenal book. The reason he calls them Atomic Habits is because Atoms are very, very small, and he talks about taking habits and breaking them into these very, very small chunks. But when you put them all together, they become this big thing.

Kyle Pearce: So if I’m trying to think of something, an example that comes to mind is like I go to this session, and I learned about this thing called Spiraling math class, which is, some might know it as interleaving or kind of breaking out of your traditional units. When I go to that workshop and I go, “Wow, this presenter just told me all the reasons why I need to spiral my math class.” I’m going to do that. That’s my one thing. Then I don’t think about what that looks like or sounds like it’s not going to happen. Because Spiraling, an entire course, is so huge. So breaking it down into these atomic habits makes it so much easier. Basically, that to me is what Jerry Seinfeld has done. He’s taken a big comedy sketch, and he’s broken it down into these little tiny daily chunks, whether it was 500 words he’s after or a thousand words that he’s after. He’s like, “I’m just going to do it.” By doing it, it becomes less about the big habit and more about these little habits.

Kyle Pearce: The one example that I’ve applied to just my regular life from that book is the idea of exercise. I like going for a run. Well, I say I like it. I don’t like it. I prefer sleeping in. But I know that I should. So in my mind, I’m like, “All right. I want to run every single day.” But he’s like, “Well, instead of saying, I’ve scheduled out the time, which is great, I’m going to wake up at 5:30 every day during the week, and I’m going to go for this run for 30 minutes, and that’s going to be my routine.” He’s like, “Break that down further. Your atomic habit is putting your shoes on every morning.”

Kyle Pearce: It’s like, if I think about that, I can apply that to anything in my life, and that’s the way I look at it now. Literally, all I need to do tomorrow morning, I don’t have to go for a run tomorrow morning. I have to get out of bed and put my shoes on. Once your shoes are on, then you go, and it’s like, “Well, now that my shoes are on, I guess I’m going to go for this run.” Right? It’s like you’re already there. So thinking about what’s that big takeaway and what’s that schedule going to look like, but how can I break it down into these atomic pieces, these little tiny habits that will make this easy for me to achieve without putting this huge burden on myself.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Those are some really actionable steps, I think that I actually haven’t read that book yet. I was reading a different habit book, but that seems so actionable, just putting your shoes on. It’s like these little things, where all it takes is really 10 seconds of being brave or 10 seconds of being like, “I can do this.” Then that leads into another 10 seconds and then another 10 seconds, and then all you had to do is just do that first 10 seconds, and you’re on your way to doing the thing that you wanted to achieve.

Jon Orr: So awesome tip there, Kyle, for sure. So that was the fourth one, which is one new thing. I’m sure there’s lots of different ways you can implement your one new thing, but that’s just something that we think about when trying to implement something new is to try to make a schedule out of it so that you don’t abandon it. So that’s the fourth. So just to do a quick recap of those four strategies we said. To make the most out of your conference, you want to build your community. We talked about not just sticking to the same old people, branching out a little bit.

Kyle Pearce: Well, they don’t have to be old people, but young people, but the same ones, right? Yeah, yeah.

Jon Orr: Yeah. The same people. That takes some bravery, especially for me. Now, the second one was being picky, choosing sessions that help you build your learning goals and branching out and finding some blind spots and trying to fill some of those blind spots up and address them. The third one was checking out the goods. It hit an exhibitor’s area, which can be quite a useful resource-wise. The fourth one we just talked about was one new thing and how to implement that one new thing. But you might be saying like, “Awesome job Kyle and John, but I can’t get to a conference. I don’t have funding. I can’t have the time away from my home.” All of that.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I got kids.

Jon Orr: I can’t go every year because-

Kyle Pearce: Who’s going to [crosstalk 00:36:43] my kids while I’m at the conference.

Jon Orr: Yeah. So these are all things I’ve been really lucky enough to be going the last few years, every year to something. But there was definitely times where I couldn’t because I had little kids or my principal said there was no funding for that. So we’ve been lucky about that. But so what can we do if we can’t get to these conferences, Kyle? This-

Kyle Pearce: Yeah [crosstalk 00:37:05]-

Jon Orr: … go on or we not get to learn?

Kyle Pearce: Right. Yeah. This fifth tip, really, it’s the one tip for folks who aren’t going to be going to a conference. I don’t want you to listen to this episode, or hopefully, you’re still with us because we did tell you we were going to talk about what you can do. But you’re thinking like, “Oh man, none of this applies to me.” I’m going to argue that all four of those tips are great, whether you’re at a conference or whether you’re doing your own independent learning. What we mean by that is accessing all of this free learning online, not only are you listening to this episode, so you know you have access to podcasts as one possible way to extend your thinking and kind of grow your own professional learning, but there’s all kinds of other ones.

Kyle Pearce: The first one I’ll mention is even just getting on social media. As much as you may love it or hate it, social media, for me, the only reason I am on Twitter is for math professional learning. When I tell people who aren’t educators that, they’re sort like, “What?” A lot of people are on Twitter to follow their sports teams or to follow movie stars, and that seems to be kind of like what Instagram sort of about for a lot of people. But for me and for a huge, huge group of educators out there, there’s so many ways that I can learn just from these short little messages on Twitter and follow links to go down these little rabbit holes.

Kyle Pearce: One of the ways that you can get yourself started if you’re not already is by following hashtags. John, what are hashtags and what might be one or two as well as a place people can go to learn more about hashtags?

Jon Orr: So hashtags are on Twitter, or all the social platforms have hashtags, and it’s a way for you to learn about ideas that are maybe not specifically people you follow. On your feed, you only see people you follow or friends with. You don’t see the big ideas. But if you went to a hashtag and you now can see things about that one idea, it’s like grouping or categories or topics. So one that we’ve used all the time, not when a conference is on, just every day is the MTBoS hashtag, which is the Math Twitter Blogosphere. Paired with that, if I search the MTBoS hashtag, I always search iteachmath hashtag. Those are two go-tos that our teacher is always sharing great resources every day, every hour. There’s something new going up there about who’s doing what in their classroom and maybe a link out to a blog post that tells you about how to do that in your classroom or how it worked in their classroom.

Jon Orr: So you can learn about more hashtags at the MTBoS website if you go to mtbos.org/twitter-hashtags, they’re going to give you a ton of Twitter hashtags to follow, which also works with groups and Facebooks, I’m sure. Kyle, what about conference hashtags? You can follow this from home.

Kyle Pearce: Absolutely. Absolutely. So you kind of referenced what we call, I don’t know, like an evergreen hashtag, if that makes sense. It’s like the MTBoS hashtag. By the way, a hashtag is like the pound symbol on your phone, like the number sign and then a word, one continuous string of characters. So like iteachmath would literally be I and the spelling of teach math, all, no spaces next to this pound sign. So I’m sure you’ve run into them. Those ones are evergreen, meaning they’re there all year. You can add them to tweets that apply to math and math education.

Kyle Pearce: Basically, what you’re doing is you’re kind of telling Twitter, put this tweet in this big list because it makes sense for this particular audience. So it’s kind of like manually creating a Google of tweets. When you go and Google something, Google’s providing you with what Google’s algorithm believes to be the best search results for you. Well, this is kind of like a manual way of us being able to organize all the tweets in a particular thread. Now, you mentioned a conference can have a hashtag. These are more like, I don’t want to say temporary, they’re always there. But it’s more like time-specific, event-specific, or location specific. So for example, #NCTM2019.

Kyle Pearce: Actually, I think this year there’s an SD for San Diego. So I don’t if it’s like NCTMSD2019. That is the official, and we say official. You don’t have to register it with Twitter. Anyone can make a hashtag. But that’s the one that NCTM I believe has sort of pitched as, “Hey,” everyone who’s going to this conference or those who want to lurk from a far, I could be at home on my couch, and I could follow that hashtag during that week, and I’ll see people who are sharing tweets and using that hashtag to sort of say, “Hey, this is about this conference, or it’s from this conference.”

Kyle Pearce: So if I’m in John’s session, and I take a picture of the slide from John’s, and I’m like, “Wow, that’s something I want to remember, I want to share it with my colleagues,” I could share it on Twitter, and I could use that hashtag in order to let everybody in the conference know, “Wow, John had an awesome session.” So if you weren’t in John’s session, you might want to go follow up and have a chat with them about that slide because you didn’t get to get the full message. So those are great in order to kind of be a part of the experience while you’re there, but also, if you’re not there and you want to get a bird’s eye view.

Jon Orr: Awesome. Thanks, Kyle for making that clear. Another great thing from home, and this is also ongoing, so not necessarily a conference, but just getting good PD. How do I get good PD from home. For us lately, this has only been I think the last year for us, right, Kyle is Facebook groups. I don’t know about you, but if you’re like us, then you’re on Facebook a lot. When you’re at home, you’re just chilling out, and the kids are in bed, and you’re like, “I’m just going to check Facebook out, see what’s going on with my friends.” If you start belonging or subscribing or joining groups on Facebook, those posts will also show up in your feed, and there are lots of great groups that are just about math PD. If you go to Math Moment Makers K-12, that’s a group Kyle and I started to group people together to say like, “We want to chat about math PD. You got a question about what’s going on in your classroom? Ask it here.”

Jon Orr: Most times, it’s the community, right Kyle, that answers those questions, and we’re in there every now and then to provide some answers to. But that’s how these groups work. It’s like people are sharing ideas, but they’re also asking for help. Then what is great is that that’s not even your question. You can read through those responses and go, “That’s exactly the question I had.” You get to learn right along with everybody else. I think groups have been a great way for PD to happen at home for a variety of people.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah, and John, the really cool part about groups that sort of differentiates it from, let’s say like Twitter, Twitter, unless you have a private account, which you can do, but it’s kind of a limiting experience because you really only can share to people who you’re following and they’re following and that sort of thing. In a Facebook group, you have the option when you set up a group to make it like public or private. You can even make it secret, meaning no one even knows it exists unless you explicitly invite someone. So if it was like, let’s say your family, you want to have a group where you could share things, but you didn’t want anyone in the Facebook world to see it, that could be a way to do that.

Kyle Pearce: But what I noticed with a lot of the math teacher and education groups is they’re private, meaning you can seek them, but then you have to apply or request to join.

Jon Orr: Like a button.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. You click a button. It’s not difficult to do, and they’re not going to not let you in. But because it’s private, the purpose of it is so that only the people within the group are going to see anything shared, and it will show up in your feed every now and again is like, “Hey, John shared this in this group.” If you reply to that, only people in the group are going to see it. So if let’s say, I don’t want necessarily my family to be overburdened with all my sharing of math stuff, I personally don’t care. I still share math stuff with my family.

Kyle Pearce: But maybe you care. This is a great way for you to be sharing and participating and also having a little bit of protection, let’s say from like, “Oh, I don’t want my administrator to know that I was asking this question on how to teach a topic because maybe I feel insecure about that.” It’s great. These communities are really great about lifting you up. So a couple others that I think are really good to keep your eye on, Christina Tondevold’s group, Building Math Minds is a great group. Jo Boaler, How to Learn Math group is great. Also, there’s another one too that kind of shares just general things on their page, which is Common Core Math Resources. They tend to share a lot of really cool stuff too. So that’s not a group but more or less like a page that you could follow.

Kyle Pearce: So those ones are really good. So get into Math Moment Makers, Building Math Minds, Jo Boaler’s How to Learn Math, and hopefully, we’ll see you on the inside of some of those groups. John, how else can you get some free PD out there?

Jon Orr: Wow. So more PD is webinars, and one kind of our go-to place for free weekly webinars is the global math department, which has lots of good stuff on their website, and they are just a community of math teachers who decided to do this together. They hold a webinar every week. Somebody comes on and runs a webinar, shares some slides, talks about what they’re doing in their classroom or a big idea. If you went to globalmathdepartment.org, you will learn about those. Every week, they have a webinar. They’re always at night. I think a lot of them are at nine o’clock Eastern Standard Time. Well, what I’ve been doing is registering for them so that I can get the replay.

Jon Orr: So if you get a replay, you can then watch the video. It’s ready to go less than 24 hours right after the webinar is over, and then you can watch that on your own time. So you don’t get to participate live, which can be a bonus, but global math department will share with you the replay, and then you can watch that anytime, which is great. They also have a podcast. So all they do is they strip the audio from that presentation of throw it up on the podcast, on your favorite podcast platform like iTunes.

Jon Orr: I also listen to them on the way to work. You might be listening to this one on the way to work or on a run, but you can also listen to the weekly webinars in audio format on the Global Math Department’s podcasts. So you can search for that.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. People know that John and I are big into audio, obviously being into delivering podcast. But also, that’s the way I consume most of my learning is through audio books and podcasts. So for me, I rarely get the opportunity to actually watch a Global Math Department live webinar. Even the replays, I try to carve out time, and then there’s always something that seems to get in the way. The podcast for me is my go-to, where I can still get the messaging. So I can listen to that in the car or on the run and really still feel like I’ve got some learning that I can take from that.

Kyle Pearce: Another podcast that I want to share here, there’s tons out there. So in your podcast platform, just type in math or math teacher or even just education in general if you’re looking for others. But we have a new podcast here from OAME. It’s the OAME Talks podcast that’s hosted by David Petro who is the president of OAME. That’s a new one where he basically brings on presenters from last year’s conference as well as folks who are going to be presenting at the upcoming conference, and they do kind of like a summary. They also have a webinar series for those who are OAME members. But the podcast, it’s open for everyone.

Kyle Pearce: So definitely, do a search for OAME Talks. Hit the subscribe button, and obviously, hit the subscribe button on this one if you haven’t already because that way, you’re going to get a notification, just a simple little message on your phone when something new goes live, and it can even auto-download if you want it so that you don’t have to use your data when you’re out and about. It can just be ready on your device when you are ready to listen.

Jon Orr: If you are looking for more PD from us and you haven’t already gone through our four-part video series, you could be doing that. We have a four-part video series on How to Make Math Moments That Matter. You can find that at makemathmoments.com/lesson1 or right from makemathmoments.com. We have a button right there. So that’s a four-part video series we’ve put together on how to make math moments. I think each video is under 10 minutes and that you can get to that there. You can also watch our previous webinar that we ran at the time of this recording, maybe a month ago. We had a live webinar weekend, where we did six webinars over the course of a weekend on four tips to build resilient problem-solvers. So you could find that webinar right. Now, we have the recording up at makemathmoments.com/webinar. So that’s two more ways you could get PD from us. Or Kyle, tell us maybe one more from us.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Well, I mean, heck, we’ve got quite a few up there. You’ll notice that on both of our websites, on John’s site, mrorr-isageek.com, he’s got tons of stuff. On the home page here, you’ve got your resiliency guide up there. On my site, right now on my homepage, I’ve got a link to the Spiraling series. So you can actually join an email course. So lots and lots of stuff to learn. If you’re interested, drop us a line either on social media or through email and let us know what it is that you’re after, and we’ll do our best to try to point you in the right direction.

Kyle Pearce: We also have a workshop that we host twice a year. Right now, we are starting on Monday. Is it module four now that we’re having in?

Jon Orr: At the time of this recording, module four. Actually, right now, since it’s Sunday, we’ve unlocked it so that you’re not hearing this right now.

Kyle Pearce: [crosstalk 00:50:35]-

Jon Orr: But yeah. Each week, we release modules.

Kyle Pearce: Yeah. Those [inaudible 00:50:38] are in there with that six module workshop, and we’ll be running it again in the fall. Actually, later this spring, we’re going to have an announcement of another professional learning opportunity as well. So we’re really excited to hear that. So lots of things that you can grab. We’ll have them all in the show notes here, all the links that we shared previously, as well as that conference planner, like a simple PDF download to help you get started applying some of these tips from this episode and getting your schedule started and in order to not break the chain for any of that new learning that you come across.

Jon Orr: So we want you to put that into action, and we are so glad you could join us here on this episode of the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. In order to ensure you don’t miss out on new episodes as they come out each week, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform or use these quick links. For iTunes, go to makemathmoments.com/iTunes.

Kyle Pearce: For Google play, go to makemathmoments.com/play.

Jon Orr: For Spotify, makemathmoments.com/Spotify. You guessed it, Spotify.

Kyle Pearce: Yes, and we have quick links working for most other popular podcasting platforms, including YouTube. We actually have our podcast up on YouTube now. So you can actually go to makemathmoments.com/YouTube and subscribe there if that is the most convenient place to get this recording. So also, if you’re liking what you’re hearing, make sure you share this podcast with a colleague and help us reach a wider audience by leaving us a review on iTunes. It really helps tell iTunes that this is important information to get out to other educators. Also, tweet us @makemathmoments on Twitter so that we know you’re listening and that we’re being heard.

Kyle Pearce: So show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode15. That’s makemoments.com/episode15.

Jon Orr: You can also find Make Math Moments on all social media platforms and seek out our free private Facebook group, which we talked about just a minute ago in this episode, which is called Math Moment Makers K-12. Don’t miss our next episode where we’ll be engaging in a math mentoring moment.

Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.

Jon Orr: And I’m John Orr.

Kyle Pearce: High fives for us.

Jon Orr: And high fives for you.


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LEARN MORE about our Online Workshop: Making Math Moments That Matter: Helping Teachers Build Resilient Problem Solvers. https://makemathmoments.com/onlineworkshop

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