Episode #47: How Social Media & Reflection Strengthens PD!
We all know that modelling how to be a lifelong learner is important for our students to see, but even more importantly, we need to be constantly learning to be the best math teachers we can be.
While we all have good intentions to grab that next math professional development book or resource, professional development can be expensive and overwhelming.
Where can I find great professional development to avoid doing all the digging and most importantly, how can I find it for free?
Well, you’re in luck because we recently spoke with our good friend and colleague David Petro on Episode #47 of The Making Math Moments That Matter Podcast.
David is a brand new Vice Principal, but spent many years in the position of Math Coordinator for the Windsor Essex Catholic District School Board in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He is also the President of the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators (OAME) and many math teachers across Ontario know him as our resident math lessons curator.
Listen in as we chat with David about resource sharing, online learning, some of his favourite math activities, and how you can get started with them in your classroom!
- How reflection can help educators and students consolidate learning.
- Are there merits to homework? How should we structure homework to be meaningful.
- How to find math resources for your classroom.
- How to use twitter to maximize your professional learning
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David Petro: I think that it can be very intimidating for teachers to think that, “Oh, anyone can see what I’ve put down here” and that can be the end for them. They’re just not willing to do that, to put themselves out there and I get that but I like to tell teachers that this process of creating a blog post about your lesson or something even if it’s thing that you like, you can still do that on a blog and make the blog private just for you. And you still go through that process and you still have all that information. You don’t necessarily have to share it out with everyone. Maybe you’ll get to that point where you’ll feel comfortable with it but honestly the process alone is the thing that’s important. I think back to when I was still teaching in a classroom and I would give-
Kyle Pearce: You’re listening to our good friend and colleague David Petro. David is the math coordinator for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board here in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. He is also the current OAME president and Ontario’s resident math lessons curator. David has been actively sharing resources on his website and on Twitter for years.
Jon Orr: We chat with David about resource sharing, online learning, what his favorite activities are and how you can get started with them. Stick around for this resource rich episode. Hit it.
Kyle Pearce: Welcome to the making math moments that matter podcast. I’m Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon 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, fuel learning.
Jon Orr: And ignite teacher action.
Kyle Pearce: We can’t wait to dive into episode 47 here with David Petro. Jon, are you reading to get going?
Jon Orr: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Before we dive in with our talk with David we want to thank you for listening to us wherever you are. In the car, at the gym, in the kitchen, washing dishes or maybe on your prep time. If you’ve listened to us before and enjoyed the episode and got some value from it, we’d love to hear about it.
Kyle Pearce: Yes. So stop right now and take a picture of what you’re doing while you’re listening. If you’re running, take a breather and take a pic of your route. If you’re on a hike, take a pic of your view. If you’re cutting the lawn, take a pic of your lawnmower. No, no. Send your yard. Let’s see a picture of your beautifully cut grass. We’d love to see where you are and send that pic to Twitter @makemathmoments or on Facebook. Facebook.com/makemathmoments or just email us. We absolutely love it when you share and tag us in your experiences the last time we asked. Knowing that you’re out there listening to us Canadian boys and knowing that we’re making a difference is all we need to keep on plugging away. So go ahead take that picture and share away.
Jon Orr: We chat with David today about lesson curation and how to use social media to broaden your professional learning. If you want to learn more, we encourage you to register for the Make Math Moments virtual summit. Yes, that’s right. We’re running a free online math professional development summit for K to 12 educators. The Make Math Moments virtual summit is running on Saturday November, 16th and Sunday November, 17th and will feature sessions from past and upcoming Make Math Moments that matter podcast guest Sunil Singh, Dr. Nicki Newton, Skip Fennell and his team of The Formative Five authors and many more.
Kyle Pearce: Register for this year’s summit at makemathmoments.com/summit.
Jon Orr: Listening to this episode after November 17th, 2019, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/summit to add your name to the wait list for the next Make Math Moments virtual summit.
Kyle Pearce: So go ahead head on over and get yourself registered. Makemathmoments.com/summit. Makemathmoments.com/summit. All right. I think we’re ready to dive into our conversation with David Petro. Hey there David. Welcome to the Making Math Moments That Matter podcast. We are so pumped to have you on the show today. How are things over on the other side of the, get ready for this people, county. You are only about 30 minutes from Jon and I. Could probably make a triangle between Jon’s house, my house and your house. How are things going over there David?
David Petro: Yeah, there is definitely a math question in there somewhere. Things are good guys. Good to be on the show. Long time listener, first time caller.
Jon Orr: That’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. David, even though we know you quite well and as Kyle said we all live within a half an hour of each other, help our listeners understand a little bit about yourself. Where are you located? What’s your role and maybe give us a little background on how you got in the math teacher world?
David Petro: So yeah. I’ve been living in little southern Ontario town called Harrow. Harrow has got about 3,000 people in it and we are home to the oldest real country fair in Canada and-
Jon Orr: Woo. Claim to fame.
David Petro: Claim to fame. Yeah and I’ve been teaching for about 25 years. In fact, I got the 25 years service award this year for email from my school board this year. They give you a Rolex watch.
Jon Orr: Nice. Did you get a pin?
David Petro: No, you get a Rolex watch but it’s Rolex with two x’s. And for the last maybe five or six years, I’ve been a consultant at our board. So I’ve been servicing teachers, supporting them in math, science and IT and up until very recently that’s what I was doing and I’m just starting my new role as a Vice Principal at a grade seven and eight middle school in Windsor. So, that’s going to be exciting.
Kyle Pearce: Very awesome. When I heard the news there it sort of in a way broke my heard a little bit that you’d be moving out of the math consulting role. Well, actually as you mentioned, your portfolio actually is quite extensive. Math, science and IT. Just those little tiny subject areas right?
David Petro: Yeah.
Kyle Pearce: So doing quite a bit and then heading into the VP role, super cool. I’m wondering, can you take us through maybe a quick little snapshot like what does your current role, not your VP role, but your current role sort of look like, sound like. I’m always curious to ask this question because different districts and different boards, they have different terms, consultants, coordinators, all of these things and the roles can be very different. So I’m wondering what might be some of the things that you engage in from day to day.
David Petro: I don’t know that there is a day to day. It is different every day. A lot of times you are getting requests from teachers and I always found that whenever a teacher asks for something that sort of became my priority regardless of what my boss or the school board wanted me to do at that time and in fact, I had to make a sort of a list of things I do for the person coming in replacing me. And at first I was like, “I don’t know that I could write some stuff down” but then eventually I got three pages of stuff and all kinds of things. But there are, beginning of the year, the first days of the years for me is kind of weird because, it’s always been weird, because that was always so exciting in a school that first day of the year but in the consultant role you walk to the board office and every … it’s kind of laid back.
David Petro: They’re not quite the same but beginning of the year it’s a lot of analyzing provincial test data and starting to brainstorm about the ideas for the next few PD days and then starting to put in place some of the workshop theories that we were doing for teachers and then it just starts to go from there. It’s almost like a steamroller at that point and then it’s June.
Kyle Pearce: Right. Right.
David Petro: To me though I think the best was being in classrooms. Getting to visit teachers in their classrooms, getting to team teach with them, getting to learn what’s happening in the classes and it’s sad to say but I think when you get out of the teaching day to day role, you do get, I would say, soft. You lose that edge and it would be really easy to just sort of coast. You really have to be conscious of the fact that you’re supporting these teachers and you’ve got to work making sure that they have the support that they need and so that was always a mandate of mine to make sure that they always had what they needed.
Kyle Pearce: For sure. For sure. It sounds an awful lot like what my experience has been in my role as a math consultant in my district. For those listening, out districts actually cover the same geographic region but we’re just two separate districts both publicly funded and our role sound to be quite similar. And I have to agree it’s kind of funny because on the first day of school, I always find that everybody is there like anyone who has that board role. Everyone is there because there is no fires to put out yet.
David Petro: Right.
Kyle Pearce: Everything is running as smoothly as it can possibly go so far. So superintendents are around and it’s sort of like they are waiting for that first phone call of something that’s happened at a school or whatever it might be. So it’s in a way kind of odd because it seems like the parking lot is full. Everybody is there instead of running all over the district going to different schools. So, for me that’s really interesting. I love your point about trying to, I’ll call it stay relevant. You called it kind of getting soft. The longer you stay out of the classroom, the more … I think the easier in your mind you can make it to seem like, “Oh, yeah. Teaching is not that difficult”, you can almost play a story in your mind of how things would go if you were in the classroom. So getting into the classrooms I think is so important.
Kyle Pearce: It can be extremely difficult with the scheduling but it’s so important to get in and some folks in my department are really good at that. Namely, Yvette Lehman. She is big on, “Let’s get into multiple classrooms every single week”. So often times it makes our schedule crazy but it’s great because we get in there. We screw up a bunch of lessons. Sometimes they go really well. Sometimes they don’t go really well but we learn so much in the process and hopefully that will keep us a little bit sharper I guess. Get less dull over time as we are outside the classroom.
David Petro: Yeah and I know that’s going to be different for me in my new role because I have to be at the same place at the same time everyday as opposed to some place different and having that autonomy to go where I sought and need in. So it’ll be a little bit weird to have to be at a certain place at a certain time everyday. Exactly the same. That’s the way it started right.
Jon Orr: Right and your role, I have to imagine that being a Vice Principal at school is got to be one of the toughest jobs in the school and I’m very interested to hear … we got to check back in with you later and find out how your first semester is going. I think that would be awesome to talk about. David, we want to dive a little bit back. Part of the podcast is we dive into some of the history of the guest we have on the show and we would love to know the answer to this question about how you became a teacher. What are the things that led up to that moment where this is where you were going to go.
Jon Orr: I have shared here, for me and myself that my family, I come from a teacher. My dad was a math teacher and I followed in his footsteps in a way. I never intended to but I got the teacher bug on a co-op job I had at a university and I went down that path but how did you get into this role?
David Petro: Well, I never really planned to get a teacher. In fact, I never really planned for anything. The thinking that went into my post secondary life was very minimal. I remember, so when I was in grade 12, in Ontario we still had grade 13 and so it was December of grade 12 year and a friend of mine said, “Hey, I’m going to university next year” and I said, “How can you go to university next year? We still got another year in [inaudible 00:12:00]”. “They have this thing called prelim. You can go to university and take some university courses and finish your high school courses” and I said basically said, “Oh, I think I want to do that”. And that was the thought of how I would decide which university to go to and what I would take was that 10 second conversation and I ended up in engineering and switched after the first year to physics because I didn’t like engineering and went to physics and then at the end of physics degree, I thought, “Oh, I think being a scientist might be a good idea”.
David Petro: And so I did my master’s in physics in atomic and molecular experimental physics. It was interesting because being a scientist, what apparently it meant to me was I would come in, turn my experiment on, collect some data, at the end of the day, download the data and the repeat. Analyze the data, yesterday’s data while today’s data is being collected and part of my job as a master’s student was to teach first and second year labs and what I found was at the end of two years of doing a master’s degree, I enjoyed the teacher aspect way more than I enjoyed the research aspect and that really really was the thing that steered me in that direction. I could’ve easily continued my research to do a PHD and there was definitely a pathway to working at a jet propulsion lab. That’s where a lot of the people went in what I was doing but the teacher was much more interesting to me at that point. And so, “Well, I will go to teachers college instead”.
David Petro: And that’s sort of how that happened and sort of teaching math and science and math and physics and at that point really it seemed like the right thing, the right choice at that point although there are little regrets of like, “Oh, would have been neat to work at some place like the jet propulsion lab”. I have friends that have experiments going up on the next Mars lander. That seems really exciting but it’s been a pretty good 25 years doing what I’m doing now. I think I’ve done all right.
Jon Orr: Yeah, you know what? I think a lot of teachers have similar stories. There are people that say, “I was going into teaching from the get go” but I think a lot of people are really like, “I kind of stumbled across it and I really enjoyed it”. And I really love hearing those stories because they’re the passionate teachers and I also relate to the, “I wasn’t going to be a teacher”. I was in computer science. I wanted to become in computer science until I had that co-op job where I was like, “Oh, I just love interacting with these students and helping them along the way” and it changed the course of where I was going. And like you I had all these students that I was friends with go off and work at Microsoft and Amazon and Facebook. Now, they work at Facebook but not back then but hear about their lives are different than our lives but different paths for sure.
David Petro: I have to confess. I think my motivations for wanting to be a teacher perhaps are little selfish. I think.
Jon Orr: Well, everybody. Yeah.
David Petro: In the sense that the thing that drew me to teaching at first was the idea of being the guy that knew it all. The oracle, the giver of knowledge and I think that might have been fine before the internet but I think teaching is much different now. Or I think what is effective teaching and teaching in that old traditional style is perhaps not terrible but we can do better but that’s a lot another podcast I think.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. No, for sure and I think many of us that’s kind of what you pictured right? When we all sort of decided that we wanted to become teachers whether it was early on or later on I think that’s probably the teacher we were envisioning right? We weren’t envisioning giving kids the opportunity to problem solve and explore and sort of us guiding them along their journey. It was us being there to essentially pave the path for them right and you didn’t mention it but going back to you become a scientist, I don’t know why but immediately in my head, I was picturing you with really crazy hair, sticking up and everything like that. That must have been hard to let go off right David? You were like, “I’m going to be leaving that hairdo behind and become a teacher”.
Jon Orr: I think he’s got it. I don’t know Kyle if you remember what David looks like here but once a year he shaves his hair and it starts all over again.
Kyle Pearce: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, David we want to come back to again or I guess continue with your own educational experience but this time we want to dive into a memorable math moment. When you’re thinking about math class, when we say math class what memorable math moment comes to mind for you? Would you mind sharing?
David Petro: I know you guys ask that questions and I honestly couldn’t. I had to really think about a moment that was memorable to me. Math class was not, I mean as a student math class was not really that memorable to me in the sense that it was not particularly challenging. I did very well because I could play the game really well. I had very few teachers that I thought were, I can think of maybe one or two that really inspired me and made me work harder and want to work harder but for the most part it was non-eventful although there is one moment. I wouldn’t know if I would call it a good moment or a weird moment or bad moment but I remember being in grade 12 math class and the beginning of the year and the teacher’s rule on the syllabus came out that he checked homework every day and every time you didn’t do your homework, you lose one percent of your grade up to 10%.
David Petro: And so within the first two weeks, I guess the beginning of the third week when he came to my desk having not done homework for two weeks because I never did homework, his comment to me was, “Dave. Not going to check your homework anymore because you’ve lost all your homework marks” and I was like, “Good. Thank god we have an agreement here because I’m not going to do the homework”. I showed him when I got a 79 in the course instead of an 89, boy did I show him and in the end, I shrugged my shoulders and it probably was the course that eventually meant that I didn’t get honor role that year for the first time.
David Petro: I mean the real story there was what I left high school with or what I didn’t leave high school with was a good set of work skills. It may sound like a brag but I just don’t think it was that challenging but when I went to university I was not prepared for the rigor of having to teach yourself because the class was moving on whether you were ready for it or not. And it was a really weird first couple of year of university trying to figure out how to learn all the stuff I should’ve learned in high school.
Jon Orr: It just brings up some great questions actually in my mind about the idea of homework or something, maybe it’s not homework because for years I would tell kids exactly that. The kids that were doing their work regularly and self directed to get that work done, if they were regularly doing work at school and making time for it, they were the ones that when they went to university were more ready for that level of commitment whereas the students like you were like, “I’m pretty bright. I catch on to things very quickly and I can do it once I see it or once I try it”, when they go off to university or experience of that little bit of that first, “Oh man. I have to do some work”.
Jon Orr: It makes me think. It’s like a struggle that I have in my brain about that. I do recognize those students who catch on very quickly and show me the understanding and I don’t want to penalize them like your teacher penalized you. I reward like, “You are catching on. I don’t need to see anymore from you because you prove it time and time again. Why do I have to check your homework and take off marks. I shouldn’t be doing that to you” but then on the other hand, how would you handle yourself David in that situation? Think back. You’re the teacher in that room for a moment. How would you try to teach yourself that lesson of like, “We got to do it now” or do you say like, “Learn it then”. What lesson would you want to give yourself.
David Petro: Well, so it’s interesting because I really didn’t remember that so much when I first started teaching that, that experience until I had my first student, “like me” who didn’t have to do homework and still did well and I didn’t have a punitive rule like that in terms of homework marks at that point. So that wasn’t the issue but when that student came back to me a couple of years later and had the same experience that I had, it was like, “Oh, right. Okay”. I’ve got to do something different in my class to make sure that doesn’t happen to anymore of my students. So when I would encounter those students I would make sure that what I actually gave them was something more challenging, something more interesting and challenging as part of the homework that they would want to do. That they would feel interested in doing so that they could at least have some of those experiences of working through a tough problem of doing something on your own and not just for those students.
David Petro: I would make sure that all my students had that experience but I would make sure I would include those experiences in my classes so that everyone had things to do when the work was not challenging for them and it became more of a goal to make sure the kids in my classes were prepared for whatever they were going into. And it was always true that these students who worked the hardest were the ones that did the best in university. I mean if that’s your goal. Not all kids went to university and not all the kids should go to university because there are many many other avenues like an apprenticeship or a college that are suitable for students.
David Petro: I think too many students university as this pillar to head off to and I think teachers also use that as, “This should be everybody’s goal”. Not thinking that there is a lot of great opportunities for students that don’t require university and are quite fulfilling and still require a lot of math to be good at. Just making sure trying to self aware of those students that both struggle and didn’t struggle and making sure I had something for both of them.
Kyle Pearce: I hear this message of differentiation and also just purpose and intentionality behind what’s the homework there for and I think we all at some point in your career, usually when we first begin, you sort of just do things the way you remember them being done to you. And I would just assign the homework and go from there and like you David I didn’t have a punitive sort of approach but I did check homework everyday. Like spent and maybe call it even wasted a lot of my class time me walking student to student putting down I remember on a checklist one or two or zero but those were just numbers for me to know how much they are doing their homework and I would do the whole call home thing but the difference was is that whether there was a zero or whether there was a two, some of the kids who had twos didn’t do the homework well. They just did it because they were supposed to and some of the kind who got zeros were the David Petros of my class right?
Kyle Pearce: Where they were like, “I don’t need to do this. This wasn’t for me. You just assigned it for everyone” and what I’m hearing is that we want to give kids these opportunities to practice purposefully and with that, that means that we need to definitely modify things for the students who are at different and various levels. I guess at the end of the day if a student is thinking like, “I’ve got to get this done because it’s on the to-do list of math class, I’m just going to get this done”. Then how purposeful really is that or could we make it where there is something a little bit more curious or interesting for that student who clearly has the skills that the homework is trying to push or promote. Some students might need those practice questions but other students maybe need something a little different. So I love that idea of differentiation.
Kyle Pearce: So David, the conversation has been great so far and I want to start maybe our thinking a little bit towards something that I feel I think of every time I see your name on Twitter or every time I see and come across your resources online. I picture you as a curator of math resources. You deliver PD sessions, you do all kinds of different things in the math world but something that I feel like you are so consistent with is this idea of curating math resources and one in particular on your blog ontariomath.blogspot.com includes all kinds of resources that you tend to share. Kind of directed more towards Ontario teachers. However, really applicable for all teachers all over the world. So we’re wondering what got you started sharing resources in mathematics and in particular, links that would be helpful for your fellow Ontario math teachers.
David Petro: So it’s interesting. It’s only very recently that people have referred to me as a curator and I find that interesting because it’s not really what I set out to do. Really I blame the internet. That’s what I blame. I’ve been really on the internet since I was in university. So I started in 1990 on news group and things like that when I was doing my master’s degree.
Kyle Pearce: I can hear your modem right now in my brain.
David Petro: Yes. Yeah, that familiar sound of the modem when I was, that was like music to my ears. And when I started teaching I started to see that there were a lot of resources that were on the internet. Not necessarily teachers that were sharing stuff but things that I would come across that like, “Hey. I could probably make a math problem out of that. That is something that could relate to this topic in mathematics”. And I would just start collecting them, saving links as you do or did back then and at some point of course, our school board invoked email and I think I started to, every time I found something useful that I thought for math class, I would share it with my math department. I’d say, “Hey, I saw this online and you might want to use it” and it turned out that I was sharing things almost daily. Sometimes multiple times a day just because I was addicted to the internet.
David Petro: I mean in my free time, I just loved getting information. It wasn’t until somebody kind of accused me of spamming them because I was sending out so many emails that I just, I was like a serial sharer. So then I thought, “Okay. Well, I’ll send out one email to my department a week. I’ll send it out on a Friday. Here is all the things I found this week that you could probably use in math class”. And I would just send that out to my department and I did that for many many years. Whatever if would be. I would just sort of keep this email open at the beginning of the weekend. As I found things I would put them in there and then on Friday, I would just click send. And I think it might have been around 2012 and honestly, I don’t know if people were even reading these emails. I think at some point, they were like, “Yeah, trash. Yeah, trash. From Petro? Yeah, trash”.
Jon Orr: That’s what I was going to ask. Did you get any response? Would people email you back saying, “Awesome. Thank you very much”? Or was it just like you had no idea what was happening on the other end.
David Petro: Well, occasionally, because it was going to my department we would actually have physical conversations because we sat next to each other. I think for many years, I don’t know how, maybe still true, I think teachers still teach in silos, door closed. You don’t really know what’s going on in somebody else’s classes. Honestly, I got some feedback from some teachers. That was cool or whatever but I don’t know if they ever uses it. But it didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t really doing that. That was how I was sort of keeping track of the things that I found and I thought, “Well, since I’m finding these things, I’ll just let these other people know about them and if they want to use them, they can use them. If not, it doesn’t really take any more time from me to make this email”. So it wasn’t that big of a deal of me whether they used them or not. And I think even now I am not, I don’t really crave that, “Thanks for that”. I’m just like, “Here is stuff”.
David Petro: So then I think around 2012, I think I started thinking that, “Oh. Well, maybe I can instead of do this as an email, I can do this as a blog and instead of sending an email out every week, I’ll just post a blog about the stuff I found and just say a few things about it”. And that really became a reason for me to keep track of the link because I was using at the time Delicious to keep track of my link which was really great because you could tag them with different tags but that was sort of not being maintained or the site was being transferred from hands to hands and there is a thinking that I might lose all my links. I had 2500 links on Delicious all about math.
Kyle Pearce: You had the internet on your Delicious account.
David Petro: Yes, I would just basically save the whole internet to my Delicious account. So I just thought if I put the right keywords in and I can put some description in, I can always search my blog if I’m looking for something and so that’s what I did. I just started making a blog post and honestly, like I said, that was just for me to keep track of links but because it was a blog, hey, I can share this out to people and if they find something useful on it, then great. And yeah, Kyle you said that it is geared towards Ontario but only in the sense of some of the tagging. On every link I put a thing called curriculum tags and I just link that to the Ontario courses that this link, I think that link might relate to but it turns out that if you teach math in Canada or in the United States or in Zimbabwe, math is the same.
Kyle Pearce: The universal language.
David Petro: Right and so I think anybody could use the links that are there and recognize what courses that they teach that they fit into. So yeah, honestly it’s a thing for me that I just share with everyone else and it’s not a lot of work. I still publish every Friday. I have published every Friday since I started-
Jon Orr: I was just looking back at your oldest post just now and your oldest post on your site is 2012 which you had two and 2013 jumps to 49 posts. So you went right.
David Petro: Yeah. I got a little lazy and-
Kyle Pearce: Yeah but then everything after that is 52 and one of the reasons we thought it would be great to bring you on because you are the curator and you’re doing all of this hard work for everyone else. I think this is a great opportunity for people listening and to hear the reasons why you did it and you had mentioned earlier about the idea that sometimes we’re kind of selfish. It’s not like you just woke up one day and were like, “I’m going to create this blog for everyone else”. It was more to keep things organized for yourself and when I read your post each week because I see them hit my Twitter feed. So I always take a look and often I’m sharing them out. When I look at that, I think of what a great opportunity it is for your own personal reflection. Really just to sit and think about these different resources.
Kyle Pearce: I’ve got to assume that by you doing this process even though it doesn’t take you a whole lot of time and you’re not worried about sending it to an editor to reach through it. You’re literally just putting on your first thought about this task or this idea or this visual or whatever it is you’re sharing and it gives you an opportunity to put it into your long term memory instead of just sort of seeing it. Like I see so many things online but because I don’t take the time to do anything with it, it’s like, “Oh yeah. I’ll come back or I’ll just google it if I want it again”. Well, I probably will forget it exists and it will never cross my mind every again unless I bump into it again. So do you find that this process, do you find that you get that sort of reflective element out of it as well in order to help you realize that, “Hey, there is a resource for that and I can just go back to my blog and quickly fire in one of those tags”?
David Petro: That’s interesting because I think if I was just bookmarking them to some bookmarking site which I did for many years, I think the difference in what I’m doing now in making this blog is that writing the two or three lines of my little summary of what this things is which again is just for me, that really kind of helps to solidify the idea of this thing in my head so that even though it’s 2019, I think I remember seeing something that had, oh, somebody jumping bike over a canyon.
David Petro: I probably wrote about that in my blog and I did because it sticks in memory more I think when you actually try to engage a little bit on the link as opposed to, “That looks neat. Click, save, done”. That’s easy but I think that little act of just writing a brief summary makes it stick a little bit better and so I don’t have to remember where that link was or what that link, I just have to remember when I type my description, to put enough descriptive words in there so that if I type in motorcycle jump into the search, it’s going to pull up, I would’ve definitely put that in the description.
Jon Orr: I totally agree because my math blog has evolved over different ways throughout its lifetime and I first did it as a way to communicate to students what we did that day and what the task at home might be and then that evolved into when I wrote lessons. I was like, “I did a great lesson. I’m going to write a blog post” because I’d seen people writing teacher blogs and I’m like, “I can do this too”. But for me it was like what you said. I wrote that blog post up, that lesson up as a reminder of what I did for myself for the next time that I wanted to do that, what I did and again on a blog, you can share that with whoever you want and get some feedback on it but like you it was kind of selfish in way. That it was selfish in a way that it was just a way for me to remember it and reflect on it.
Jon Orr: And then think about, you just said about the active writing it down helps our memory solidify it a little bit more. That did it for you, did it for me but our students, that can work the same way and what kind of consolidation are we doing at the lessons lately. Are we having our kids write down reflections on what they’ve learned? I’ve been in the last couple of years really concerned and diving into that area more. What does the end of lessons or activities or tasks look like because I think there is a lot of value in reflecting in our own learning as we’re going on. I think Kyle has some words to say on that topic too.
Kyle Pearce: Yeah. I think for many people if … people we bump into all the time whether it’s conferences or so on and so forth, the people we associate with online often times are people on social media and often you’ll notice people on social media who are actively sharing math resources and those types of things, often times have some sort of blog and idea I think for the majority of the people we bump into is much like what David shared with us today which is they are like, “How do I reflect?”. I was the type of person, I didn’t like reflecting on my own computer or even when I was in, I was doing some education courses, some additional qualification courses. I started sharing my actual assignments on a blog because I felt like it was just me and the instructor who were reading.
Kyle Pearce: So I said, “Why not put it out here?” And it actually put a little bit of extra pressure on me to make sure it made sense whereas I was the type of kid in school and I remember this from all the way in early elementary where I always was the kid on the report card who would say, “Rushes through. Doesn’t re read. Doesn’t edit”. All of these things. I would just go “…” and put it out there and I felt a little bit of this I guess pressure that anybody in the entire world could read what I was putting out and what I found when I started doing the same thing Jon was doing, I was essentially just posting initially of what the homework was and what we did. I would do a brief paragraph or even just a couple points about what we did that day. Often times through that process when I was like, “How come I can’t come up with a good brief description of what we did today?”. It made me reflect on whether the lesson was very helpful at all.
Kyle Pearce: You’re sitting there trying to summarize the lesson that you planned, you delivered and now you’re trying to summarize it for a student assuming they weren’t there on class that day and I’m going, “If I can’t summarize it, I wonder what the kids are doing right now. I wonder if they would be able to explicitly tell me what the lesson was about or whether they just went through the motion”. So that really helped me anyway in my planning and my refinement. So those first times through were not so great but by reflecting I could refine things over time. So I find this process whether it’s sharing links, whether it’s reflecting on lessons, just this idea of kind of putting it out there really forces you to do a little bit more thinking than maybe you might do when you when you individually reflect.
David Petro: Well, I think being part of math Twitter blogosphere, the blogging world now, as it were, think that it can be very intimidating for teachers to think that, “Oh, anyone can see what I’ve put down here” and that can be the end for them. They’re just not willing to do that, to put themselves out there and I get that but I like to tell teachers that this process of creating a blog post about your lesson or something even if it’s thing that you like, you can still do that on a blog and make the blog private just for you. And you still go through that process and you still have all that information. You don’t necessarily have to share it out with everyone. Maybe you’ll get to that point where you’ll feel comfortable with it but honestly the process alone is the thing that’s important. I think back to when I was still teaching in a classroom and I would give the students a quarter sheet of paper and I would say, “You can write down any formulas that you want and bring this on the test and on the exam”.
David Petro: Some teachers really thought that was … “Why are you letting them do that? They should remember” but I was like, “Honestly, the kids that really took that to heart and wrote down the stuff. That process of writing it down was for some of those kids, the only studying that they did” and in fact, those students that made those sheet often never referred to them because they didn’t have to. That process of making that summary is so important. To circle back around to this idea of consolidating a lesson, just thinking about how “useful” and I say useful in quotes. It is for just students to sit there and have you copy down what you’re copying on the board as a consolidation.
David Petro: It’s not their words that they’re copying down. It’s your words that you want them to have in their notes and I don’t know how you can measure whether that … I mean kids can quietly copy stuff down and you’re satisfied that you’ve done your job as a teacher because, “Hey, they copied those notes down that I wrote down and they’re pretty good notes. I wrote them”. But I don’t know how many kids even refer back to those notes or even internalize them because you can copy down notes very mechanically without even thinking about what they mean.
Jon Orr: Right. Think about those times where you’re I don’t know if this happens to you where I’ll be reading a page and I’ll all of a sudden start thinking about something else and I’ve gone through the whole page. I didn’t even know what I wrote or read. It’s like, “I got to go read that again” because I was off in la la land there thinking about what was on TV or something but I think the same thing can be true for kids copying notes. They can mindlessly just be writing words down but not putting them together to make any sense of them.
David Petro: And why wouldn’t they? If that’s what school has been for 10, 12 years, a good student is going to be good at copying notes. I can robotically read what is on the board or the overhead or the PowerPoint or whatever happens to be and put that in my notes and move on and the teacher gives me the nod. I did well.
Kyle Pearce: For sure. I had that down to a tee. That’s what saved me in secondary. In elementary I was, my approach reminded me of what you referenced David of, I could just kind of show up and be okay but in high school it was like things were getting a little harder for me. So I was like, “All right. Well, I guess I will just write these things we called notes down and that will do the trick” and basically all I would do is rewrite the notes and I could be able to sort of regurgitate the whole note but as soon as anything changed, I was done right? So it’s like notes are important but I think it’s so much more important for the words on that page to be reflective of what the student is thinking in their mind right? And that’s challenging to do, as a teacher to try to get kids to find the value, to see the value that we now see. So that for me important.
Kyle Pearce: What we’re wondering though David, so you’re on the show here. We’re talking about you as a curator but again, we’re all three of us are talking about essentially how we’re all selfish curators. We’re doing this for our own learning and we’re also helping by sharing with others but I’m going to argue that if somebody goes on to your blog and they just say, “Hey, I’m just going to follow David’s blog and I’m going to just read what David says”, they might not get the full picture of what you might want to use with those resources or you might not even remember those resources exist as we mentioned before. So that reflective process is really important. So if I’m someone listening and I’m going, “Okay, I like how David has got this structure. Maybe I was to start doing something like this”, where are some of your favorite places to bump into? I always say bump into math resources because I’m sure it’s more like that.
Kyle Pearce: It’s not like you sit down for 20 minutes a week and then just go and find all your links. You bump into them along the way. How do we get beyond using social media for being used just for cat photos and memes to actually using them for finding really rich mathematical resources be it tasks or visuals. Where are you going? Where are you seeing that people should be jumping to in order to dive into this process?
David Petro: The reason the blog is or even keeping the blog is really important is because you never know, and you use the word stumble upon because I think that’s what it is. I’ve always found that if I’ve looked, I’ve got an idea. I think I need to find something for this topic, that’s always sort of frustrating to me because you find stuff. I want to teach quadratics. I’ll find all kinds of lessons or whatever it happens to be but that cool thing is not always easy to find and so the idea of making sure you’re in circles where you might see some things is really important and I can’t say enough how Twitter has really affected my teaching practice in a good way.
David Petro: The community of math teachers on Twitter is just amazing. I know that there is definitely in the general population not good feelings about Twitter. There is just lots of bad stuff that happens on there but in the math community I can’t speak enough about how teachers share what they do, what they think, how they’ve experienced good and bad on Twitter and that’s really been a really great source of information for me and I don’t see Twitter as a place I go to look for specific things either. I just check in maybe once a day, if that and it’s just a stream of ideas. But when you see something and it catches your eye, that’s when it goes, I’ll save that link, goes on the blog and I’ll use it when I need to. I don’t need it right now. I’m just sort of keeping a list of things. But what I found most useful on Twitter if I could extend that idea is because people don’t always share resources on Twitter. They might share ideas or comments and there is still a fair bit of conversation on Twitter.
Jon Orr: So say I’m a new teacher and I create a new Twitter account. Is it just going to come to me? How does Twitter know I’m a Math teacher?
David Petro: Well, there is so much nuances to this right? Because I mean the way Twitter works if you’ve got to start to follow people to start to see things in your feed right? And so yeah, you have to sort of find a group of people to follow and there is certainly a fair bit of people that are out there and even if you just type in math in the search, you’ll find some stuff. Although I will caution you against a lot of people hate math as it turns out. Surprising I know.
Kyle Pearce: Who knew?
David Petro: And they’ll tell you about it on Twitter and an important piece of the Twitter puzzle is I think the use of a hashtag because to me when you use a hashtag in your tweet, you’re basically telling the world in one word what this tweet is about or what tweet relates to and it becomes something that you can search and when I first go on Twitter I started looking at the hashtag math and that’s where I really found out a lot of people don’t really like math but quickly found out there are some math hashtags that were just about education and without following many people you can actually in the Twitter search or if you want to get a little high tech, use something like TweetDeck, you can follow a hashtag and something like mathchat for example is what I first started to follow and if mathchat was in somebody’s tweet, that pretty much guaranteed that that tweet was something about education and mathematics.
David Petro: Once I started following that hashtag, that was 2009 ish, the wealth of stuff that would just come across my feed was amazing and then you start to find people that are consistently tweeting about math all the time. You see the same names come up and you say, “Oh, okay. I think I might just follow that person”. And if you do a mix of people and hashtags and don’t go into it thinking that, “I’m going to find everything I need”. You’re not necessarily going to find everything you need. I think if you need, “I’m going to find some stuff that I like and maybe someday I’ll use it”, then great and then the extra bonus is you start to develop relationships with these people that you’ve never met before because you start to have some conversations about your teaching practices and you start to see their conversations about their teaching practices and you start to see how people reflect publicly do and what strengths that can bring to your own classroom.
David Petro: And it turns out that that is really where some of the power is in a social media platform like Twitter. And as long as I think you’re not too worried about your presence in the sense that, “What if people don’t like my post?”, or, “What if I don’t have a lot of followers?”. And I think some of the downfalls of social media is that sort of status sort of thing, then you can actually get quite a bit out of Twitter because I think there are a lot of teachers who are sharing great ideas just because they can and that becomes a catalyst for something else in their classroom. That idea of sharing something is a real great way to start to really introspectively look at what you’re doing in your own classroom.
Kyle Pearce: You’ve covered a lot of ground there David. I think one of the things that you did a good job articulating is just this idea of you don’t have to go on Twitter and act like the Kardashians sharing everything about your life from what you eat to where you are and all of these different things. There is almost like a bit of a continuum from what I call like lurker to sharer right? David, you’re clearly on the sharer side of things but I’m going to guess that maybe you weren’t on the sharer side when you first began on Twitter. I know for me I started in the lurker space and I’m going to suggest that probably most people get into any type of social media and you’re more of a lurker. You are kind of feeling it out like, “What’s going on here?”. And there is nothing wrong with going on Twitter or going on any social media channel, whatever you choose whether it’s Pinterest or Instagram or whatever it might be, Twitter just happens to be a great place for math resources.
Kyle Pearce: You could be one there and it’s like you’re not there. You don’t have to have people even knowing that you’re around. Obviously, they’ll know if you start following. I create an account. I go, I start following David. I follow Jon. I follow all kinds of different people in the math space. They’re going to see that you’ve followed them but even if they click on their account, they’re not going to see anything because you haven’t posted anything yet and I would argue that if that’s a concern of yours listening at home, that’s where I would suggest starting. You could even create what they call a private account where people can’t actually see whatever you do post. So if you’re not posting, you don’t really need to worry about that but if let’s say you are, you can make it private and then only let people into your space that you’d like.
Kyle Pearce: So I would say get started there, start following some people and then the other thing that I think is really key is not feeling like David mentioned he is on there maybe once a day but you don’t have to set yourself a schedule. You don’t have to go and see everything that’s on Twitter. It’s like trying to see everything on the internet. Google doesn’t give you this feed where you log into the internet and all this stuff just keep appearing on your browser but with twitter it does. So that could be really overwhelming.
Kyle Pearce: I know some people get really stressed, “How do I see it all?”. And the answer is you’ll be never be able to see it all right? So you want to make sure that you are not putting this pressure yourself like you have to cover everything or you have to see everything. That’s not really what it’s all about. It’s there and you come in and out of conversations as you go along. So I don’t know if you have any other of those tips there David before we talk about I guess a couple of places people can find resources and then we’ll be wrapping up shortly after that. What do you think?
David Petro: Sure. Yeah. So, i think what you said is right on the money in terms of starting as a lurker and I think you can seriously have a FOMO with Twitter because it’s just a continuous feed of information. If you follow a lot of people, your feed is going to be filled and going by quick and you may feel like you need to see it all and I think what’s important is there are things that you can do to help make sure some of the good stuff is at the top of your feed most of the time. When you’re on Twitter, your first interaction might be to like a post, to like a tweet and that might be your first step away from being a lurker and that’s great. That tells the person who posted it, “Hey, I liked what you said there. I liked what you shared. Thanks a lot”. It puts it into your list of likes and that’s a really great place to start.
David Petro: The problem is if you like a lot of stuff, there is no way to sort that. If you’re liking it so that you can keep track of it later and you like a lot of things, you can’t really sort your likes in Twitter. And honestly, if you like Twitter something, you and the person who posted that really the only people that see that and as I said earlier, I’m a serial sharer and so I think one of the things that you can do to help the Twitter community and help yourself is to start to, you don’t have to make posts, or make tweets but if you like something, then you might actually want to consider retweeting it right? Rather than just hitting the like button, hit the retweet button and what that does is now it goes to the top of the Twitter feed and if a lot of people retweet something, it goes to the top of the Twitter feed and it’s more likely that other people are going to get an opportunity to see that things and don’t have to search through their Twitter feed because it goes to the top and it’s literally a click on your part.
David Petro: You don’t really have to think about it but you benefit because it acts like a bookmark just like the like does. It just shows up in a different part of your Twitter feed. The Twitter get their stuff shared again and everyone else gets a chance to see it one more time. So that ability to retweet is a really simple way to start to contribute to the Twitter community. I think that’s a really really great way to begin. You don’t have to necessarily share something you found although that could be something that you do. And then the next step is to actually comment on something. To start that conversation about that thing that that tweet was about and that conversation might lead to an interaction that goes on for several tweets and help you take that idea and hone it in your head and to argue it back and forth with that person. And then you’re actually gaining a little bit more insight into what you believe.
David Petro: So that next step is to comment and then you might get to the point where you actually create your own tweet and you actually share something that you found. An original idea or something that you saw, a news article that you thought was relevant to teachers. And that’s a great idea. That’s sort of that final step of twitter and my only suggestion there. If you want your tweet to have a little bit more visibility for people, add an image to it. So it stands out a little bit but more importantly, included some hashtags to lets people know what it’s about. Mathchat is one that is still one of my favorites or if you’re in Britain, you might do Mathschat but more recently, MTBOS, the Math Twitter Blogosphere. That hashtag basically says, “Hey, I’m a math teacher. This is definitely about math. You might be interested in this” and then even more recently than that, the hashtag iteachmath.
David Petro: Those are things that you can include and that way people who are not following you but maybe following hashtags will see your tweet. It gives it more visibility and then the last thing you can do to tweet, you can tag some people who you think might be interested in it. And all those things can take you out from being a lurker and you don’t have to go right to that place at the end where you post something but you can slowly slowly move into a place where you’re actually a part of a contributing member to that community and it’s not really painful. It’s actually quite easy to do.
Jon Orr: Those are some great tips and speaking of it, the math Twitter blogosphere is, another good tip would be a lot of teachers will put their website if they have a blog or a resource page they’re sharing right in the Twitter profile and so if you are following one of those hashtags that David just mentioned and like he said there is a teacher that seems to be teaching a lot regularly, you can check to see if they have a webpage. Click that webpage and then that will lead them to that blog where they have detailed lessons or detailed activities and you can learn a lot right from there. So that’s where the math Twitter blogosphere comes from. It’s kind of like Twitter is the sharing space but then where you branch out from there is going to their blog to continue the conversation, read more about that particular resource that you’re finding.
Jon Orr: I know another good resource for me lately has been Facebook. I’ve been on Facebook for a while now but I’d never used it for math. Twitter was math. Facebook was personal but lately, there is a lot of great sharing going on in Facebook. Especially with Facebook groups and similarly to what David there said was, when you’re on Twitter some of things that you like will show up on your feed more regularly. Same with Facebook. If you like a page or get into a math group, then some of those posts will just show up in your Facebook feed which you might be just looking at stuff to kill some time when you have some down time and then all of a sudden you might run across a Facebook post that shares again. Like the Twitter posts, they have resources or maybe a discussion that could be of interest to you. Anymore to add there David before we wrap up?
David Petro: Well, you mentioned blogs and that is a whole another area that you can certainly go into. I literally follow hundreds of teacher blogs. That can be overwhelming but if you use a tool like Feedly for example, as a news reader, you can manage those things and only read them as you go and because I can look at them, if I’m sitting at the doctors’ office, I can pull up my Feedly on my phone and read a couple of blog posts and move along. You actually see whole another more detailed view of Twitter. It’s like Twitter expanded when you read some of the blogs and start to increase your blog role and people that you follow there.
Kyle Pearce: Right, right. I think that’s such a great share. We’ll definitely include Feedly in the resources. We’ll add a link there and just to kind of describe it in one sentence for people. It’s like taking people’s blogs and then the titles appear almost like a Twitter feed. So you kind of get a snapshot and then when somebody adds a new blog post it appears at the top of your Feedly feed. So very cool but again, starting anywhere you feel most comfortable. The key is I think just to get started and I’m so happy that we had an opportunity to bring David on to the podcast because we know that David is definitely a, I hate using the word master but I feel like a master of finding and curating and sharing resources. He also does some great workshops on how to get started with finding resources online on that thing we call the internet. So as we’re about to wrap up here David where can we find more about David Petro? Where can people find more about you and we will add all of them to the show notes.
David Petro: So you’ve already mentioned Ontario math links. So ontariomath.blogspot.com. That’s sort of where I put my weekly post on there but also on that site, I feel like I need to mention since we’re on a podcast, I’ve been lightening to podcasts for many years and so I’ve actually curated a list of podcast and radio episodes that go back almost more than a decade that all relate somehow to teaching math. So there is a page on that blog that deals with that. I’m certainly on Twitter. Davidpetro314 and I do have a couple of blogs as well that I actually create activities and work on.
David Petro: So engaging math is one. So engaging-math.blogspot.com where I, we’ve got me and the woman that I work with, Gisele Jobin, we’ve created almost 160, 170 activities from paper and pencil to Desmos to web sketch. All kinds of things that are there. I have my pet blog. I love data and so I’ve been collecting good datasets that could be used in any data management class. That’s another blog called founddata.blogspot.ca. I think these are all .ca. And so I find a good dataset. I put it up there. So if you’re looking for some good data to use in your, interesting data to use in your data management, your statistics class, that could be a place where you might want to look.
Kyle Pearce: When I heard you say it was your pet blog. I was thinking, I’m like, “He is going to talk about cats from the internet” but no it’s a found data blogspot. We will definitely include all those and Jon and I want to give you a shout out for your OMAE Talks. You mentioned that you have a podcast page. One of the podcast that I hoe you’ve included is your own from the OAME. OAME Talks is the name of the podcast. I’m going to let you describe it a little bit here David. What’s the intent behind the podcast and obviously people can find it on iTunes and all other platforms but tell us a little bit about what’s the premise behind that podcast.
David Petro: The OAME that is the Ontario Association for Mathematics Education and so that’s our provincial math association for teachers. This year I happen to be president on that association and one of the mandates that I had was trying to leverage social media and the internet and also provide interesting things for our members to look at. So that the podcast which we just started, I think it only has four or five episodes, we’ll be starting a second season in September, is me just going some quick interviews with people that have presented at our annual conference talking about their presentations at the conference in lead up to an online presentation that they do later. So it’s sort of an informal conversation with the presenter. You and Jon were on the inaugural episode and we’ve had Marian Small and Fawn Nguyen and others and it’s interesting.
David Petro: I feel like almost everyone has their own podcast now. There is just so many coming out but it’s all really good stuff and these conversations that we can have about the practice of teaching math I think are so useful and I have to commend you guys. The conversations that you guys have on this podcast are very insightful to hear about how people are going about their own teaching practice. Not just the ones where you have the “Big names” but he actual in the trenches teachers who are talking about their teacher practices. I think those conversations are some of the best things that I’ve heard on this podcast. So good on you guys.
Jon Orr: Well, David we definitely don’t want to take up too much of your time in this summer. We know that you’re quite busy. I think what, you’re putting a roof on your house today. So we’ll-
David Petro: I’m literally walking up the ladder as I hang up the phone here.
Jon Orr: All right. All right. So, thank you for joining us and we hope you enjoy the summer and a good start at your new role as VP.
David Petro: Thanks a lot guys.
Kyle Pearce: All right. We’ll talk to you soon David. Take care.
David Petro: Bye bye.
Kyle Pearce: We want to thank David again for spending some time with us here in the Make Math Moments community to share his insights with all of us. We definitely had some big takeaways.
Jon Orr: As always, how will you reflect on what you’ve heard from this episode? Have your written ideas down? Drawn a sketch note? Sent out a tweet? Called a colleague? Be sure to engage in some form of reflection to ensure that the learning sticks.
Kyle Pearce: Did you enjoy the learning from today’s episode? We sure did and we want to keep on learning. So we encourage you to register for the Make Math Moments virtual summit. Yes, that’s right. We’re running a free online math professional development summit for K through 12 educators. The Make Math Moments virtual summit is running on Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th, 2019 and will feature sessions from past and upcoming Making Math Moments that Matter podcast guests. Currently Sunil Singh, Dr. Nicki Newton, Skip Fennell and his team from The Formative Five authors and many many more.
Jon Orr: Register for this year’s summit at makemathmoments.com/summit. Listening to this episode after November 17th, 2019, you can still head to makemathmoments.com/summit to add your name to the wait list for the next Make Math Moments virtual summit.
Kyle Pearce: Go on ahead. Head on over to makemathmoments.com/summit.
Jon Orr: In order to ensure you don’t miss out on our new episodes as they come out each Monday morning, be sure to subscribe on iTunes or on your favorite podcast platform.
Kyle Pearce: Also if you’re liking what you’re hearing, please share the podcast with colleague and help us read a wider audience by leaving us a review on iTunes and tweet us your biggest take away while also tagging @makemathmoments on Twitter.
Jon Orr: Show notes and links to resources from this episode can be found at makemathmoments.com/episode47. Again that’s makemathmoments.com/episode47.
Kyle Pearce: Well, until next time, I’m Kyle Pearce.
Jon Orr: And I’m Jon Orr.
Kyle Pearce: High Fives for us.
Jon Orr: And high fives for you.
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