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A New Direction for this Space

Back in 2011, when I first created this http://www.mathtothepeople.com, I had primarily intended it to be a space where my tutoring students would go to get information about my tutoring services. Back then, tutoring was my primary source of income, and advertising my business was my primary reason to have a web space. Once I was hired at my current position at the University of the Fraser Valley, I almost abandoned this site, leaving it to exist in largely the same form as it did when I was tutoring full-time. But, now I think it’s time for that to change….

I was inspired to write this post as I was riding the bus back from the CanFlip14 Conference in Kelowna. I came to the conference to learn more about the “flipped classroom”, an innovative model of instruction in which lectures are replaced with videos that the students watch at home and homework is  replaced with interactive activities that happen during class time. While I did learn a fair bit about the “flipped classroom” and other innovative approaches to instruction, the bigger thing that I’m taking home from this conference is the importance of having a PLN (for those who, like me when I arrived at the conference, have no idea what a PLN is – it is an acronym for “Personal Learning Network” – a group of people who you share ideas with in order to help you learn more about how to improve your own teaching). I have learned that if I am to work on improving my teaching and introducing new ideas into my androgogy (I choose not to use the term pedagogy as my students are NOT children), it is much easier to do it in a community than in isolation.

Working in isolation has been how I have spent much of my teaching career. Some of this is due to the academic cultures in which I have worked which have usually valued autonomy over community. Some of this is due to my own experience studying in research-intensive universities in which faculty didn’t really talk to each other about teaching, because they had used up all their social energy talking to each other about their research. And some of it is due to my own fears that, as someone who advocates a very non-traditional approach to university-level education, my teaching innovations wouldn’t be supported by my colleagues. I’m not sure if this is a “grass is always greener” situation, but I sometimes feel that post-secondary math departments tend to take a more traditional approach to curriculum and teaching methods than other departments do.

But, having met other folks at the conference who are working through some of the same things that I am, I am feeling more and more that there are people out there who I can reach out to and who I can learn with. They may not work in the same institution as me, or be teaching the same level of material as me, or be teaching in the same discipline as me, but they have good ideas that I can learn from and I have good ideas that they can learn from. The internet can be a tool not only for building social connections, but also for building professional connections which can give me access to a community so I do not have to break my own trail all the time.

When I think back, it was years ago that I was told that I should create a teaching blog. Back then it was in the context of looking for teaching work and the idea that by sharing my ideas in a blog I could help show prospective employers what I stand for and what I work towards in my classrooms. But, even since I have been regularly employed I have had the same suggestion made by colleagues who felt that I had good ideas to share and believed that having a blog could be a great way to share these ideas with the world.

So, now I have resolved to repurpose this web site to serve as a home for my teaching blog. No longer will the “posts” section of my webpage be solely limited to me making announcements about my tutoring business. I have resolved to make regular posts sharing my ideas an experiences about teaching. I will share my sucesses and failures, my dreams and fears, and hopefully find that there are other people out there who can be inspired by my ideas and others who have suggestions to help me move forward. But, if I don’t put any of this stuff out there, then my ideas don’t have the potential to meet other people’s ideas, to mate and to give birth to litters and litters of wonderful new idea-lings!

So, to make a long story short, welcome to my new blog!




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