Best individual blog: Shawn Cornally’s Think Thank Thunk
Shawn’s blog arrived on the scene in Februrary 2010, and has quickly won over the math teacher blog community. He’s a staple read. Why? Clearly he’s a compelling writer, with posts chock full of quotations inspiring enough to lift and emblazon on classroom banners. But it’s more than that — than the inspiration dripping from every post for the readers to hold out our cupped hands and collect. It’s that Shawn arrived on the scene with a simple philosophy about the classroom, and built a whole curricular and assessment-based regime around it. The philosophy is this: LET KIDS LEARN! GIVE THEM FREEDOM AND THEY WILL LEARN TO THRIVE. This philosophy lends itself perfectly to Standards Based Grading, and his work, coupled with Dan Meyer, Matt Townsley, and others, have led to a wholesale shift in the math edublog community. At the very least, spearheaded by Shawn, Standards Based Grading led to serious, questioning, and respectful conversations around the nature of assessments. And for some of us, it has led to a wholesale reorientation of how we view the classroom and how we think about learning. Did I mention that Shawn only started blogging in February 2010? His blog is a Tour de Force.
Best individual tweeter: David Cox / @dcox21
Reason: He’s always there, and his snarkiness is always on, ready to go! If you need any convincing, check out any of these “Favorite Tweet” posts. He also tweets about teaching.
Best new blog: Shawn Cornally’s Think Thank Thunk
Reasons: listed above
Best resource sharing blog: Mimi’s I Hope This Old Train Breaks Down
Reasons: I don’t think Mimi gets the recognition she deserves. She has created countless amazing resources for her classroom, and shares them. These worksheets and activities are inspiring enough that… well, let me put it this way… she teaches Geometry, and I dread the day that I have to teach Geometry, but knowing I have Mimi’s stuff at hand makes me think teaching it could almost be fun.
Best teacher blog: Kate Nowak’s f(t)
Reasons: Kate is our Fairy Blogmother. Her blog doesn’t have a singlular focus, but that’s part of its charm. Kate blogs about whatever, and not knowing what’s coming next is part of the appeal. One post might be on special right triangles in dollar bills, and the next her trying to work through the muck and mire of Standards Based Grading. Kate also spends time drawing new people into the blogging community, and she even wrote a post on how to start a math teacher blog that I dare say spawned quite a few new faces in our expanding circle. Her blog is a perennial staple, read and admired by all.
Best use of a PLN: Riley Lark and his Conference on Soft Skills
Reason: Riley Lark created what I think is the first Virtual Conference for the online math teacher community. In general most of the posts that we write, and read, deal with curriculum — and how we get our kids to know it, and how we know they know it. Riley saw a gap in the conversations. We don’t talk about those other things we do as teachers to be effective: those things we do to connect with students so they know we’re there for them, and we want them to be there for us. The relationship building that goes on in the classroom… we all do it tacitly. He asked us to make explicit what we do implicitly. This conference started with 5 “speakers” and blossomed into 17 “speakers,” each writing with our own voice. Riley called upon our PLN and our PLN responded.
Lifetime achievement: Dan Meyer’s dy/dan
Reason: He’s part of the first generation of math teacher bloggers. His cause celebres have changed, but his overarching goal is the same: to get others to think about ways to engage students in the classroom. From focusing on design, to focusing on assessing, to focusing on his What Can You Do With This (WCYDWT) series, to focusing on pseudocontext, Dan has asked provocative questions since 2006. He asks teachers to re-look at what we’re teaching, and asks us to pique the curiosity of our students. Specifically, his mantra (though he has never put it this way) is don’t put the cart before the horse. Don’t teach the concept and the method of solution, without motivating the need for the concept. Grab your students’s curiosity by showing them they need a concept, so they want to learn the concept. And let me tell you, it is easier said than done… but Dan makes it look effortless. He has inspired the second wave of math teacher bloggers, which have since inspired the third wave. Yes, in online terms, 2006 – present is a lifetime.