Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reflections on Social Media at the Affiliate Leaders Conference - July 26-28, 2013

This leadership conference was organized mostly to see how social media can help increase the current NCTM membership and encourage new teachers to join NCTM and affiliate groups. One way to make organizations more responsive to young teachers is to take advantage of open source resources like Facebook and teacher blogs. They are avenues that are freely available. NCTM President, Linda Gojak made reference to research indicating that teachers don’t join organizations until they are in their 30s. Since membership fees seem to be barriers to young teachers, One way to encourage membership is to offer discounted membership to young teachers or have no membership fees at all. One conference participant mentioned to me that ‘free’ would create the perception of lower quality. But this doesn’t have to be the case if conferences and other events that require a fee pay the bills. My sense was that most of the affiliate leaders at this conference were not willing to give up on membership fees but were willing to make a serious effort to help young teachers join. Since many of the young teachers are already knowledgeable of the social media resources, they don’t feel  the need to join a group. The challenge for NCTM and their affiliate groups is to use social media in a compelling way. Membership would not be an obstacle if NCTM & its affiliates offered something that young teachers wanted to buy. Starbucks, for example, doesn't have a young people shortage at their counters. Of course you can't compare a Frappuccino with math support; I’m not suggesting that one should, but what is it about the purpose of buying such an expensive food item? (Clay Christensen writes about how a milk shake is a popular drink for people commuting to work and school because it keeps them occupied longer than other foods.*) Learning about how to become a better teacher can be something that young people would buy if is relevant to their needs. Our organizations need to be better connected to the social media to attract teachers to participate at a level they can afford. Schools need to be better places for teachers to learn about exciting things to do. Bloggers now provide these kind of resources for free. Schools and organizations that support the teaching and learning of math need to learn from these structures how to best to provide staff development. There is a hidden curriculum at work in many schools where the teachers are crafting their professional development through open source venues. Supporting young teachers would be much easier if we help them expand their network of communication. Open source materials and teacher blogs are excellent ways to do that. Schools need to become better integrated learning communities that learn both from and with open source resources. Supporting this need should be an important role for NCTM and its affiliates.

*“Rethinking Student Motivation Why understanding the ‘job’ is crucial for improving education
Clayton M. Christensen,  Michael B. Horn, and Curtis W. Johnson