A Reflection on 180+ Days of Blogging

After 164 posts spanning 178 days of regular-year school plus 11 days (and counting!) of summer school, I finally feel ready to share what I learned from the experience and why I think daily reflection should be a part of your practice, too.

TL;DR

I wrote a blog post every day this past school year. It was awesome. If you want to make a 180 blog, I recommend: 1) be ok with the fact that not many people will read the blog, 2) include a picture every day, 3) have a routine to remember to take said photo every day, and 4) focus on one detail from your day rather than summarizing the day.

Statistics

Unless you’re a rockstar, your 180 blog will be pretty much you and your mom reading it. That’s ok! To give you a measuring stick, here are my three most popular 180 blog posts of all time:

  1. Day 105: Flappy Bird Physics 146 views all time (93 of which were referred from Frank Noschese’s blog)
  2. Day 118: A Little Knowledge 70 views all time
  3. Day 79: Circuit Sudoku 66 views all time

I don’t get a ton of readers to the 180 blog — maybe 25 views in a day is typical.

Twitter refers 10 times more readers than the next source, search engines. Connect your 180 blog to your Twitter account so they’ll auto-post. I make sure post titles are short and all start with the day number for consistency’s sake.

Efficiency & Routine

Screenshot_2014-06-30-14-26-09Use the WordPress app for your phone. I usually upload the pictures directly from my phone, save the post as a draft, then type your reflection on the computer.

Most 180 blogs feature a classroom picture every day. You should, too because pictures are more interesting than words. I had days where I forgot to take a picture so would recreate something that happened in class, take a picture of student work, or find an image online (in that order) to use. 180 blogs scream for photos.

It’s easy to forget to take photos, so I recommend you come up with a way to remember. Here are a few ideas I’ve used at various times:

  1. Get your students in on the fun by telling them about your blog. Ask them to remind you to take pictures of interesting stuff you do in class.
  2. Set an alarm for some time every day where you’re at least close to doing something interesting.
  3. Carry your phone on your person at all times so you’re prepared to take photos.
  4. Encourage students to take photos and share them with you afterwards.

By the second half of the school year, I entered every class looking for the blog photo. Sometimes, though, we just had some boring classwork going on. That’s when I felt the pressure. I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but I found that those 25 readers per day got me to up my game. Blogs that post a photo and discussion about student work are cool, so that was a fallback for those dull days.

Nice Touches

Be sure to anonymize your kids’ faces. I like Skitch because it has a pixelate tool that I can apply right on my phone. Better yet, get creative about camera angles so faces are never even in the pictures.

Good camera angle = anonymous students.

Good camera angle = anonymous students.

Link to the activities, labs, and assignments you’re describing in the post. I noticed folks would sometimes click on those files. We, your readers, prefer editable documents over PDF. Sharing docs is my small way to give back because some of my favorite lessons have been created from a picture or a few words on the 180 blogs of my friends.

So what do you do if you fall behind as I did for most of April? The way I see it, you have three options: 1) carry on as if nothing happened, picking up at the next day you think about it; b) do a catch-up post as I did; iii) say “screw it” and quit blogging all together. I hope you’ll choose one of the first two options.

What to Write About

I still don’t think something all that interesting happens every single day of my school year. So the trick is to think like a marketer: what one thing would you share from your day in a commercial about how awesome your class is? Even in a dull day, you must’ve seen or done something interesting. I enjoyed sharing organization tricks I appreciate, robotics season updates, and even a small about weather craziness.

My opinion? Don’t summarize the entire day. I think 180 blogs are most successful when they focus on one detail from the day. Also don’t be afraid to think outside the (school) box — that one detail may not happen between 8a-3p.

Reflection

Many 180 bloggers cite daily reflection as their reason to post every day. In fact, my friend Justin reflects more than many mirrors. I’m impressed with his transparency and willingness to hash it out in public. I, however, am way too concerned with public appearances to make that move. Doesn’t mean I’m not reflecting — I found myself reflecting as I was writing, even if the text didn’t make it onto the blog.

Yes, there were horrible days of me trying to wing it with poorly planned materials. Instead of sharing that with the world, I opted to find one good thing in every day to share with you. This is based loosely on the inspiration I get over at the One Good Thing blog.

If this post inspires you to start a 180 blog, would you do me the favor of posting your URL as a comment here?

Where’s a New Math Teacher to Turn?

I offered at last night’s #globalmath meeting to share some of my favorite resources and had several takers in my email inbox this morning. Here’s what I shared:

First, there’s Welcome to the Mathtwitterblogosphere, which is meant as an introduction to folks who want to get involved in online PD with Twitter, blogging, and the like. After that, we did a Blogging Initiation . The participants’ RSS feeds are amazing resources. Julie even sorted the blogs by subject taught.

Last night, Justin shared a list of summer PD opportunities (it’s 2 years old, so buyer beware).

What are your interests within math? Of course, some of that will be dictated by your class assignments in the spring… However, here are my top 5 blogs that aren’t already “famous”:

  1. @approx_normal’s blog. Keywords: student teaching, statistics, games, hilarious.
  2. Julie Reulbach at I Speak Math. Keywords: middle school, games, organization.
  3. Timon, another #globalmath regular, blogs at Embrace the Drawing Board. Keywords: lessons, 3act problems, relevant.
  4. (Kristen) Fouss blogs at My Web 2.0 Journey. Keywords: precalculus, algebra 2, practical.
  5. Mr. Vaudrey is the creator of the famous Mullet Lesson writes at Mr. Vaudrey. Keywords: lessons, hilarious, practical.

There’s a lot out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Back off the consumption when it feels like too much — it’s totally ok to mark all Tweets and RSS feeds as “read” if it seems daunting.

New Blogger Initiation — Week 4 of 4

aka, “The Finish Line”

I teach math; that’s my job; I have no other responsibilities…. 

Kevin Laxton (@LaxtonMath) | A Beginner’s View of Math Education

So this week, for the new blogger initiative, I’m just going to post whatever I want! Boosh.

As it turns out, teaching math is not my only job responsibility. And in this case, that turns out to be a pretty cool thing.

It’s about problem solving

Pamela Rawson | rawsonmath

We had a great discussion about how different assumptions can lead to different, valid results.

I wanted to record how starting this year’s math classes was different from years past. Using problem solving to set the tone was a really good choice. This blog post will help me remember how things went when my colleagues and I next discuss problem solving. Sure it took up a whole class, but it was time well spent.

Having a rough day at school? Watch Taylor Mali

Pam Rissmann | PPerfect Squares

I am a big fan of former teacher Taylor Mali’s slam poetry.

Have you heard and seen Taylor Mali, the awesome slam poet who inspired 1000 followers to become teachers? He was a teacher for 9 years, and he dedicates much of his performances to the nobility and passion of teaching young people.

Class Participation

Mathaholic | Confessions of a Mathaholic

So I try to engage the students deliberately; when I call on them, I call on the ones who don’t volunteer answers.

This post is about the fact that I use Class Participation as 10% of the student’s grade, and why.

Ninja board – building positive class culture

Jimmy Pai (@PaiMath) | The Pai Intersect

It’s a Ninja Board.

Utilizing the Ninja Board idea to promote positive classroom culture and to promote curiousity. It has evolved from a simple idea to a very powerful and useful motivational tool in the classroom.

Looking for more?

JulieFawnAnneMeganBowmanSamLisaJohnShelliTinaKateSue

New Bloggers to Check Out

I have entries from new math bloggers for our New Blogger Initiative! Several wrote about why they teach and others confront pride in math ignorance, why precalculus is such a mess of topics, and even offer a solution to managing homework.

I can’t believe this was already week 3 out of 4. These bloggers are to be commended for writing an entry every week for nearly a month.

Living The Dream

Pam Rissmann | PPerfect Squares

So at 39 I quit my job, took 3 years off, and in addition to traveling, taking cooking lessons, doing stained glass, learning the piano, I went back to school and got my teaching credential.

Living the Dream is “a short reflection on my path from an engineering career to teaching math at 42 years old. Did I really have a choice?”

“I can’t do math, either.” – a parent

Pamela Rawson | rawsonmath

As a society, we seem to accept a self-proclaimed inability to “do math” as a badge of honor – something to wear with pride.

How do you respond to a parent who says that it’s okay if their child is struggling in your math class because, “I can’t to math, either.”? Smile, breathe, and ask some questions. Have a conversation.

Precalculus Stew

Mathaholic | Confessions of a Mathaholic

I always pitch the hodge-podge nature of precalculus as a positive to my students: “Hey, if you don’t like what we’re doing, there’s always a chance you’ll like what we do next.”

Precalc is a hodge-podge of topics. Why?

Homework Conundrum Solution

MathNinjaTeacher | The Education of Future Math Ninjas

Are you picturing my mound of homework, current, overdue and incomplete, toppling over on my desk?

MathNinjaTeacher’s insane approach to homework and how it has not been working. “I also share what ideas I compiled and my final (hopefully) solution to the homework mess I created this weekend for myself.”

Trying to Get Students to Understand Why Math is Important

Erin Goddard (@ErinYBaker) | Math Lessons on the Loose!!

They learn not just about a topic they are interested in, but they also see the force of using math to form facts and backbone to an argument.

From Erin, “I have a class that is notorious for asking the questions “Why do I need to learn this [math]?” In this blog, I post a lesson I do at the beginning of this Algebra class that attempts to get them to see the role math can plan in making decisions and forming arguments.”

Why Do I Teach?

Lori Ferrington (@loferrington) | Shift(ed)ucator

I will do it for the kids…because without them, I wouldn’t be teaching at all.

Troubling times in Lori’s district have prompted her to reassess why she teaches. In the end, she found that the reason has not changed: for the kids.

Math Misconceptions Malady

That Math Lady (@thatmathlady) | That Math Lady

[Math Misconceptions Malady], which commonly impacts a student’s ability to successfully solve math problems and – gulp – like math, stems from years of misconceptions being formed by parents, students and even – bigger gulp – teachers.

The doctor is in! This post discusses 4 common misconceptions in the math classroom and suggests “treatment” for each misconception.

Is this important?

Mary Dooms | Curiouser and Curiouser

Here I thought making up a humanitarian word problem was all that’s needed.

Kids ask “is this important?” when we fail to: 1) connect the curriculum to personal interest. 2) connect it to the students’ life ambitions 3) encourage the application of knowledge with challenging tasks using decision making, problem solving, experimental inquiry, and investigation. Marzano’s research is helping me become a better teacher.

Who else is featuring new bloggers in the Math Blogging Initiation?
JulieFawnAnneMeganBowmanSamLisaJohnShelliTinaKateSue

New (Math!) Bloggers

Modeling Data with Radical Functions

Ms. Philosoraptor | Normalcurvasaurus

I created this worksheet/problem for students to work on as an application of radical functions because I don’t like telling students the only reason they are learning a certain topic is that it will be on the test or they will need it in later mathematics courses.

This post is about a worksheet I created that deals with radical functions; specifically taking the square root of a function when you are given either the graph of a function or the function itself.  This topic can seem very abstract and so I wanted to create a worksheet with a topic that would appeal to students (Modeling a vehicle accident) that presents the concept of radical functions in a more concrete way.

Finding your distance traveled with speeds

Kaleb Allinson | To Accumulate a Rate — Integrate

It’s hard to hold my iPad and drive at the same time.

Sometimes you come across a project that you love to do with your class. If you come across a way to teach that concept differently that eliminates your project are you willing to let it go? In this post Kaleb considers whether or not to change up how he has students internalize Reimann sums and the idea of accumulating rates.

What Every First-Year Teacher Should Know

Pamela Rawson | rawsonmath

Today’s students have to learn different skills than what you learned when you were in high school.

A few words of advice from a seasoned veteran who has learned from her own mistakes. This is the advice I give myself at the beginning of every school year.

Bring Your Own Device

vanvleettv | Everything’s Rational

They love technology more than a southerner loves okra.

This post is about my district’s new Bring Your Own Device policy and my thoughts on it. There are also some different websites that you may or may not know that could be interesting to use in your classroom.

My favorite lesson to teach: slope intercept form

Anna (@Borschtwithanna) | Borscht With Anna

I love days when I feel like the students are running the classroom and I see intrinsic engagement.

Students are introduced to slope-intercept form through patterns of tiles and then see linear equations as models of motion over time. They see the parts of the equation y = mx + b as having meaning in patterns and motion and understand why graphs and tables of linear equations look the way they do.

NBI Week 2 — LaTeX Course Brainstorm

Andrew Knauft (@aknauft) | Limsoup

I want to invite students whose interests range from studying the origins of Okra to composing Hemmingway-esque Six-Word-Stories.

I’ve been spending a lot of my summer mulling through ideas for how to teach a course on LaTeX for undergraduates. By this time I hoped to have some course materials completed, but I’m still stuck brainstorming.

Taming the Homework Beast

Pam Rissmann | PPerfect Squares

I believe I was hiking, which I so desperately wanted to do more of, when I designed the “Homework Summary Sheet“.

My post outlines a sheet I use to track homework, bellwork, and student reflections and feedback.  I created it a few years ago when I was overwhelmed with my homework grading load. It has saved me a ton of time, and it provides a lot of insight on my students.

“When the Going Gets Tough…”

Wesley (@wp202) | Intervals of Convergence

Reflecting on past tough experiences in the classroom (and some good heartfelt prayer!) help me to focus on the positive, acknowledge the good I have done and will continue to do in the classroom, and, ultimately, refocus my attitude and perspective to where it needs to be.

My toughest times in the classroom are usually when I lose perspective of why I’m there and start focusing on the less important.  Reflecting on my past experiences, with their positive outcomes (or not), helps pick me up off the mat and refocus my attitude.

Functions from the start

Beth | in stillness the dancing

I plan to use these two activities during the first week!

Our first unit in freshman Algebra 1 is an introduction to functions.  I’ve posted two activities I plan to use in the first week.

Roundup!

Julie, Fawn, Anne, Megan, Bowman, Sam, Lisa, John, @druinok, Tina, Kate, Sue

New (Math) Blogger Initiative/Challenge

Sam Shah has challenged math teachers to blog with a one month challenge. The response has been amazing! Here are just 8 of the approximately 100 posts submitted this week.

Matt Moran @matthewpmoran  Maximize Interest.

First post! Blog Begins: A Maximization Problem

Author’s comments: “I wrote about my struggles with committing to blogging, my love of blogs, my recommitment to blogging and the inspiration for my new blog and its title (from someone’s else blog). blog blog bloggedy blog.”

Memorable quote: “What do you maximize?”

Jimmy Pai @PaiMath  The Pai Intersect.

First post! Spiraling through the curriculum

Author’s comments: “This upcoming year I plan on teaching classes completely through activities using the spiraling idea. I imagine that the core of my classes are still the same (i.e. group-oriented, activity driven), but the difference would lie in how I structure the activities. Assessment and evaluation would also be different, which would be an interesting task.”

Memorable quote: “Mathematical concepts are not only natural consequences of the activities – the students want, need, and enjoy learning about them.”

Frank McGowan  Finding the Process.

First post! Be explicit & be less helpful

Author’s comments: “When do I need to fall back and let my students struggle and when do I need to be direct? Save their energy for problem solving and provide the tools to decode expectations.”

Memorable quote: “Countless possibilities exist but, time after time, language is found as a culprit.”

Evan Weinberg @emwdx gealgerobophysiculus.

First post! Standards Based Grading – All In, for the new year

Author’s comments: “I’ve been a version of standards based grading (without the name) for a couple years in the form of quiz grades. To be honest, it has been wussy, non-committal, and hasn’t worked as designed for the past few years I’ve used it. Now I’m actually doing it the way everyone says to do it, and I’m feeling pretty good about how it is changing my planning for the year.”

Memorable quote: “If I really believe in the power for standards based grading to transform how learning happens in my classroom, I need to demonstrate its importance and commit to it.”

Lisa Nussdorfer @nussder Nussder.

First post! Startup

Author’s comments: “My blog history and starting a new professional blog”

Memorable quote: “So as the summer meanders to a weird finish since I am not revving up for teaching, I saw a twitter post about the blog challenge.”

Chris Rime @chrisrime  Partially Derivative.

First post! New Blogger Initiative: #1

Author’s comments: It’s really hard to pick a good name, knowing that it will be your face to the whole wide internet. After picking my name, it apparently turns out that I’m kinda into puns. Also, orange calculators are the bee’s knees.”

Memorable quote: “I think that act has made me a little more reckless, a little more open to wild and crazy things like orange calculators.”

Malcolm Eckel  Solving Problems.

First post! Teaching Resolution: Stop Talking.

Author’s comments: “My big planned change for this year boils down to “stop talking”. To me, this means being less helpful (thanks Dan Meyer), asking better questions, designing better activities, and explicitly teaching problem solving, all so I can get out of the way and the students can learn on their own terms.”

Memorable quote: “Truly awesome math is like rock climbing – finding the path yourself, but with plenty of ledges to grab on to – and I think math teachers too often build a ladder (I know I do).”

Rachel Tabak @ray_emily  Writing to Learn to Teach.

First post! First Post Ever: About This Blog’s Title

Author’s comments: “In this post, I discuss how I’ve always loved writing – particularly the way that writing helps me to understand my thoughts and my world with more depth and nuance than I might, otherwise. I also talk about my long-term obsession with reading all of the smart things that the many established, amazing bloggers out there have written and shared. I make a public commitment to joining the dialogue, rather than lurking!”

Memorable quote: “This title is, amazingly, a title that inspires me – and that encapsulates what I hope this blog will exemplify.”

Everyone else

Week ONE posts: JulieFawnAnneMeganBowmanSamLisaJohn@druinokTinaKateSue

WordPress app for Facebook

Let’s say you have a blog you want students to read. How do you get them there? Show them RSS readers and encourage them to subscribe? Hope they remember to visit the website regularly? Or, do you put the blog posts in a place where they visit already, say Facebook? I just discovered how to do that last item.

I can now pull my WordPress.com blog posts into my Facebook account. Check out the announcement at Your WordPress Is In My Facebook. I like it because I now automatically “advertise” new blog posts in my Facebook mini-feed.

Get the app here: WordPress.com Facebook App

My Facebook account is mostly about connecting with my students and I don’t currently blog with any of my classes. That means I have to imagine the power of linking a class blog to my Facebook. The students are already in Facebook (as opposed, say, to reading RSS or checking the blog directly), so they’d see posts without changing their routine.

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Blogging Styles Explained

Check out “The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging” below! It’s a great slide show that tells you about the types of blog posts you might create. Have you written an Evangelist Blog post recently? How about a Classified Blog post?

I found the presentation enlightening because the idea of mixing the styles up when I post hadn’t occurred to me. As I plan my schoolwide blog rollout, I will keep this Slideshare in mind.

Hat tip to the Serendipity35 blog for this great link.

Rolling out Blogs Schoolwide?

A huge opportunity came my way this week — my principal asked me to set up blogs for all our teachers. This is so exciting!

I’ve noticed three different types of blogs teachers may be involved in — the professional development blog, the classroom blog, and the student blog. We’re interested in the middle one — where a teacher blogs what’s going on in class for parents and/or students.

My principal thinks the blogs are awesome for publicizing homework and projects. I know, of course, that a good classroom blog can do so much more.

Fortunately, besides this professional development blog, I’ve blogged for a little over a year for a physics class I taught. The students loved when I shared YouTube videos, the parents were thrilled to know what was happening in class, and I turned in the blog posts as my lesson plans which made me ecstatic.

Three other teachers at my school started blogging based on my success.

I’ve posted before about how to blog for the classroom. At that time, I was interested in thinking about how to get new blogging teachers to write great posts that students want to read.

I’ll be responsible for getting classroom blogs set up as a project to introduce to teachers in August. What are your thoughts on my primary questions?

  1. Why and for whom are the teachers blogging? I need a good answer here to recruit believers.
  2. Should every teacher be required to have a blog?
  3. What are the important points to teach new bloggers? If a teacher isn’t already reading blogs, there’s a lot to teach here.

This can be a very exciting time for my school. Class blogging giant Mabry Middle School is located near us and I think we could do well to model ourselves after them. Please leave your feedback for me — I’ll be presenting this in August to the teachers.

Post-Its are the New Medium

I think I’m on to something: Post-It notes make great note presentation media for the web. My classroom blog is designed to include lecture notes for the students — but I didn’t want to have to prepare pages of lecture notes every day.

For a time, I tried putting the notes directly in the blog. Problem is text-only notes are boring to read because nothing pops out at you.

Then, I tried using colored fine-point Sharpies on Post-It notes. The results are beautiful and have a whimsical feel. Not to mention that I get to sketch right there on the note. Examples are below.

I was heavily inspired by the website for a book, No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July as well as this Power Point show by Leisa Reichelt.

How do you present information to students in an eye-catching way?