It’s been about a week since I arrived home from TMC16, and I’ve had a great time watching conversations linger and develop on Twitter. Normally after these conferences, I find myself in a state of equal parts inspiration and desperation, full of great ideas but paralyzed by the paths before me. This time around, I went in with a deliberate strategy about how to handle new ideas that came at me. I hope to post a reflection post on many of those new ideas, but this tweet from Jasmine is a great prompt for reflecting on that process itself, and I’m too lazy to break it up into 140 characters at a time.
This was my first TMC, but I have had similar experiences at the Anja Greer Conference at Exeter and at several Exeter Math Institutes. With so many classes, conversations, flashes of a website, and casual overheard references, I’ve always had some system for capturing new ideas. It usually consisted of taking some notes in Evernote, at times taking some pictures, tweeting here and there. After, I would occasionally page through these notes, but I knew I had never really put a good lid on the experience. As I’ve said before, I’m a pro at creating notes in Evernote, but I’m a failure at reviewing them later.
Organizationally, Trello is a newer tool in my life over the last 1 or 2 years. I use it for my general purpose task and project management, student concerns, student placement (for dept chair stuff), vacation planning, home projects… I could go on. So I started a Trello board for my time at TMC.
If you’re not familiar, Trello works like index cards pinned to a board. Each card created can have images, documents, links, notes, comments, and tags associated. They can also be moved around to different lists on each board.
Here is a look at my TMC16 board
Here is how I would use it by each list…
- Schedule – Just a placeholder for the card with the wiki. I think I originally thought I would make a card for sessions I planned to attend.
- New Ideas – Every time an idea would pop up, I’d immediately make a new card. This was everything from a discussion strategy to a website I’d see in a My Favorite to a conversation I overheard (hence the ahk transformations) to a new idea I had about how to emphasize themes over the 4 year course sequence in our dept. One night I suddenly had an idea come together about one of my core beliefs as an educator, and I got it down in that “I believe” card. This image was from day 3 of TMC16 and that New Ideas list is twice as long as it appears. The color tags connect to themes like discussion, curriculum, social justice, etc. Often, Evernote links would be attached to these with more detailed notes.
- Next Step – As soon as I had a moment to process a New Idea in any way, I would add on a task or direction and move it to Next Step. At least at this point I would know that it was more than just an idea I had to get down.
- To Do – These are tasks I need to take care of right away, at TMC itself.
- Details – This is nuts and bolts stuff for TMC: rental car confirmation, dorm stuff, maps. There are some To Dos in there for some reason.
Now, what next? This is great, but if this board looks the same on Oct 15 as it did on July 21, I’m doing something wrong. So I came up with this workflow:
I won’t dive too deep into these categories except for 2…
- Maybe Later List – This was liberating . It gave me a place to put ideas that I don’t have a need for now (or don’t know what to do with now) but do not want to forget about. In some cases, they were ideas that I want to be mindful of on a daily basis, but don’t want to make into a task. I have set this list to boomerang back to me every month so I can read through and see what I forgot about, what is ready for action, and what doesn’t matter anymore.
- gone – Also pretty liberating. I almost didn’t want to admit that an idea was not relevant for me (since they were all so extraordinary), but in reality they aren’t all going to have a place within my teaching.
To be honest, I feel more at ease about the firehose I drank out of at TMC16 than I have at any other conference. Having this structure in place really allowed me to be present and has given me more direction in these days post-TMC.