Faculty of Education

Faculty of Education
Faculty of Education

MSTE Group Visiting Scholar

Dr. Egan Chernoff Shares His Experience with Using Social Media for Mathematics Education

Professor Egan standing behind the "Queen's University" sign on Union and University.

Mathematics, Science and Technology Education (MSTE) Group Visiting Scholar from the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Egan Chernoff, an ardent user of social media for mathematics education, lectured to our nearly 700 teacher candidates, met with faculty, staff and graduate students, and covered a number of classes this week. He offered an overview of his use of social media for education, with mathematics and the teaching and learning of mathematics providing the subject area context and examples. Throughout the week, Dr. Chernoff talked about different social media platforms, “who” is using “what,” and his own use of social media over the past four years (including, what he calls, MatthewMaddux debris). He also explained what social media has taught him about the teaching and learning of mathematics, how he has been able to keep up to date with the Canadian Math Wars and the option of being asocial (have followers, but not following anyone) on social media.

Social media was originally a hobby for Dr. Chernoff. Since he was “hesitant” to create a professional Facebook account, “MatthewMaddux” was born in 2008 (read the name quickly, it makes sense!). MatthewMaddux moved into the Twitterverse in 2009, mainly to “keep his students connected” outside the classroom, and then onto several other social media platforms shortly thereafter (Google+, Tumblr, Delicious, StumbleUpon, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Academia, Second Life).

In this process, Dr. Chernoff realized that his use of social media was fulfilling, what he believes, is a new form of service as an assistant professor – he was, in fact, digitally serving the academic community, his university, college and department and the public at large.

Currently, Dr. Chernoff’s main goals are to share information, rather than build community or engage in conversation (which is why many people take to social media), and to promote his own research. He acts as a “digital curator” for mathematics education, and has created a digital repository for online information on Tumblr, a microblogging platform and social networking site. He posts between fifty and a hundred times per month on his blog MatthewMaddux Education, which has approximately 1000 visitors per month.

Dr. Chernoff uses his own customized series of RSS feeds (e.g., from websites, listservs, Google News, Google alerts, email alerts, social media aggregators, etc.) to “sift through all of the ‘noise’ looking for mathematics education ‘signals’.” He then shares the signals that resonate with him (for various reasons) on various platforms (Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+) so his followers can “pick their poison.”

A savvy social media user, Dr. Chernoff knows how to do this efficiently. He explained how all Tumblr posts are automatically pushed to Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn and how all Twitter posts are automatically pushed to Facebook.

In person, Dr. Chernoff is anything but asocial; however, he has made the choice to be asocial online and is completely devoted to his professional role as curator. He doesn’t actually follow anyone on Twitter, and he doesn’t post about what he had for lunch. While his choice is to confine his use of social media to curating, Dr. Chernoff noted that it is possible to be asocial in the opposite way on social media, that is, you can follow different people to gather information, but not post anything yourself.

Dr. Chernoff pointed out that the “social component of social media is not always a good thing” and that the anonymity associated with comments is a huge issue. For example, Popular Science no longer accepts comments and, in the near future, Dr. Chernoff will no longer accept comments at MatthewMaddux Education. With regard to the future, he also predicted that “digital service will probably be expected of university professors in the future.”

Clearly from Twitter, students, faculty and staff appreciated combination of Dr. Chernoff’s experience, his asocial approach to social media, and social approach to meetings. To quote some of our tweeps:

“Everyone in this room already loves @MatthewMaddux because he is encouraging us to use our devices. #MSTE

“A prof that encourages us to USE our cellphones and laptops, you have my attention. @MatthewMaddux #MSTE

@MatthewMaddux great lecture @queensu today! #TweetingDuringLecture

In fact, Dr. Chernoff has used a social media platform to Storify his visit to Queen’s, ‘MatthewMaddux visits the MSTE Group at Queen's University’.

Thanks to Dr. Chernoff for sharing his experience, expertise, and encouragement!