A Blog Around The Clock

Continuing with the tradition from last two years, I will occasionally post interviews with some of the participants of the ScienceOnline2010 conference that was held in the Research Triangle Park, NC back in January. You can check out previous years’ interviews as well: 2008 and 2009.

Today, I asked Maria Droujkova to answer a few questions.

Welcome to A Blog Around The Clock. Would you, please, tell my readers a little bit more about yourself? Where are you coming from (both geographically and philosophically)? What is your (scientific) background?

i-77e4c6c9f663b4f2688ee514f09b2923-MariaD pic.jpgAt any given time, I typically work on multiple mathematics education projects, as a leader or as a consultant. Geographically, I have connections with North Carolina, where I’ve been living for a while, and also Dusseldorf, Germany, New Orleans, LA, Moscow, Russia and Crimea, Ukraine – places where I lived and worked before. Philosophically, “progressor” from an old Russian science fiction book series, someone who facilitates progress, is close to my self-image. I visualize social changes around mathematics, and then work on making them happen. The main current directions of changes are helping children make their own mathematics, Math 2.0, and community-centered learning.

Tell us a little more about your career trajectory so far: interesting projects past and present?

In the early 2000s, I started or led several large and central blog and forum parent and educator communities on early childhood education in runet (Russian internet). My main English site naturalmath.com started in 1996 with a few pages on multiplication, paradoxes and learner rights, and has been growing since then. I have been interested in game development since 2003, had a DoED grant to support some R&D for Natural Math and consulted for others. I am currently building a framework for math game development, including a taxonomy of math game mechanics and a game classification. Since mid-nineties I’ve been leading family Math Clubs of various types, with thousands of families involved over these years. I am leading six Clubs and unClasses right now, exploring grid and coordinate reasoning with 5-6yo, infinity with 7-9yo, and physics computer modeling, as well as Wonderland art math, with tweens and teens. In 2009, I started Math 2.0 Interest Group, with activities that include software development, conferences, weekly webinars, and asynchronous discussions. I defended a doctoral dissertation about metaphors in math in 2004, and continue to develop a metaphor-based theory of mathematical learning. I also have a MS in Applied Math, and even though I have not worked as a research mathematician since the nineties, having focused on education, I feel my understanding of relatively high-level mathematics is a particular strength.

What is taking up the most of your time and passion these days? What are your goals?

There are five parts to my Natural Math Theory of Change: Mathematical Authoring, Psychology of Mathematics Education, Humanistic Mathematics, Executable Mathematics, and Community Mathematics. All of these directions come up in every project I do. Here are some immediate goals:
– Publish “The book of the Club” for every Math Club session we have, inviting all members to actively co-author, of course.
– Start and finish two collaborative Online Family Studies this Spring: Early Algebra and Multiplicative Reasoning, publish these two book drafts once people in the studies react/contribute/develop them
– Organize Math Online 2011, a conference for the Math 2.0 Interest Group
– Restructure naturalmath.com (yet again)
– Present the math game design framework at a conference, and get a couple of articles about it in print
– Start Math Fairs, global, collaborative (non-competitive) series of math events for families and Math Clubs

What aspect of science communication and/or particular use of the Web in science interests you the most?

– Citizen science
– Math 2.0
– Apprenticeships for kids, opportunities for participation in real communities of practice
– Community building for social change

How does (if it does) blogging figure in your work? How about social networks, e.g., Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook? Do you find all this online activity to be a net positive (or even a necessity) in what you do?

– Blogging is something I did a lot in early 2000s, but not as much anymore. I comment on a few blogs and I hosted a Carnival event last year, ironically, on a wiki.
– I mostly use Google Groups and wikis for my projects, because of the number of voices involved, and the network structure (definitely not “one to many”).
– I am active in many Nings, wikis, Twitter hashtag networks, Facebook and LinkedIn communities.

To answer the last question, I think of myself as living online. So the “net positive” question is isomorphic to asking if my life has a meaning. I surely hope so!

What was the best aspect of ScienceOnline2010 for you? Any suggestions for next year? Is there anything that happened at this Conference – a session, something someone said or did or wrote – that will change the way you think about science communication, or something that you will take with you to your job, blog-reading and blog-writing?

I liked meeting people – that was the best for me. Also, the inspiration for Math Online 2011 was great. “Citizen science” is a phrase I have not even heard before, but it fits quite a few of my projects and those I find valuable, so I’d like to nominate it as one of the more significant content items.

As for suggestions, I would like to see several mindmaps, created by and for participants, and helping me to visualize the group as a whole. I envision them both as big pieces of paper on the wall (quaint, I know), and online entities we are all invited to edit. Here are some I want:

Interests – areas – fields – names
Online communities – areas – examples we love (and who is active in each)
Projects – area tags – leaders – active people – those who want to participate (this may be a table, rather than a concept map)

So, for example, I’d like to see what projects are active in citizen science, who the leaders are, and who at the conference is involved. Or, more generally, who is interested in a particular science area.

It was so nice to see you again and thank you for the interview.