May 13 Day 66: Synchronicity

Access, community and MAA Connect were apparently on several people’s minds and for some reason they decided to find me today.

First was an email query from a long time member, asking about why the Mathematical Association of America has moved away from listserves in favor of MAA Connect, the association equivalent of a course management platform. And though I wasn’t directly involved in the decision or implementation, I thought carefully about the question. After some technical details, I responded with (and truly believe) the following:

The hope is Connect can be a place to build community. The “Online Teaching and Distance Learning” Community was started in response to the pandemic. It was a place for mathematicians (MAA members and nonmembers alike) to share ideas on how to transition to emergency remote teaching. 

It provides a way for members of a Section to interact without it being an “official message” approved by HQ. And the fact that it links to the membership database, means the updates to community memberships for SIGMAAs, Committees, and Sections, happens automatically.

Much of MAA’s IT infrastructure is outdated. We can’t keep doing things the same way because at some point, those ways will no longer work. Right now, I am working on an 8 year old laptop—when it has to be replaced, I will consider the best possible investment of my resources. Whatever I get will probably be much better than what I am working with and contain functionalities I didn’t think I wanted or know I needed. MAA Connect wasn’t about being enthralled by a new shiny object but a well-considered decision made over several years.

I for one am grateful for it during the pandemic. It has connected many people and been a place of support and community. I hope that when we return to “normal”, it will still be used for that purpose. Many of our members are geographically isolated or don’t have support to attend meetings. Connect can be a source of support for them and others moving forward.

Then after my email response, I saw this tweet from @DrBrandyMath:

It’s good to see my beliefs confirmed and the MAA’s efforts appreciated. I will definitely pop into the karaoke night happy hour and lurk. I do not think I am brave enough to sing. If you are interested in joining, look for the Happy Hour invitation on “the Connect.”

Published by Jenny Quinn

Mathematician. Mother. Wife. Leader. I am a professor of mathematics at the University of Washington Tacoma. Mother of Anson and Zachary. Wife to Mark. President of the Mathematical Association of America.

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