A world of information is now available at your finger tips, however the content is only part of the picture. The richest experiences I had at the conference weren’t necessarily the speakers and sessions, although everything I participated in was very high quality. I have made notes in my program on particular speakers and concepts that I want to further research as soon as I have the time. The conference allowed me to get a look into some people, research, and programs I was not aware of before. This can happen in many ways and attending the conference is not the only way to do it. However, the dinners and conversations before and after the sessions are hard to replicate in the same way. Some of it can happen via a forum or blog such as this, but not in the same way. Specifically these opportunities, for me consisted of a dinner with ISTE’s Independent School’s SIG (SIG IS) group and the ISEnet Ning group.
I ‘know’ many of these people through online communications and have a sense of who they are, what they stand for and learn from them often. However, there is something very rich about meeting them face-to-face, having very informal conversations and getting a different sense of their personalities. Meeting face-to-face with these people “I know” will enrich the conversations we will continue to have online.
I had this same experience when I worked for Intel one summer as a Faculty Intern. We had a team that worked together from a distance. After we met through video/audio conferencing, our collaborations felt much more rich, personal and productive. The advantage of long-term collaborative work online is incredibly valuable, because it many-times cannot be accomplished any other way. Skype can help with this as you get to see a person’s personality more. It is important to build in the not-on-task conversations that happen spontaneously when we meet off-line if we are collaborating at a distance. We just have to be more deliberate about making it happen.
A last example of this was shared in our (SIG IS) Webinar for the Online School for Girls and our speaker “Clare”, a Senior from Holton Arms, who took a Genetics course. One quality of her teacher that helped make this class a success was the time she spent getting to know the girls personally. A movie night, where they all talked about the movie together online. A collaborative project with a student in Australia and how they are still friends, happened because of the personal discussions along with the project work. Relationships develop at a distance, but it takes time and deliberate effort. When teaching content, we cannot overlook the importance of the personal relationships! I think we all agree that this rings true for the ‘best of the best’ in our face-to-face classrooms as well!
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