It kind of bugs me when I read posts like this and I have concerns about the thinking behind posts like this and this. But before anyone thinks I am taking potshots at these worthy and well meaning folks, think about my point of view here...
... where if face to face is such a big deal, why bother reading and interacting with someone who you are almost certainly never going to meet? Isn't that the whole point about the potential of social media? Connecting to new people, new ideas, collaborating on the basis of shared interests - it doesn't need a f2f meetup to make it all "real", does it?
My chain of thoughts started last year when this sentence from a Steve Dembo post created an itch in my brain:
Warlick looking around the room during the first session and commenting that he was sitting in the middle of his aggregator!
I know that my aggregator would be impossible to ever assemble in one room. I then read a brain teasing post from Ryan Bretag that spawned a comment that has evolved into this post. My parting sentence there went like this:
The way I see it, edubloggers (or tweeters or ningers) are all parts of a very complex ecosystem and how we interact with each other and the conversations we have without ever meeting are more important to re-shaping our worldview and impacting the students and colleagues we work with.
Then last week, I read this post from Lisa Parisi and almost left a comment. Don't get me wrong - I really enjoyed and valued her reflective post. There were only a few sentences there that tie in with this topic.
I knew going to NECC that I was most excited about meeting face to face people in my network. What I didn't realize was just how important that face to face contact is. Jo McLeay is someone I follow in twitter and communicate with at times. But meeting at NECC got us talking about a collaboration. Now we have a plan for a really cool project that will fit in nicely with our geography unit in the fall. I doubt this would have happened without meeting f2f.
(Full disclosure - I have actually met Jo McLeay f2f. But it didn't alter my perspective of her because she is such an authentic writer.) But my thoughts were not coherent (maybe still not) and then Lisa left a comment on my blog and I thought any comment from me might come across as being inconsiderate and dismissive of her point of view. But essentially, it was the same thing that really bothered me. There seems to be an extremely high value placed on a face to face meeting with someone in your network. I'm just wondering if we as adults are struggling with a new paradigm shift - from the f2f workplace (known as school) to the real world where people can and do communicate and collaborate without ever meeting in person. The paranoia in my mind is fuelled by the dawning possibility that maybe online networked educators will place a higher value on the writings, ideas and resources from someone they have "actually met f2f" and ignore others. This was confirmed by a worrying comment on Lisa's post from Susan RoAne, author/professional speaker (her description, not mine) who wrote:
Your enthusiasm and energy are palpable. As a former teacher, I read your blog with some envy. During my days in the classroom, there was no internet to connect us before we met face to face with colleagues who were strangers.
As author of the forthcoming, Face to Face: How To Reclaim the Personal Touch in a Digital World, you validated the premise of my book. With all our online, digitals options, connecting in- person is in-credible.
So, the whole purpose of the internet is to connect people who will inevitably meet face to face? That would make global collaborative projects for students kind of pointless, wouldn't it? Maybe, hermits like me only deserve an aggregator of under a dozen feeds.
Anyway, sort of proving my point just in time, this Tweet from Dean Groom popped up and sort sums up why I think that placing that there is a problem with over-emphasising the f2f interactions that evolve from our networks. For me, meeting someone who I "follow" f2f is the cherry on the cake but it is definitely not the actual cake.
I think we still have a way to go with online communication in order to be able to ‘read’ someone. The reality is that f2f you have the added advantage of body language, intonation, facial expressions etc. which may just make a difference to the message.
I greatly value my online colleagues but there is no denying that f2f contact has the possibility of being more in-depth, or certainly more extensive. I don’t feel it’s essential to meet those with whom I communicate, but lie you feel it would be the cherry on the cake, and a most welcome opportunity. I’d hate to think of us relying on online communication – I think we need both sorts.
Pam, I agree with what you are saying. I will definitely take any opportunity to meet up with people from my network. But these online connections are a new thing and do work without f2f interaction. A lot can be gained from a Skype conversation, and words can work if the two parties are prepared to keep asking and clarifying. I keep thinking back to my online wiki project with Doug Noon and how we hammered so much out via email. We only spoke on Skype for the first time the day prior to being guests on Teachers Teaching Teachers – and I felt that our thoughts and experiences aired during that conversation mirrored our perceptions expressed in written form.
I suppose I feel somewhat threatened by the fact that many edubloggers have a heightened awareness of each other after meeting f2f and that voices like mine will fall out of the conversations. However, if someone will judge a blog post on who wrote it rather than the ideas it is proposing, then maybe I’d be better off without that interaction. I suppose that my discomfort just means that I need to be a bit more ruthless about who on my network is providing me with authentic food for thought. And if my words aren’t cutting the mustard for others, then maybe they should be hitting “unsubscribe” to TGZ button.
Graham, I think you misunderstood what I wrote in my blog. If you have been reading my blogs from the past, you would have seen that I have had many opportunities to collaborate with teachers I will probably never meet. In fact, I won two awards – one for a project completed with Allanah King, in New Zealand, and one for a project completed with Brian Crosby and 12 other teachers from around the world. Allanah and I have conversed many times and have never come f2f. Brian and I met at NECC after winning the award. Both Brian and Allanah connected with me online in a powerful way. This led to our collaboration. I also participate in webcasts through EdTechTalk. I have made some powerful connections and set up some collaborations there and never met any of those people prior to NECC. I do not think that collaboration can only come from f2f meetings.
However, sometimes a f2f gels people. Jo McLeay and I were sort of passing connections. We followed each other’s tweets and occasionally commented about them. I really doubt that much would have come of that. Meeting at NECC strengthened our relationship enough for us to say we wanted to work together. Sometimes, you just need to meet to get a connection. And that’s what NECC did for me.
Fair enough – I am very happy to be corrected. It appears that we are on the same page – this would be the point where I admit that I haven’t been reading your blog long enough to know about the other project work!
But the comment that I highlighted under your post seemed to confirm my misgivings and there seems to be an undercurrent of that point of view in some of the other posts that I referenced.
Hmmm… that offer you mentioned back at your blog may need some serious consideration. How old are Grade Fives?
I’ve been pondering this whole aspect of meeting people in our networks f2f myself.
As you say meeting f2f is cherry on the cake. The main reason opportunities arise from f2f meetings is because provide extra opportunities to engage more deeply in the conversations. While I have meet several people f2f I also realize majority in my network I will never get an opportunity to meet. The downside of my interactions online have increased my awareness of how geographically isolated I am here in Perth.
What if we think of this from a different perspective? If the highlight of these conferences is meeting people, and social media should alleviate the need to meet everyone, maybe the actual problem is the lack of value, or perceived value, in these types of conferences.
Jen, this is certainly a different angle to consider. I know that the idea of gathering online network members together specifically to meet and enjoy each others’ company is not new – it didn’t take a specific conference to organise the TALO Swapmeets of 2005 and 2007 – the meet up became the event, which is really the point Ryan Bretag was making in the post I referenced above. Of course the 2006 and 2008 events in NZ and Thailand became unconference travelling roadshows known as FLNW (Future of Learning in a Networked World).
In the end, my blog post was more about my own insecurities and some of attempt to present an alternative viewpoint to conference posts dominated by who was being spoken with as opposed to what was being spoken about. But I’m not the only one who’s made this observation. David Jakes made a similar observation in his highly-commented-on post when he wrote:
It is just that I would not want the awesome things we can create together online to be of lesser value than more traditional exchanges of information and ideas when f2f. This is new ground for education (still) and we don’t need to hang on to old perceptions to make it more valuable. Online network communication of the type experienced in the education sphere is a high value commodity just as is.