Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Power of Face to Face Connections

After a year of making connections with people via the internet, I am keen and curious to meet as many of them as I can face to face.  As it turned out my summer travel plans took me to different parts of the USA and Canada.  In addition some of my on-line friends arrived in Vancouver, my home town.   Me being me, I took full advantage of these opportunities and what a summer I've had.  Face to face connections were plentiful.

Now before I go on I don't want to say, in any way, that the connections I have made with people through my digital world are pretend and require face to face meetings to make them real.  That is so far from the truth.  I truly believe I have real connections with many of these digital friends.    I have been there for them like I am for my non virtual friends. I have listened to their struggles and celebrated their successes just like I do for my off line friends.  To me the people I've been interacting with on twitter for the past year are my friends.  They are real people even if we haven't ever met face to face.

So what was it like meeting these people face to face? As I had previously suspected meeting these  people face to face was fabulous. While I never doubted the connections we had, meeting face to face confirmed everything I was feeling.  There are a lot of really cool people in the world and they get even cooler when you meet them in person.

Now unfortunately I didn't get the chance to meet everyone I was hoping to meet.  Christine Yarzabek the former #1stchat moderator and I were suppose to meet up in Manhattan, and Aviva Dunsiger and I were suppose to meet up in Toronto. Due to a new job commitment and illness these face to face connections never happened.  Obviously I was disappointed (as I think they were too) but to be perfectly honest I wish I had the chance to meet so many more of my twitter friends face to face.  And not to worry I haven't given up trying.

The on-line connections I've made this past year have been very powerful for so many reasons.  These people get me in many ways that my face to face friends don't,  particularly when it comes to me as an educator. I like that, and I need that. I need them because life is so much better for me with them in it. I don't feel nearly as alone professionally with them in my life.

What is really cool about having so many face to face connections this summer is that the tweets I'm reading and sharing with these people have a different meaning now.  I can hear their voices when I read their tweets. I can see their mannerism and like wise they can hear and see mine. It's a very cool feeling.

But how does this affect me as an educator?  How will it affect the way I teach this year?

Last year I taught and learned along side of my globally connected grade one class.  We did projects with schools as far away as New Zealand and Hong Kong and as close as schools down the street.  We were a connected class and I loved every minute of it.

This year we will again be a connected class. We will be involved in global projects where we will collaboratively work and learn wtih other students around the world. We will utlize the digital tools available to us such as our class blog, our class twitter account, skype, facetime or google hang out to  connect with people. None of that is going to change. But what I didn't do last year that I really want to do this year is to have more face to face connections with some of these people.

I've already been talking with some of the grade one classes in my school district about doing a collaborative project together.   I've talked about setting  up a reading conference /skype  time where a couple of my students read and share their reading with a couple of students in another class.  I want the connections to range from the class next door, to the class down the road, to the class across the county, and beyond.  But I want to make sure that there are classes (like those in my school district) that we will eventually be able to meet face to face.  Imagine meeting up at a local park, bringing a favourite book to share and getting to know one another as "real" people.   I really believe having the face to face connections will strengthen our virtual connections too.

So have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone to meet your PLN face to face?  What were your experiences like and did it change the way you looked at your teaching? I'm curious to hear.


  1. It sounds like you had a wonderfull, adventurous summer this year and were able to meet many of your twitter friends. I agree it is very meaningful to make face to face connections with people. Twitter has been great for opening up the classrooms and the possibilities for collaboration with people around the world. It has allowed you to make great connections with many people. I am looking forward to collaborating with you this school year!

  2. Niki I can't wait to have our students work together because our students really should be able to meet face to face I have met a lot of great people via twitter but I've also met awesome teachers in my own district at our edcamp in February. Looking forward to getting more into our possie. Karen

  3. What a great post Karen! As much as we all are diving into the world of online networking and collaboration, you emphasis the immense importance in those face-to-face connections that are needed in the learning and teaching environment. I love your idea of using skype - Particularly when you mention, "I've talked about setting up a reading conference /skype time where a couple of my students read and share their reading with a couple of students in another class." This is very doable and the kids would love it. My students (in grade six class) did this with students in Grade one class in Saskatchewan. It was quite motivating for them! Thanks for sharing these ideas Karen. Your energy and enthusiasm is so appreciated!

    1. Thanks for the feedback Zoe. I really do think I can make this work around different time zones. I have also spoken with many educators who are willing to help my class out. Once you go global you don't go back.