That is my number one takeaway from ISTE 2011. For the first time I was able to meet people in person that I had previously met and worked with online. I have interacted with countless educators from all parts of the globe and this ISTE was the first time for me to meet a large number of these people face to face. This experience of meeting these people and connecting with them has taught me three valuable lessons that I plan on bringing into my classroom in the fall.
1. Face to Face is important
While I think the connections we make online are great to have and nurture, it does not replace face to face. Simply shaking a hand and sharing a drink with someone makes a strong connection or solidifies an existing one. As I had lunch on the last day a member of my PLN came up and asked, “can I friend you on Facebook now?” That really sums it up. What started out as professional connections through social media have turned into genuine friendships. While making friends is not necessarily the goal of this conference or of a PLN, it has huge benefits. I am confident these new friends will continue to support me and I will return the favor. Within my classroom I will continue to push technology but always keep that face to face connection as a cornerstone in my class. I will remember to tell my kids to put the laptops down and talk with each other. Relationships are the most important part of powerful learning.
2. We are better together
I have always been a firm believer in the power of groups. We are truly better together as learners. The best conversations I had this week were in small groups at all hours of the day and night. Strength in numbers is a powerful thing. Through our conversations with other educators we gain a new ideas and perspectives. That is not to say we always agree, because we don’t. However, it is in those moments of disagreement that we push our thinking and grow the most. Within my class I will continue to foster the group dynamic and allow kids to work together to push their learning in new and different directions.
3. Play Nice
This one might sound a bit juvenile, but I am serious. There are people online in various forums that are not nice. Now, that is not to say we all need to be best friends but a certain level of professionalism and respect needs to be in place. Just because someone doesn’t agree with us, does not give us the right to berate, condemn, or put others down. We are all learners on a journey with different arrival times. I hope to continue to create an environment where my students support each other and respect each person’s spot on that journey.
ISTE 2011 was truly a great experience and many people I met far exceeded my expectations. I am looking forward to more connections like this and continued learning with my professional learning network on and off line.