Connecting the dots

24 02 2007

Last night we went out with a group of teachers from school. While we try to avoid talking about school on the weekend, it invariably comes up since we all work together. Last night we had an especially good conversation about technology, specifically blogging, and I realized that these casual conversations are, often times, even more important that the “official” meetings and professional development that we have set up at school. Through our chat last night we discussed so many issues that I know are on the minds of all of our teachers, but they might not bring it up in the school setting.

One of our colleagues was shocked to find out that I had not just one, but several, blogs. He wondered if, by spending so much time online, I would lose the desire to read, and find myself surrounded only by tidbits, factoids and inaccurate information. He knows he wants to start blogging but he doesn’t really understand how or why it could be any better than reading a book (and he was quite obviously shocked to find out that other people would want to read what I write).

Another friend made the observation that by writing about what happens every day I must be retreating from real, live human interaction. She was concerned that having a virtual outlet to discuss big ideas and frustrations would make me less likely to deal with issues in person.

Yet another friend, one who reads my blogs, shared a story about when she was searching for some information about another international school and she actually ended up, through a series of clicks, on my blog. She was amazed to find herself there while conducting an informative search.

Having this casual conversation with friends (only a few of whom I actually work with on a daily basis), outside of the school setting, really allowed all of us to open up and discuss the heart of the issue. Their questions prompted me to think about things in a different way – not just how blogging has improved student learning and my teaching, but how it has impacted my life. My real personal and professional life. What have I been getting out of this blogging experience? Why am I trying so hard to get all of the teachers on board? Not just for the kids, but for us, as adults in the “real world”?

We talked about so many things last night, but the three that really stood out for me are:

1. Blogging has enabled me to make connections that would have been impossible a few years ago. I talk about international schools a lot, because that’s my universe, but it really does amaze me that although we often teach the same (or similar) curricula, we very rarely interact with anyone outside of our own school. I am thrilled at how many international school teachers I’ve connected with in the last few months – and I never would have had the chance to meet any of these people (unless we worked at the same school) without this platform.

internet.pngIt’s fascinating to see the web of connections that just develop naturally. Just before our semester break last year I met Gary Bertoia, a teacher at the American Community School of Abu Dhabi. Through my personal blog, I recently met Jamie McQueen, currently at Cairo American College, but has just accepted a position here in KL next year. Last week I started working with Clay Burell at Korea International School on the 1001 Flat World Tales project, which has also connected me to Jeff Dungan at Carol Morgan School in the DR, which (I’m assuming) prompted a very nice comment on this blog from Mark Picketts, also at CMS. Back in January, when the NextGenTeachers ball started rolling, I was connected to Jeff Utecht at Shanghai American School and Julie Lindsay at International School Dhaka. Also through the NextGenTeachers, I met (actually, in person, met) Justin Medved at International School Bangkok; and while I was there I met Dennis Harter, who also used to work here in KL.

2. Because of these connections, I’ve been able to start several collaborative projects that really will prepare students for the globally collaborative, international assembly-line shape that their future work will probably take (check out the International Teen Life project). These kinds of projects are not only exciting for the students, but they are showing me a new way of being productive and changing the way I work. I am becoming more productive, more thoughtful, more reflective because I have these tools at my fingertips. I am finding more connections between all areas of my life and am able to make these connections real by using web 2.0 tools.

3. And the best one of all: because of these connections, one of my virtual colleagues contacted me about a job opening that I never would have known about otherwise. His e-mail on a Monday prompted us to fly up to Bangkok on Tuesday, call him on Wednesday to set up an interview for Thursday, which led to a school visit on Friday, which ended in a job offer (which I accepted) the following Wednesday. I know networking is important, but it’s months later and I still can’t believe how quickly that all transpired.

All this thinking has got me curious, how have you seen blogging affect your life?

Image 1: http://www.aitsystems.com/images/highway_night_2.jpg
Image 2: http://www.opte.org/maps/static/1069646562.LGL.2D.700×700.png


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8 responses to “Connecting the dots”

    24 02 2007
      Chris Craft (19:59:52) :     

    I got a real kick out of this line

    Does that mean I’m not a real human interacting with you based on the thoughts you’ve jotted down?

    Does that mean we couldn’t strike up a real live human conversation via Skype right now if we wanted?

    It’s interesting that years ago no one thought of diary entries (which NO one read) as being a retreat from human interaction, yet blogging, (and a LOT of people read yours) doesn’t seem to be.

    Interesting.

    And I’m a live human in the USA!

    At least I think I am…it’s early.

    Chris

    24 02 2007
      Clay Burell (21:55:04) :     

    Nice post, Ms. C.

    I think I’m learning that there’s no way besides actually becoming a blogger yourself to understand that blogging leads to the opposite of isolation–to more human contacts, more real world energy, engagement, activity, to more inspiration and vitality, and, let’s not forget, to more reading and mental expansion than reading one book at a time ever can.

    Which is not to say, of course, that we can’t be reading books too.

    I always want to turn the mirror (or magnifying glass?) around and ask the skeptics why they aren’t trying blogging themselves (and reading blogs, and RSS, etc) before presuming to understand it?

    So far, the top answers seem to involve a mix of a) fearing a real audience, which connects to b) assuming (edu)bloggers write like they’re experts rather than the explorers they all are; c) being self-conscious about their writing style; and d) thinking they have nothing worth saying.

    All four of these mental blocks to blogging are such a shame….New worlds await beyond them.

    25 02 2007
      Miss Profe (00:49:19) :     

    A provocative post, ms. cofino.:)

    A friend several years ago told me that my communications with others via chatboards was not “real human interaction.” I find that such communication, blogging included, comprises some of the most authentic conversation that I have.

    Furthermore, blogging has transformed my personal and professional life. Had I not entered the blogosphere, I would not have connected with so many wonderfully diverse colleagues. Additionally, blogging has introduced me to Web 2.0, which has really invigorated me as a teacher.

    So, for the time being, I blog for me. I began blogging, as one blog colleague characterized, “out of exasperation”. This is the truth. However, perhaps during the spring term of the school year, I am contemplating getting my students blogging, too.

    26 02 2007
      mscofino (12:21:05) :     

    Chris,

    I really think these teachers just don’t know the potential of the web. I found the conversation so interesting because I’m pretty sure these are questions they would not bring up in the school environment because they are afraid of “looking stupid.” I really appreciate that they were asking the questions because I’m happy to answer them – I just have to know what they are first!

    Clay,

    Exactly! And, as I was saying above, that’s why I appreciate those casual conversations. It gives me a chance to get to them on a personal level, which is less intimidating than when I’m the “official representative of technology” at school.

    Miss Profe,

    I’m with you – I think most of the conversations I have online are more thoughtful and “real” than the ones I have in person. Mostly because there are so many more people I can connect to online. Therefore, the connections I make are the ones that are authentic and appropriate for both of our needs, rather than conversing just because we’re both sitting in the same room. Does that make sense?

    I think you will really enjoy blogging with your students if/when you get it running!

    27 02 2007
      Dennis Harter (17:29:17) :     

    Great post. As one of the people that blogging has led you to actually meet, I can also vouch for the tremendous “contact-maker” blogging is, rather than the disconnect that so many think it is.

    Not all will blog though, no matter how much we suggest its power. And many start, but don’t find it the connector that it can be. I think we start by getting them set up with RSS and get them commenting. For me, that was my big start. I blog now when thoughts worthy of their own post strike me, but more often I find myself being stimulated by the thoughts of people like you and others. Once you comment for a while, you start to feel like you have something to say yourself…and then another convert is made.

    4 03 2007
      mscofino (19:15:08) :     

    Dennis,

    I agree – it is very intimidating to be expected (even if the expectations are solely your own) to have “something to say” all the time. Comments are such a nice way to ease yourself into the conversation – and that’s what it’s all about right? Conversations.

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