Wednesday, February 5, 2014

I'm Happy it isn't 1977 : Friends & Connectivity

When I was a kid in the late 70's I used to go to Camp Tecumseh  for a week each summer, it was this great camp about 45 minutes from my house.  I would go for a week, stay in a cabin, sing songs, ride horses, do crafts and make dozens of new friends that I swore I would never forget.   We would bring our address books, trade letters for a bit, but after a time you typically stop writing….connectivity broken. I lived only an hour or so from most of the other campers but when you are 10 it might as well be 1,000 miles!

Fast forward to the connectivity we have today...

Last week I received good news/bad news.  I am always happy for a colleague when they have new opportunities and move on, but I MISS them.  This friend in particular I will miss.
Sarah Field and  I have worked on  several big project together and with others, Our Ignite Talks, The #MYParty12 project and currently our Global Happiness Project. You see Sarah lives in California and I live in Indiana, we can probably count the times we have seen each other face to face on two hands (and maybe some toes) .  All of these projects came to be FIRST through virtual collaboration, usually an IM with something like

Do you have a sec? I have this idea…

Then off we go!  We create google docs, video chats, phone calls and lots and lots of creativity, critical friends and learning.  The project gets bigger and bigger, then we edit it back, and keep crafting until we land where we want.  I wish for everyone to have someone in their PLN that is this kind of thought partner.

The thing is with digital tools, we can keep doing this, I am confident we will still be thought partners and friends and most likely will come up with a way to roll out more projects together!

I am so glad I met Sarah through New Tech Network and not at Camp Tecumseh!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Connected YET Disconnected

So I had a big "a-ha" moment yesterday and this post has been rolling around in my head ever since.

First you need a little backstory to see how I arrived at the "a-ha"…I am recently divorced after 26 years (nope, not gonna blog about that part!)  At the encouragement of a good friend (Thanks, Mary!)  I signed up for  just to sort of get my feet wet.  After all, I'm ONLY 46 and got married at 19.  I could potentially claim to have never actually dated….you don't really "date" in college, right? So many potential blog posts about the whole dating thing, but THAT is not happening…read on….

So, I painfully wrote a Match profile that really forced me to describe myself,  examine just what I might think I was looking for in a person.  One of the things that is important to me is an open-minded, always learning attitude.  For example, if someone on Match emailed me, we talked back & forth, eventually getting to "what do you do" and I say social media? If their response is something like, I just don't get that stuff…seems worthless.  My response is "delete".   (not learning, not open-minded, not connected)

Being connected is important to me.

I am super connected, I connect people via  social media as a part of my career.  I believe in the power of connectivity, about half of the women who have really walked with me through the past year I only see a couple of times a year, they live in California, Texas,  South Carolina, all over the place. I'm totally cool with having long distance friendships…these friends are super digital, we video-chat, we FaceTime, text, IM….we connect online WAY more than in person.

I also very much value the amazing group of my friends that I see face to face all the time where I live.  So this actually  made me start thinking….just how do I define connected? After all, my more local friends are definitely less connected, with a few of them really not technology users at all beyond texting.  Why do I not "delete" them?

Because they ARE connected.  They connect by calling, inviting, learning, loving, listening.  They are connected to their parents, their neighbors, their community, their children, their friends.  The connect authentically without technology by reaching out.

So this made me think of people I know that are connected, but disconnected.  People I know that are always on a computer or their cell phone and I'm not sure what color their eyes are, because when you are with them they never look up.  People who text a thought or feeling that deserves to be delivered or discussed in person, but texting lets them hide from the emotion you can't help but witness when you are face to face.

So my "a-ha",  YES, I value being connected, but it isn't the technology at all.  When I first begin working in this job, I was overly connected, addicted to a Twitter stream and the myriad of valuable education related chats, this is my 3rd year doing this now.  For the past year,  I  have been working on balance. I'm using my vacation days,  I shut down my computer at night, I (usually) leave my phone in my purse at lunch and dinner.  I call people more often instead of texting them.  I'm certain I have spent time in the last few years, being VERY connected but VERY disconnected.  Sitting in the same room with people but my cell phone buzzing w/ tweets so I'm constantly glancing down at it, my iPad right next to me or my laptop slightly open so I don't "miss anything".

This reflection also made me think of the judgement we "connected educators" sometimes throw at the educators in our schools who don't use Twitter, don't have an online PLN, BUT they are quick to walk across the hall, chat with others in passing, meet and work on projects.  Connecting can be defined more broadly than online.

So, I DO value being connected, but it is the people, not the technology…proving once again, no matter what the topic, it always comes down to relationships!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Twitter for the WIN: Snow Day Collaboration

Each year about this time, I am working on a project around promoting & supporting Digital Learning Day.  Sometimes I struggle with this because I am steeped in working with schools who have excellent digital learning.  They are 1:1,  they know tech is a tool, not the end all be all.  They lobby often for more bandwidth, unblocking, and employ technology purposefully to extend learning and to connect with others.

Because this is my "normal" for digital learning, I was reflecting on what part of digital learning was most important or urgent for me.  Just as a was coming to a conclusion around the fact that the best part for me was connecting…I was distracted from my very deep thoughts around this by this Twitter stream…

Then I was totally sucked in!  The tweets flew back and forth with project ideas from these teachers.  The significance for me was, it began with a teacher listening to a podcast, snowed in on his farm, reaching out to his colleagues via Twitter.

You could feel the sense of urgency to get busy on in leaping from the page.  The more they went back and forth, the more the ideas grew, one of the final tweets was this…

 Later that night I see this Facebook post from one of the snowed in teachers….

Connectivity is the win for me.  Teachers connecting with each other as needed not from 8-3, connecting with broadcasters, journalists all to connect students to resources, history and possibilities.

I know these teachers, I know they had this passion for teaching and learning long before we had real-time collaboration via Twitter, but without Rex, sending out that tweet and his colleagues jumping in and responding, the idea might never have been fed, nurtured and now growing into a project.