Being connected

Recently I went camping with our grade 8 students to an old mining area in Tasmania. The camp provided a number of challenges and possibly the first big challenge was the lack of connection to the rest of the world. Students and staff were not able to connect easily to the rest of the world while they were on camp. It is rather interesting to step back a little and realise that much of what we do today involves communicating via a range of devices and programs. While on camp we were only able to engage in face to face conversations. To communicate with the outside world we had one landline phone, a definite step back in time as its connection was not clear, providing a range of crackling noises and sounding like one of those old dial the number telephones when you tapped in the number required to be called.

I did miss the connections that I have with others through programs like twitter and Facebook, not to mention information obtained through a range of media and mediums. When I arrived back home I felt like I had been out of contact for much longer than 3 days. While on camp though, the desire to use technology to connect was not overly problematic as we were always engaged in activities as a group, we shared stories around a fire, worked together to build rafts and participated in many group challenges that required us to work as a team.

So are we missing out by being so connected through technology? Is it good to have dedicated time where we switch off from the rest of the world? How has the way we communicate changed the level of communication we have?

I value the changes that have occurred in the way we communicate. I have a wonderful group of people who I follow on Twitter that stretch my thoughts as a professional and inspire my teaching. I enjoy reading other people’s opinions and thoughts in a range of blogs that I follow. I also enjoy being able to share what I am learning and thinking about. In saying this I think that finding a balance is very important.

On arriving back home I was reminded of the value that exists within the new forms of communication that we can participate in now. That weekend I followed the backchannel (#aisitic11) for a conference in Australia and was privileged to have the opportunity to read tweets from those attending with regard to the presentation by Mark Scott the Managing director of the ABC. To think that a couple of years ago the only way I could have benefitted from such a conference would have been by attending is fascinating at the least, it is more astounding now though that thousands of people can benefit from a face-to-face conference without being their in real-time through the presence of a backchannel. So what did I learn or how was I stretched:

  • Considering the concept of time-shifting (watching TV when and where you want) was discussed, how this impacts on education?
  • Facebook being a subset of the internet was mentioned and the evidence of major companies having a real presence in this arena as a result was seen as a significant and important investment. How should we be incorporating Facebook in education?
  • The need to listen to the audience was raised along with the importance of giving students a voice – blogging
  • The need to develop Australian content is paramount, do we want to be flooded by cheap non-contextual content?
  • Constraints are there to enable better outcomes, creatively thinking about how to make a product better e.g. iview
  • The permanence of online presence and constant online connectivity means that educators need to consider the implications that exist as a result
  • “How we bring about change is as important as the change you bring about”
Mixed into this was another conference (#21LBanff) that linked into the Australian one. At this conference Sir Ken Robinson was presenting with a focus on the need for creativity and innovation in education. The following quote stood out to me “diversity, not conformity, personalisation not standardisation” with the need to refocus on the human element. With this in mind “at the Olympics there is a sport for every body type. Learning should be different for every student in the same way.”
This week there has been a conference in Queensland #tlv11 (which can be found at http://tlvconf.wordpress.com/papers/)and one of the quotes that has left me thinking is “Making a YouTube video is not what kids want to do. They want to have a channel and an audience…they’ve moved on.”
So does social media, the technological layer of communication, enrich our lives…

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