Tuesday, April 7, 2009

F2F vs. Online Collaboration

I have been forced to think very hard about the importance's of face-to-face collaboration for teachers versus an on-line collaboration.  Not so much in the sense of digital versus real but in the sense of time out of the classroom.

I was recently informed of the number of days I have missed for committee meetings, which was a large number when added to days missed for sick days, medical, dentist, etc. The amount of time out of class was identified as "too much".  

So...I analyse. Face to face meetings I attend are quite a geographic distance and therefore I am in travel for a third to half the time of being out of class.  I also attend conferences and workshops for my two main professional interests, PLC's and Educational Technology.  This has added up this year.

On that note, this year I have learned more than any period of time in my life.  So...again...I contemplate...where do I do my best learning and why?

There is no doubt that most if not all people who would actually read my blog would agree that we learn most from our PLN's, like here,  and those are digital...so question one answered.  I do MY best learning at home, in my PJ's, at night or on my own time. Why? Because I have handcrafted my PLN to be a group of people very closely related to my interests.

Wait...it is not that easy.  The most important question has not been answered, nor do I know if I can answer it, yet.  Do my students benefit from my learning and/or do they suffer from my learning?  I think of this in terms of what I bring to the classroom from my PLN or PD and how my students learning is interrupted by my absence or integration of new strategies, technology, etc.

How do you feel your PLN benefits your students?

How do you feel you PD benefits your students?

How are students suffering from teacher absence from PD or other?

How does one weigh the answers to these questions?


Terrel Hill said...

First of all your learning is very important and valuable for your students and also ... for the rest of us. Your learning is long term thinking as it will effect all classes that you will teach in the future. Every once and a while you have to look at the big picture, which you are doing, by improving yourself. People that look at the big picture will change the world. sometimes those who think other wise are looking at short term needs.
How are students suffering from teacher absence from PD or other? if students are suffering when you are absent, that is a good sign, as it must mean they are learning when you are there. Each student is different, so for some their teacher being absent will have a larger effect than others. some are more independent learners that others. You may be doing stuff like this already but some of the things we could do might be;and example.... communicate to students when we will not be there ahead of time, "this is what you will be doing, this is what i expect ,...etc." sort of pre-teach so that when we are not there they have a better ideas what is expected of them and what they are to do. We need to cover short term needs to protect up the privilege of meeting long term learning for our selves. If we make our absents more successful we will be allowed to have more of them.

Ryan Nickell said...

Great questions. I too have found myself pondering these same thoughts. However, the amount of learning and PD that I have had this year has shifted my enthusiasm to new educational heights - and that has certainly added to my overall "teacherness". And yes, this, in a huge way, transfers into my classes. Terrel's comment about the big picture is very insightful and true. You are looking at the big picture, advancing yourself as an educator, and making sure you have the tools and preparedness to teach and learn in a rapidly changing educational culture. As for being away from students, I have found that it does set them back a bit. But the level of enthusiasm one brings back negates and surpasses those setbacks. Also, there is no reason that you cannot be connecting with you students durning your away time - whether it be during or after school time. But yes, how do we balance the being away and being there in an effective and meaningful relationship?

JoAnne Kasper said...

Timely conversation. I am just writing up a paper for my masters that is looking at the value of some of the curriculum projects running in our division. The discussion you are having shows that we do not take our own learning lightly, nor do we take our responsibility to the students lightly either. The balance between being away from the classroom weighed against the benefits gained is not easy to measure, so I'm not finding any clear answers yet. I also think that some years there will be more involvement that takes us away than others. Another tension is again a balancing act, the balance between responsiblity to the learning of our students, but also we do have a responsibility to the larger community of our division. Or do we?
I do have a question regarding PLN though. What got you started on that path? Was completely your own initiative that blossomed, or did/does your 'time away' support the PLN?

Eldon said...

Thanks for the comments and those of you who emailed as well. I would like to clarify and answer a few questions.

I was not "in-trouble" for anything. The time out of class was deemed as too much and that is how the action came. My article though is focused on the value of out of class PD.

Terrel - I agree with the need for in pre-teaching, and I do. In fact, I go as far as to make myself available online during class time to field questions, via Edmodo. I also agree with Terrell in the importance of look at the big picture. What is the long term benefit vs. the short term loss?

Ryan – I feel your enthusiasm … Last year I dove into this with no reservations and my learning curve was almost straight up! I like your idea that the little time we spend out of class may hurt our students that day “but the level of enthusiasm one brings back negates and surpasses those setbacks”. I do hope that the enthusiasm many of us bring to our school is worth the time out of class, price of technology provided and more!

JoAnne – I may be optimistic but I would tend to say most teachers take their responsibility to their students seriously…however, I do try to surround myself with people with like interests and that is one of mine. That balance is so important. It is also important to decide who is in-charge of deciding whether that balance is appropriate or not. As far as my PLN goes, I was started on that journey before I knew the term. But it definitely started with Donna and following her with twitter. I began to follow a number of people that Donna had mentioned like; Dean Shareski, Alec Couros, and Kathy Cassidy. It stayed with me watching what these people say and commenting from time to time. A month or two down the road I began to find people on my own. Within about 4 months of signing up, I was beginning to create my own PLN fueled by my meetings on the iSITS committee. So to answer your question, my PLN would not exist without my time away with iSITS.

I will have a new article on my PLN very soon.

Stay tuned and thanks for all the comments.

pcone said...

I can relate to what you are saying. Last year I could "feel" (sense, intellectually grasp) when I had spent way too much time outside my classroom. I think economists call it the "Law of Diminishing Returns".

Has my learning benefited my class. I think my kids would say it has as long as they perceive it as "fun". I believe that they equate "fun" with "meaningful". I have to remember though, I must keep a dialogue going with them as to why we are doing what we are doing. For example, I had told them about the TL Summit. One of them questioned wheter we were in fact doing a lot of technological things and when we counted up what we are doing we had to admit that yes we were. I have to admit though, I have an exceptional group of kids with whom I work.

Joanne- it is wonderful to see that you "Central Office Types" actually read our blogs!

Keep on writing Eldon. (BTW if you ever want me to comment on your MacBeth blog let me know). :p