I am still digesting my thoughts from the Abel Summer Institute in Toronto last week. One of the mainsubtexts of the conference is to give teachers access to a gazillion tech tools and time to tinker with them. During all the talks, there was an active backchannel on twitter at #asi2011 and several of the presenters also set up chat rooms for their talks using online tools such as TodaysMeet, Linoit or sharing a public google doc. Keynote speaker, Dr. Norm Vaughan shared a google doc of an outline of his keynote with everyone, and encouraged us to add and revise notes to it during the talk. Then he projected the changes in real time. ow.ly/i/gdkI. There was also an group activity where we were asked to discuss a series of questions about education in small groups, then have one ‘designated tweeter’ post a reflection for the group on twitter. These posts were displayed onscreen.
The back channel at #asi2011 was lively, rich and informative. During the presentations and talks I often had my laptop open. I was paying attention to the speaker and the presentation, and offering questions and comments in the room where appropriate. But I was also participating in the backchannel conversation on twitter or in the chatroom set up for the talk. And I was checking the links referred to into the talks, … and googling publications by the speakers, … and following other educators who were participating in the backchannel chat on twitter (building up my pln) … and checking my email … and keeping up with the news of the day (Jack Layton’s passing, and the east coast earthquake) … and googling activities to attend in the evenings with my family (P.S. if you are in Toronto in the summer, make sure you go to see the Dream in High Park for Shakespeare under the stars). The point is… I was active, engaged and learning during the talks… both online and in the room with the people I was with.
During the open mic discussion, a couple of people got up and commented that they thought is was very rude to the speakers that so many people were tapping away on their laptops during the presentations. I also had several people remark to me that they noticed I was doing alot of tweeting. Yup I was. And 20 years ago I would have been furiously scribbling notes in a notebook that I would probably never revisit. I do the same thing now, but it is part of a conversation, and I get to share my instant responses to the presentation with others, and benefit from their insights.
Here’s what I am still pondering. We were at a technology conference full of adult learners who are educators and there was a tension between the presentations and conversation going on in the room and the online conversation. How then do we handle this same kind of tension between in person and online conversations in our schools and classrooms? I have embarked on a journey with my students of trying to find the blurry line of when tech should be put away and we give full attention to the teacher or the task at hand, and when it is appropriate to use tech tools and back channels to enrich the learning experience.
The problem is that that line is blurry. If a group of educators at a conference about technolgy in education finds there is tension between the face to face and online conversations; then this tension will be even greater in our classrooms as we begin to teach children to engage with these tools.
Does anyone have any tips for teaching etiquitte for this kind of situation?