Attending the K-12 Online Conference for the First Time

I attended the 7 Degrees of Connectedness session presented by Rodd Lucier. I had not heard of Rodd before. In fact, I did not recognize any of the presenters on the schedule (and I follow a decent number of educators through blogs and Twitter). Initially, I was disappointed by this. As I think about it today, I am realizing this is a great advantage to this conference. This is a chance to be exposed to a large group of fascinating people that were previously unknown to me. If they are purposely involving less famous educators, then I commend them for that. I was impressed with Rodd’s session, his tone, his candor, and his creativity of presentation. So, I followed him on Twitter (while watching, of course). These types of digital connections was the very subject of his session!

 

The session walks us through (literarily walking through different locations) the different ways that people connect online. Rodd’s message of the importance of connecting is echoed by each of his guest presenters. Each person talks specifically about one aspect of forming relationships online. The first step is reaching out. Next we follow people and communities who interest us. When we feel comfortable enough to participate, we begin speaking back through commenting, tweeting, blogging, podcasting, etc. The next level of knowing people online is through images. Then voice brings us closer together. Seeing video brings us even closer.

 

I appreciated how the session was not didactic. We are introduced to the “7 degrees of connectedness” at the very end of the presentation. The content throughout the video is very much related to the 7 degrees of connectedness, but we are not brought through them step by step. We are left to synthesize all parts of the session and build our own meaning from it. The big ideas that we are left with about entering the online world are:

Start by connecting with ideas.

Then, connect to the people connected to those ideas.

Share small things. Share often.

 

This session was more of a general discussion rather than about specific tools and strategies. However, as they spoke about the success of getting to know people online, I thought about the possibilities of connecting with students using similar methods. We could build rapport with students through online interactions while supporting them in positive, healthy online communication with peers.

 

This was my first experience with K-12 Online – and with any online conference. I really enjoy the flexibility of “attending” on-demand video sessions. Other than the convenience, this easily allows for viewing sessions individually or with a group. For instance, a school, or department could easily watch a session together during a meeting. The wealth of content in this and other conferences creates a serious dilemma, though. Is it the responsibility of a school or district to create time within employees’ contract time to engage in this sort of professional development? I believe that answer is unequivocally, yes. Too many educators are caught up in the day to day planning, preparing, researching, thinking, and completing paperwork and other requirements. Most teachers already take much of this work home with them on a daily or weekly basis. There rarely seems to be time for global, or even local, collaboration. I hope that leaders in this field quickly realize the benefit of opportunities like K-12 Online, and adapt our current system to be inclusive to this type of professional development. How can we enhance professional development without creating more of a burden of “required work” for educators?

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