In his post last week, “Changing Ourselves, Changing Our Culture,” Will Richardson finds irony in the fact that “teachers are connecting more and more outside their spaces but, it appears at least, not so much inside their own districts and communities.”
I’ve found that to be true for myself until recently. I’ve had only a small core of people that I felt I could connect back in with when I returned to my own campus, or attended a local conference.
But recently I’ve found a very strange thing happening. My far-flung world-wide connections are bringing me home.
I’m not very connected in my state, or haven’t felt that way. Prior to blogging, I felt somewhat isolated, though I’ve done many workshops over the years, and connected with many people at conferences. But these connections weren’t really ones I brought back with me long-term. I’ve sometimes felt isolated within my own school district, too -sometimes its hard to find time to continue the conversations or find those interested in the same things I am. But now because there are some networked places to talk with those I meet face to face, long after a workshop or discussion ends, it has allowed me to continue some of those “connections” much more easily.
So the phenomenon I find happening is that being part of this network is making my local experiences much richer.
For one thing, the knowledge that I’ll get to share what I’m doing at a conference with whoever is in my Twitter network or whoever reads my blog adds depth to my thinking about it. (And keeps me on my toes!)
But as I’ve come home to two local conferences this winter, I’ve also found them so much richer because:
a. I’m meeting people at the conferences that I actually only knew online, even though they were nearby….I’ve found like minds in my area to talk with. And getting to spend time really talking about ideas at the conference and then getting to carry that conversation on AFTERWARDS is hugely powerful.
2. I’m also bringing back ideas from the “larger” network into my own local communities that haven’t been so tapped into the network– either on my own campus or within my peer group of librarians. All of which adds depth and enthusiasm for me as well. And now we have places to easily extend our conversations beyond a meeting or conference also–on Ning or blogs or Twitter, or email and F2F, so that those local connections also can continue far beyond the “drive-by” workshop time.
And I suspect that this sense of discovery and of extending the conversation is what is so empowering about networks for our students — they use their own networks to bring friendship, inspiration, and energy back to their own daily lives.
I agree with Will that we need more formal ways of bringing these local connections alive in a long term, supportive environment. There is too much left to chance and teachers are our most valuable resource in terms of changing the classroom.
But today I am just delighted by the sheer serendipity of connections, and that building a network far afield has started bringing me back home–home, but with more than I had before.
image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kjaergaard_92/1778562401/