Why Do You Do It?

I get that question a great deal.  Why do you spend so much time getting connected to other people? Why do you blog?  Why do you use Twitter?  Why do you create and share resources?  Why do you give whatever it is that you do away by posting it on the web and hoping that someone stumbles into it?

Those are really good questions and yet, I think that the answers belong to another time and era.  The answer actually is given in a blog post created by colleague Colin Jagoe last night.  You see, if I didn’t do any of the above, I would never have had the honour of meeting Colin.  As you’ll note in his posting, we’re both in Toronto at the Ontario Teachers’ Federation Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century event.  Last night, those of us who will be working the Minds of Media event on Saturday got together for supper with tomorrow’s facilitator, Will Richardson, and enjoyed a bit of networking and conversation.

Around the table, there was there were a group of us that get together periodically to do things like this.  There was Peter and Brenda and Barbara and Kent and Kelly and Colin and …  You get the idea.  I’ve commented many times that the interesting part of all of this is that, despite the big differences in geography among us, when we get together it’s like we never left.  The interactions and connections and learning with this group is ongoing in the things that we do online. 

Over supper, I did throw much of the same question to Will.  "Why do you do this nonsense?"  His head kind of snapped as he looked at me and the conversation turned to a deeper discussion about or common thread which is teacher professional development. On the surface, everyone at least spoke a similar message.  We’re all involved in professional development activities in one shape or another.

But, I think that the real answer is considerably deeper.  I suspect that we’re all selfish and we’re here for ourselves.  After you’ve attended a professional development event or two, they all tend to be the same.  The presenter, who may have also ordered the food, shows up with the Powerpoint presentation and the handouts, does the presentation and then leaves.  It is an efficient way to get a common message to the masses with a particular focus.  Put another of them together and you have a mini-course.  Put even more of them together and you have a full fledged course.

I think that the folks around the table recognize this old school method of professional development for what it is.  Certainly it’s not without its merit but the potential for independent growth after the event is limited.  I suppose that you could take a second course in using Excel or making paper airplanes and discovering aerodynamics or whatever the topic might be.  Learning tools in depth can be a daunting task.

In our case this weekend, the tools are very simple.  It’s the results of using the tools where the payoff comes.  There will be many "how do you do that" moments over the three days but the real value will be in connecting with the people that know the answers.  Those who get to know Colin and how to find him after the event will have the opportunity to develop a learning relationship that endures long after we’ve said our goodbyes and head out to take on the 401.

For me, it definitely is selfish.  It’s the ability to connect with the Peters and Brendas and Barbaras and Kents and Kellys and Colins and to know what they bring to the conversation so that I can continue to use their strengths to my own selfish, personal benefit in the future.  I want to know how to do things like Skype to a friend that I’ve never met in Philadelphia all the while charging a cell phone with a portable battery.  I want to get ideas about digital story telling or new ways to use Google applications or any of the myriad of things that fall from the Minds on Media event.  I want to have the connections to the wisdom of the group long after this event is over. 

The whole notion is different if all you’re doing is going to an event to learn a focused task.  If you’re going to learn how to make and leverage connections, the results are far more powerful and long lasting.  That’s why I do it.

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