You are not important enough

Why don’t Australian conferences see ordinary teachers as important or worthwhile enough to invite them – virtually?

Conference Tweeting gives surface indicators, commenting on ideas, repeating facts and links – without inferences. This may be the foundation of critical thinking or encourage more serious, worthier styles of participation in broader educational discourses – but face to face seminars and shared experiences using virtual worlds facilitate more creative and higher forms of interaction than hash-tagging your way across the day.

We play, talk, compare, create and interact. Face to face promotes clarification, assessment of evidence, making and judging inferences and developing appropriate strategies and tactics to solve bigger problems. From a facilitators viewpoint, the key to professional development is how to present guided inquiry, diagnose misunderstandings and negotiate meaning.

The evidence of this will be seen at this weeks SWSR conference where attendees will be inspired by Stephen Heppell and David Warlick.

Virtual worlds have not been seen as important or worthwhile enough to include in the event. The emotional expression, autobiographical stories; open communication; risk-free expression, acknowledging others, being encouraging; group cohesion; encouraging collaboration, helping, and supporting embedded in Virtual Worlds events such as VWBPE are still not a feature of Australian Educational Conferences.

“the difference between being deeply involved in a conversation and lecturing to a group. The words are different, the tone is different, the attitude is different, and the tools are different.” (Schrage, 1995, p. 5) Schrage, M. (1995). No more teams!: Mastering the dynamics of creative collaboration. New York: Currency Doubleday.

I am once again disappointed that Heppell and Warlick will speak and the organisers failed to see Second Life or a moderated Webinar important or worthwhile in the professional development of teachers.

It is little wonder classrooms can’t get past blogs and wikis (if indeed these are ever to be allowed). Empowering teachers through familiarity, skills, motivation, organisational commitment, activities, and length of time in using the media directly influence the social presence that develops in online communities. We don’t seem to even be thinking about it – let alone demonstrating it to the vast majority of those who need to see it most.

Those who will have the deeper conversations; at dinner with the keynotes are of course enjoying considerable advantage over the 99% of teachers who are locked in the core.

So how long to we keep doing this? How do we change this? How do we hold these people to account; to act and not continue to stand guard over opportunities for ordinary teachers?

**update — the event was not streamed and the wifi died according to Twitter. Maybe next time.

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2 thoughts on “You are not important enough

  1. The trouble is it is all dollars and cents. Conference organisers are frequently reluctant to provide options for remote participants because ultimately they are trying to cover the costs of the conference.

    Similarly, as we’ve discussed before, they’ll often prefer to bring in International speakers than use locals. Once again it’s about the fact that whose name can we put on the program that is more likely to make others want to attend out conference? Is that a bad thing? Maybe not. If they manage to inspire others to change their practices than that really is the most important thing.

    I’d say the percentage of classrooms in the World that has even got to blogs, wilkis etc would be very low :)

    • Thanks again! – I’m thinking that when organising an event, the difficulty of making it accessible (and I use the term in a wider sense of ‘accessbility’ too) should include some form of moderated transcription, broadcast and archive. I cite K12 Online as doing it well. It is not hard or complex to achieve. For the life of me; in systems that have invested heavily in video conferencing and fast connections – I struggle to see why they are not planned better in this regard. If you look at VWBPE – there was tremendous virtual conversations around the presentations – and Treet.tv captured just about all of it. I can’t see for example why an event is not recorded and offered to schools, given the difficulties in getting people to attend. If these events are important – then those whom travel school to school should be taking these valuable resources to them – and using them as leverage to do as you suggest.

      Darcy commented to me – it would be great to see 2000 teachers engage, not 200. Given the flexibility of Elluminate, Connect and Second Life … organising feeds, archives and transcripts is as important as ordering the mints for the table. They make for great follow up meetings and discussions … yet they seem to pass by un-noticed by most teachers. It is hard, as an attendee to choke the wifi or spend your time streaming as the organiser didn’t — not to mention a bit iffy when it comes to IP and copyright.

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