I don't like Learning Alone!

I’m back from the ETC (EARCOS Teacher’s Conference) in Kota Kinabalua, Malaysia. Where I did four presentations as well as watched Kim Cofino pack them in for her Connecting Across Continents presentation.

It’s the first conference that I’ve gone to where I truly did not “do” the conference. Other than my own four presentations I only went to two others….one if you don’t count Kim’s.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around why I didn’t feel motivated to go to more sessions. I like learning so what was my problem?

Then it hit me…..I don’t like learning alone!

The Internet was horrible…when it did work at the conference, and I found myself disconnected from my friends colleagues and my network of learners.

Learning for me needs to be social. I need to be able to live blog a session, to Ustream a session or have a back channel chat going with others in the room.

Without that….a presentation is rather boring. So boring in fact, that I couldn’t motivate myself to even go to a session. Learning for me happens in these social spaces. It happens when I’m able to listen, reflect, and connect with others near and far in the moment. I’m so use to this anymore that regular old sit and get learning just isn’t the same.

And then I started thinking about our students. Our students who spend there day not just in front of screens but connecting with people, learning in the moment and creating content.

I thought that maybe it was just me…but then this new study from the Nielsen Company was just released this week showing amoung other things that adults are spending 8+ hours a day in front of screens (via nytimes):

Among other surprises, the research found that young people aren’t the
only ones dividing their attention among multiple screens and machines;
people in their 20s, 30s, 40s and early 50s essentially multitask for
the same amount of time. People over 55 are markedly less likely to be
multitasking. “That’s where the generation gap, if there is one, may
exist,” Mr. Bloxham said.

So it’s not just me (thank goodness!). You mean I’m just like the rest of the multitaskers out there? Multitaskers who expect to be able to connect with people, content and ideas in a moments notice and who find such value in connections that without it learning becomes boring? Not that you can’t learn without it…it’s just so much more engaging when you do!

Once again the best part of the conference was meeting people outside the conference. After having the Twitter Meet-up bust on me in Portland at NCCE I wasn’t sure how it would go over here at a teacher’s conference. But I was impressed when we had eight people show up for a Twitter Meet-up. Some people I had met before, but most of them new faces and even some who came to set up their Twitter account for the first time.

Of course there was only one official Twitter Meet-up but I had a couple great spontaneous meet ups with mscofino, klandmiles, Skardalien in the lobby.

Once again I found that it was the face to face time that was the best part of the conference. Meeting new people, connecting with old friends, and talking about education from different angles.

So, my big take away from the conference was this: Conferences are about people and connections…and not about content. If the content is there and there is no way to connect with people around that content…then learning is boring. Learning is being social and without that social interaction I feel disconnected from the content.

I just keep shaking my head and truly feeling for our students who every day have to disconnect to learn. Even worse….they don’t get to choose which session to go to…they just have to live with it day in and day out.

Learning should be social…and in today’s world being social means being connected while you learn. Do we help create these social connections or are we to worried about the time students might waste being social and being connected?