Random Thoughts

The reason for f2f

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Back in Bangkok and still making sense of what happened last week. Two conferences with a total of 13 presentations and a 102.8F fever in between.

The one idea that keeps running through my head is this:

What is the reason we gather Face to Face?

There is a reason we like going to conference, there is a reason why students like coming to school (and it’s not to be by oneself) there is a reason we want students in a class. What is that reason?

What is the reason we gather face to face when content can be found 24/7/365?

What is the reason when research can be done outside face to face time?

What is the reason when reading/listening/gathering/analyzing content can be done outside of school?

What are we doing with face to face time to maximize the learning potential for students?

If we are worried that students are just “skimming the web” for information then what is the face to face time in our classes for?

If we are worried that kids won’t have an opportunity to go deep with knowledge, that things come to easy and to fast. What are we doing with the time we have them in front of us?

If I have every student find the 5 best articles they can on a given topic and bookmark them using Diigo or Delicious, when we get together face to face, what do we do? What is my role as a teacher facilitator?

There is a reason we get together, there is something that online courses, Skype, and all of it can not replace. What is that? And how do we change our classrooms so that is what we are focusing the majority of our time on.

How do we maximize face to face time with students? What is technologies role? What is the teacher’s role?

As usual I come back from conferences with more questions than answers….and that’s a good thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. We are social beings. You can get a warm glow from a blog comment but you can’t beat the real face to face thing- a pat on the back, a hug, a smile.

    We discuss, we argue, we challenge but it is always better face to face cos the personality is there- behind the words.

    Maybe we are not quite familiar enough with the technology to be completely at one with it.

  2. I can see the impact the conference had on you clearly through this blog. Your like Socrates: asking questions all the time. cool post

    • Asking questions is how we learn best. Questions lead to learning. When we are meeting face to face I hope we asking questions and exploring answers together.

      Is that how time is spent in class? Exploring answers? Or do we just give answers to questions we might not even be asking?

  3. it’s the human touch that we seek – yes, the smile beyond the emoticon, the pat on the back and the hug that’s real ๐Ÿ™‚ at least that’s what I seek ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • I agree!

      It’s that “Human feel” that we crave. How do we make our face to face time be that, and use technology to accomplish other tasks so that when we do meet face to face it’s about the human touch?

  4. I’m leaving for a 3-day conference tomorrow in Dallas. I’m taking a year off from teaching and paying my own way. (It does help that my son lives in Dallas!) I’m so disappointed that the gifted teachers at my former school are not coming (unless they paid their own way). There is no money in the budget for it. As a gifted educator it is extremely important that we gather the support from other gifted educators. Most gifted educators in the public realm are the only one of their kind at a school. This face-to-face is vitally important to them and the students they teach.

  5. Peter Round Reply

    All great questions (and sessions in Jakarta) Jeff…why do we like F2F? I think its because it’s simply so much richer: more senses engaged simultaneously. F2F is far more complex and subtle (and therefore can be much more of a challenge: good or bad). Maybe the notion of “thin slicing” is related…read Blink by Malcolm Caldwell.

    • I’ve read Blink and love the book. It’s the richer conversation. The body language that we can not get through the technology…not yet anyway. Not even a head shot via video cam can capture the true feelings we get when we are face to face.

  6. The answers are out there… but having the right questions sure helps and that’s what I got from the conference.

    F2f with my students I can read 20 faces and intuitively know that about half of them will need me to explain whatever I’m explaining in a slightly different way. I couldn’t tell you, scientifically, how exactly I do that but with practice I get it right more often than I get it wrong. There is an element of non-verbal communication that is difficult to transmit through cyberspace.

    But I also know that quite a bit of what I do f2f could be done by another route.

    I know that when I can better answer the questions J poses I will also have a better solution to the main tension in my work life right now: the tug-of-war between teaching scientific concepts and skills which turn students into scientists, versus teaching the content that students still require to pass most school exams.

    • and I think that’s the idea.

      Can/should the content that can be found anywhere be done outside face to face time. And the concepts and skill be where we focus that face to face time on?

      Should our classrooms be about the high touch, deep learning? Can we have students find the content, and then go deep in learning the concepts and skills around the content? Spend our time analyzing, predicting, creating based on the content we found when we are not face to face?

      Maybe we need to get ride of computers in the classroom? Maybe the classroom should be that face to face time and the use of technology as a research skill should be done outside of class. Are we wasting face to face time when we tell students to each get on their own computer and not talk, not collaborate, and just research? Is that good use of class time?

      Or maybe it’s not the computer’s fault, maybe technology does belong in the classroom and we just need to rethink how we use it. Do we use it to enhance those face to face relationships? Allow us to teach each other with technology and not just learn from it.

  7. I’ve just asked the opposite….. Why does this have to be f2f? We have had to reschedule a school staff meeting and my question is can we not replace this with an online experience instead of stealing from our collaboration time…

    Sometimes we need to be f2f… sometimes we need a little distance and to do it in our own time.

    • I totally agree!

      We should be asking ourselves before every meeting.

      Why does this have to be f2f?

      If the answer is it doesn’t have to be, then lets find a technology that allows us to communicate that so that we can use f2f for what it’s really worth! The collaboration and conversation that drives learning!

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  9. Jeff,
    Thanks for this interesting post! We are social beings and some face to face has to happen.

    I really enjoy reading all your blog posts. I learn so much from you each week. Thanks for taking the time to write and share.

    Bill Gaskins

    • Beth Leidolf Reply

      I agree. We all ultimately need to be with each other. Laughter, tears, hugs and smiles can never be replaced by the computer. One of my jobs as a facilitator/teacher is to give those out!

  10. I didn’t read all of the comments above, but I believe the value of f2f builds connections. I had many online interactions throughout the beginning of 2008 with many great educators. While we were learning from each other (or at least I was learning from them) I didn’t really feel a real connection. At NECC in San Antonio, I met some of these people, inlcuding you, f2f. I felt different after meeting people f2f, whether we had lengthy conversations or simply introduced ourselves. For me, the f2f, just adds another level of importance to the relationship.

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