Sunday, June 27, 2010

#ISTE10, Social Media and Relationships

It is time for ISTE10 in Denver. Educators from around the world are gathering to discuss and plan the future of edtech, play (some), but most of all, meet people. Conferences are great ways to make lasting connections with grow your personal learning network.

Before the conference I had the chance to fly out to Colorado a few days early and spend time with people I had never met. When I told my wife about it she gave me a very puzzled look. Why would I want to go up into the Rocky Mountains with people I don't know and spend several days with them? Because I do know them.

Everyone in our group knew each other from Twitter. Some had met before, others, like me had never met anyone of them. But when we actually met, face to face, it was like old friends getting back together. There was never that awkward feeling that sometimes accompanies these types of events and after just a few hours we were all cutting up and laughing like kids in high school. It was a truly memorable few days.

Then today I got to attend some really amazing sessions at EduBloggerCon and got to shake the hands of some of the educators I admire most. But that got me thinking. While we know each other, we don't know each other. There are some on Twitter that I follow because they are interesting or have good resources. There are others that I follow because I like their conversation. But I might not ever have engaged with them. Or if I have it has been very little.

That got me even more thinking about relationships. Specifically, the relationships we have with the people online. What made the friends in Estes Park different from the ones at EduBloggerCon? And I really do consider everyone I follow and interact with my friends. We are more than colleagues I think. Our relationships are more than that.

Everyone I follow on Twitter adds value to my learning. Everyone I retweet, mention, follow,and engage with adds value to me on both a professional and a personal level. That value can not be measured or evaluated except by me. Yet some out there are trying to devalue what we are creating on Twitter and other social networks. And I struggle with the reason. Is it because what we are doing can't be measured and that bothers some? Or is there some other reason?

There was a very interesting post earlier this week from Scott McLeod about how you never really know that person sitting next to you at a conference. While you might think someone is a rockstar they might really beat their kids or drink too much. Yeah, you might not really know that person sitting next to you. But. Isn't there some level of trust that we place in the people we meet and get to "know" through social media? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I know there are certain people in my PLN that if I need something, even if it is personal and in no way educational, I can call upon.

I am struggling with all this. So help me out. What do you think about relationships and social media? Is it easier to make connections with people you don't know because of social media? Harder? Is there value in the relationships? Can we even call what we have relationships through social media and never meet? What do you think? Help me hash all this out...
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