Reflections after ET4OL

Over the past week, while at the Emerging Technologies for Online Learning Conference, it once again became clear to me that it is all about people and connections. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with tremendous colleagues throughout my career, but there is something different going on in the Ed Tech world. Something that is making me think differently about how we connect and learn. For the first time since I began teaching, I am seeing true benefits of sharing and connecting beyond my comfort zone. I had two experiences at ET4OL that will continue to push my ideas of how education should occur in the connected age.

While I was sitting in the Women in EdTech panel thinking about how cool it was to hear from women in Ed Tech, something truly amazing occured. Maha Bali from Egypt who was virtual panel participant gave a shout out to my mentor, friend and colleague Michael Berman. She talked about what a wonderful source of support he was for her. Now, working closely with Michael I already know he is a great mentor, but to hear this coming from someone halfway around the world was truly remarkable. I don’t know if Michael and Maha have spent much time together face-to-face, but it was clear, Maha knew the same Michael that I knew and that this connection was having a deep and lasting impact on her career. It was a real connection having real impacts on both parties. Leaving this panel, I thought to myself, if our students don’t understand how to use the power of being connected, we are not doing our job as educators. How then, can higher education harness the power of the connected age to improve learning for the masses?

The second event that pushed my thinking was not a panel or presentation, but a conversation with Michelle Pacansky-Brock and Rebecca Hogue. I have the pleasure of working closely with Michelle, but had not met Rebecca prior to the conference. As I listened to Rebecca share about her recent battle with breast cancer I was struck not by the fact that she had breast cancer, but by how she had chosen to gain support and knowledge throughout this experience. Rebecca has chronicled her experience as a breast cancer warrior on her blog. Her description of how she has accessed knowledge and support throughout this experience was nothing less than amazing. What struck me, was the lack of access most women have to the outlets that Rebecca was using. Don’t get many wrong, many women have technical access, but do they have the knowledge and skills to truly connect with others to find the best support and knowledge available. Likewise, I began wondering how much knowledge was lost because so many don’t have the skills and drive to share and be connected. Could education institutions do something about this? It seems to me that understanding how information and knowledge is created and shared in the connected age is information we can no longer keep hidden behind. We must teach our students how to participate in this connected world. I left this conversation more convinced than ever that higher education as a moral imperative to teach our students how to seek, curate, create and share knowledge.

These ideas are not new for me or others, but the power of these experiences will push me to find new ways for students and those that educate them to become active participants in the connected world. I will begin by revisiting a few of the talks from ET4OL that inform this conversation and continuing to connect beyond my boundaries with the goal of making meaningful change in higher education.

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