IMMOOC: Technology and Relationships in the 21st Century

I recently read a blog post by Rachel Burkett called: Connected Yet Disconnected. In her post she talked about how easy it is to avoid connecting with those who you are serving. How easy it is to only appear in their classrooms and spaces when you have a great idea you want to share. How easy it is to only be around when something needs fixed, there is a problem, or you want to trying something new. In between the times that you show up communication is accomplished by email, text message, maybe social media. Where, in all of that, is there space for relationships to be formed? A space for trust to be developed? As Rachel says in her post:

I am failing my staff by not taking the time to get to know them or learn about what goes on in their classrooms. How can I help them as the technology specialist if I don’t know their specific needs?

In my position as the Instructional Technology Specialist for the local intermediate unit, it is incredibly easy to fall into this trap. 4000 square miles separate the programs I serve. This does not even count all of the itinerant teachers that work 1 to 1 with students and are always on the move. In short, it takes a lot of effort to connect with those I am serving.

Because of this, the 21st century relationship is both a boon and a curse. Because of the technology we have, I am able to video chat with those who are far away. I can email them notes and they can send me pictures and videos of what they need assistance to. I am no longer restricted to the random phone call. Meeting in person would have taken a conscious effort on our parts. But also, because of the technology we have, it is very easy to fall into the pattern of only communicating using that technology. Of only video conferencing, emailing, and chatting. When this happens, what suffers is our relationship. The way we interact quickly breaks down into words on a page or our view through the web camera. Both the passion and the real struggles happening in the classroom disappear from view.

Because of this, I firmly believe there is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. Technology works for communicating thoughts and ideas. Meeting in person shows that I care. And caring about those I serve is the first step in enabling them to do amazing things. As Simon Sinek says, “We need to build more organizations that prioritize the care of human beings.”

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