The Importance of Connections

#IdeaCon is over, and I have time to sit back and think about what I gained from the conference experience. Being on the committee gave me little opportunity to sit in on presentations, but I was able to present two sessions. What is the biggest takeaway from the conference, you ask? The importance of connections. 

Yes, a plethora of great information is shared and topics discussed, but ultimately, the connections matter. Meeting up with people you don’t see very often, those you have connected with online but not in person, or those who are brand new to you matters the most to me. I get so much from just being around people who care about education. Their contagious passion makes me want to be better at what I do.  

It is easy to get into a bubble and only see the world through your lens or the lens of the people with whom you work. Connections at conferences allow you to see the world of education from other perspectives. These new perspectives can help you formulate a new path forward or help you appreciate what you have. For example, I have learned much about DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) by talking with educators about these topics. You can read all the books you want, but talking with others gives you the first-hand experience necessary for an accurate picture to emerge. 

Connections are also a way to make and cultivate friendships. I know some think that online friendships aren’t real friendships. While I wholeheartedly disagree with this sentiment, it does help when you can continue the friendship in person. I spent so much conference time just catching up with “old” friends and working on new friendships. These are REAL relationships with people who have mutual respect for one another. We laugh, share our struggles, give advice, and sometimes cry, all of which constitute friendship. 

I’ll leave you with two thoughts…

  1. Online relationships are genuine relationships.
  2. When presented with the opportunity to attend an in-person conference, take it. Don’t just attend; take the opportunity to connect with people.

KathiSue Summers and the Case for Robust Online Communities

It has been a long time since I sat down to write a blog post. I could give a million excuses, but frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing one. The death of a friend has prompted me to write a new post. KathiSue Summers passed away from COVID on Saturday, August 28. It was heartbreaking news for everyone who knew and loved her. I never had the chance to meet her IRL (in real life). Wait… you never met her? How could her death have an impact on you? The answer is in the relationship we had built as members of an online PLN community through Voxer. Voxer is a platform that allows for voice and text communication. This community has been together for roughly four years, and we connect daily about topics ranging from education, our kids, favorite foods, etc. I know many of these people better than I know some teachers I have worked with for 30 years. We have had some great times and some rough times. We don’t always agree. Sometimes I get angry at them, and I am sure the reverse is true. Ok…I know the reverse is true. But, in the end, we are a community that cares for each other. 

Some colleagues I work with “make fun” (in a joking sort of way) of these connections, but they are real friendships. My charge to you is to find your group and start connecting. How do you get started? Make your Twitter connections more than just a Twitter relationship. Take the leap and invite followers to join an app that allows you to share your thoughts using your voice. Voice brings so much more to the table than texts. You can hear passion, excitement, and sadness through voice. While Voxer is the app that #4OCFpln uses, others like Synth and Skilled Space allow for the same types of interactions. I have recently become friends with Sara Candela. We use both of these apps to stay in touch. Sara lives 2,000 miles from me; we have never met IRL, but I consider her a friend. 

Even though I never met KathiSue Summers IRL, I am thankful for the online community that allowed me to get to know KathiSue and feel the loss over her death. 

Don Sturm

Let’s Connect!

Voxer- @dsturm823