I had the honor and privilege of being on the #et4women in ed tech panel with Keesa Muhammad-MSU, Tracy Clark-EdTech Women ATX, Maha Bali-AUC, Cario, Egypt (virtually), and Amy Collier-Stanford University, as moderator. We shared stories of vulnerability, authenticity, shame, guilt and the need for women to support women. I was touched by the number of women and men who thanked me for sharing my PhD journey and said that it brought them to tears. We shared memories of pumping breast milk in a bathroom stall and being afraid to say the reason we are not in the office is because of our family. One woman later stated she would never say the reason she needs to leave early was because of a child related issue. She didn’t want to be judged for making her family a priority. I was shocked to hear a woman say she was told, “you’re good looking, you should use that to your advantage”. It is 2015 on our calendars but it might as well be 1940 within the walls of many offices. The conversation was raw, emotional, and transparent. We need as many conversations like this as it takes.
What advice did we share? Listen with intention, ask questions, and help someone have that break through moment. The final question asked was, “What will you do differently?” Go to #et4women and post your reply.
As I fly home from #et4online I am full of #notyetness. There was something special that took place at the conference that I haven’t felt before. The presentations, and the whole experience, was full of #awesomeness. I think we need to replace the term “presentation”, as these were really intimate discussions rather than presentations. There was so much intentional and thoughtful conversation this year. #et4online gave us that safe space to get out of our comfort zones, struggle together with concepts and ideas and realize it is ok to fail even in front of a room full of people. Someone described the feeling of attending ed tech conferences as being in an echo chamber. A place where we hear people talking to us about similar struggles to our own, yet leave without learning anything new. #et4online was a space where people listened with intention, took risks, and brought interaction to the sessions. There were less power points and more crayons; less talking at us and more listening; less structure and more messiness; less learning objectives and more learning subjectives.
Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue demonstrated the power of inexpensive, simple technology to increase accessibility and create meaningful conversations and relationships across the globe. Maha participated in several sessions and numerous #et4buddy chats from Cario, Egypt through Rebecca’s iphone, Twitter and YouTube. Maha ran the virtual #unet4conference where collaboration between virtual participants and those at the conference took place in Canvas and Google Docs. I participated 20,000 feet in the air as I flew back to Ithaca! #et4buddy is a great model for a global classroom and cross university collaborations.
I felt for the first time we were finally brining into our conferences what we’ve been discussing bringing into our classrooms. I believe most of us left with a deep desire to not just continue the relationships that were formed, but the work we began. Rather than leaving with “a few good ideas”, we left with the beginnings of working groups, started projects, and launched plans. Thank you to the conference planners and presenters who created a space where we could have meaningful conversations, reflect and work together.
As I head to #ET4Online I am traveling with a different feeling than ever before. I’ve been to numerous OLC conferences where I’ve built relationships on the ground that have been nurtured and maintained via Twitter and Google Hangouts. Each time I go to a conference I look forward to seeing colleagues, sharing what is happening at our universities and learning from one another. Prior to this conference, a group of women was brought together by a blog post written by Rebecca Hogue after last year’s conference,”Does Ed Tech have a ‘man problem’ too?“. This led to Michelle Bronsky submitting a Women in Ed Tech panel proposal. How did she gather the women? Via an invitation on Twitter of course. Some of these women (Amy Collier-Stanford University, Tracy Clark-EdTech Women ATX, Maha Bali-AUC, Cario, Egypt and Keesa Muhammad-MSU) I knew from interactions on Twitter, some I had relationships with from prior conferences and others I never met. We chatted via e-mail, Twitter and Google Docs to plan our presentation. What grew out of this is what is meaningful to me. Through our planning we found several common interests and things we were passionate about. This led to further discussions, deeper thinking and new projects. I am now working on a chapter in a book that is being collaborated on via Google Docs with several women across the globe. They say relationships are currency and I couldn’t agree more. As I travel to Dallas I am meeting Keesa at the airport so we can share a taxi to the hotel. We have chatted a bit and gotten to know each and I can’t wait to meet her. It reminds me of my online students and how I’ve used “icebreaker” discussions to build relationships in asynchronous interactions. I’ve talked about how this give students the opportunity to get to know one another and builds excitement for when they “meet” during a synchronous sessions. This is the first time I am getting to experience that.
I first met Maha Bali at an OLC conference last year. She was participating virtually and we “met” on Twitter. I felt an immediate connection with her and, as I followed her on Twitter after the conference, I was amazed, not just at how active she was in the “online” world, but at her thoughts and ideas. She was someone I wanted to get to know better and collaborate with. Although Maha and I developed our relationship asynchronously, we were still able to create a sense of trust. Getting out of my comfort zone I reached out to Maha and asked her if she wanted to collaborate on an article. I’ve been wanting to submit something for awhile now and this was the push I needed. Collaborating made it feel safer-someone else to think through the ideas with and how we want to present them. A partner in crime. Although I’ve never met Maha in person (and hope to someday) I feel like I know her better than most of my colleagues. The online space has given us a place to find meaning together. (This post was written on the plane as I was traveling to et4online but I am only posting it now.)