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.)