What face to face is good for

Teaching a hybrid course of face to face and online, I’ve been asking the question “what is face to face good for?”  We meet 3 times online for every f2f meeting. The f2f meetings for many were the best part. Here’s one of my student’s reflections on our final class.

Last night was so much fun. We had our final class and it was face to face. We had to create a slideshow with fifteen slides each lasting fifteen seconds. It was challenging but lots of fun. Our presentations were all about what we learned over the semester and thinking back really put the semester in perspective for me. Wow have I ever learned a lot.

There is no way I would have stood up in front of a room full of my peers (younger people yes, same or older no) and did a presentation. But last night I felt no fear at all. I know everyone so well even though I have hardly ever seen most of them face to face.

I think the best part of last night was just sitting around eating pizza and talking. I think that is why face to face is so great there’s just something more to talking to someone that way then there is online. I think the people you meet face to face are sometimes very different from the online people. At least my impressions of people were different than the person I actually met. (I never really look at the about me pages just what pops up in my google reader) It’s interesting, I wonder what impression my blog gives about me?

Another student told me:

…this is my only university class that I know every student by name, and know at least one important thing about them.  This is really weird, because I wouldn’t have been able to do that even in high school.

Social learning is a clearly stated goal in my class. The fact that they know each other better stems solely from the ability to connect and learn beyond the walls of the classroom. In addition, although I may not have outlined specifically how they should engage in learning socially, they all were able to provide reflection indicating they were at least aware of its power.

My own experience with meeting people at conferences and having great conversations outside of the formal sessions reaffirm that face to face is good and necessary and in many ways real reason and value of a physical place where people gather. I believe it was Kevin Honeycutt who said, “it was the first time I’d met someone’s brain before I met their face”.  Being together is really what my class is about. But the richness of conversations and willingness to be open and transparent is difficult to foster in 3 hours a week where much of that learning is teacher directed. I think the model developed by Jonathon Bergmann and Aaron Samms is one we’ll likely see more of in the future. Coming to school to do homework and learning with others.

As is typical, this post begins with reading Will. While I can’t say to any more certainty what the future of school will completely look like, I do believe that the opportunity for students to learn from each and others will be more than just rhetoric which it pretty much is now.

People in the same room talking, sharing, laughing and learning happens because of numerous hours spent getting to know each other and their brains away from class.

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  • Dean,

    Loved reading these comments from your students. I was able to watch a few of the presentations from your ECMP 355 class and found them to be very inspirational and educational. It’s awesome to see the things the students learned. I think it’s a very good way to reflect on the semester, because it really forces an evaluation of the whole term and the need to pick out the very specific things that were highlights of the course.
    I’m looking very forward to your ECMP 355 class come January, and I’m sure that I will have an awesome learning experience.

    Keep up the good work!

    Cami Malbeufs last blog post..Tuesday Discovery

  • That course is one of the few university courses that they will use in the future. You need to know that my students appreciated the comments and they loved the sense of audience. For your students they will takeaway a wealth of knowledge that they can use with their students right away.

    I wish I had courses like this….. I wish there were courses like this for students in Manitoba.

    Koodos to you and your students. The experience was terrific.


    Chris Harbecks last blog post..These kids really get the need for "Audience"

  • Part of the appeal of a course like this is that it’s ongoing. There are many times I’ve wished I could continue an interesting conversation started in class outside of our allotted 60 minutes of face time, and this is something you’ve done for your students. Their ongoing reflections and conversations provided connections and new topics to which a solely f2f class can’t hold a candle.

    While f2f may be important to anchor the course in reality (we’re more likely to be circumspect in our comments towards someone we will have to face eventually), the ongoing learning and connectivity outside of the apportioned in-class time is the real treasure.

    Ian H.s last blog post..What I read 12/04/2008

  • On the internet, nobody necessarily knows you’re a dog. But in the right networks, people can accept that you’re a dog, or that you really like dogs, and you really don’t like basketball, and that you enjoy bluegrass music even though no one you come face to face with does.

    So — getting to know people virtually (email, discussion boards, blogs, whatever) can give you an impression, the way seeing them around campus or in the work group down the hall does. Even if you don’t deal with them one to one, you begin collecting these little impressions, and your brain gets to work building patterns, because that’s what it does.

    …when face-to-face works well (e.g., not when you’re in a lecture with 175 other people), you get a wider range of stimuli: visual ones, auditory ones. Combine that with what you might have learned through virtual means, and you’ve got lots more context.

    Some of it’s going to turn out to be crap. You can pose as well as post. But that’s true in any channel. It’s good to go for the richest experience you can get that suits your circumstances.

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  • Dean,

    It’s great to see you and your students share this richly woven experience of the “brains” conversing online and then the full social being in person. I often had students tell me that my classes were the only ones in their entire four years of college with a deep, ongoing community–a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves–and where they actually knew one another’s names. Amazing that the fully f2f classes do not accomplish this! I see the in-person experience as essential to the development of the social skills necessary to participating actively and well in local community. We need both. Absolutely.


    Barbara Ganleys last blog post..December Arrives: A (Quasi) Hypertext Musing on Storytelling and Stories

  • Barbara,

    This was my third time teaching the course and I think I’m getting better at figuring this out and building a learning community. It’s hard to break them of their “bad school habits” “Mind your own business” learning is not tolerated in my class.

    I recall reading your stuff from a few years ago and sensing the community that you built in your classrooms. That’s what I was going for.

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