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.