Saturday, May 31, 2008

Can Personal Connections Exist via the Internet?

As you may know, or have guessed from the name, I have been teaching in a virtual classroom this year. I am in Quebec, Canada while my students in grades 1-4 are in Tokyo, Japan.

I have had several conversations recently in which someone has asked whether I miss being with the kids in the classroom. These people often question the idea that it is possible for me to have a close, connected relationship with my students via the Internet. They can only see the machine in front of me.

I point to the drawing full of hearts with my name written by a beginning writer. It was sent to me by a first grade girl in the fall – just because she wanted to. It is very much like the drawings one receives from grade one students in a classroom. It is very special to me and I keep it posted on the wall beside my desk. It reminds me of the real little person halfway around the world who cares about me as I care about her.

I try to explain to doubters that the exchanges online are different, but in many ways more personal and more honest. We share little bits of ourselves each day. I am always very conscious that my voice is a vehicle that can carry encouragement, disappointment, frustration, elation, determination, and any number of other messages to my students. We cannot always rely on facial cues and body language, so we become energetic speakers and very careful listeners.

So what is your opinion? Do you believe that you can’t have real person-to-person connections without sharing physical space, or do you have your own wonderful personal connections with people around the world?

As for me, I care deeply about the young people in my class who never fail to wish me sweet dreams each night as we sign off. Maybe because there is no hug as they leave the classroom, I am more tuned in to the tone of their voices and the caring that makes it’s way back to me through my headset.

1 comment:

meri said...

I'm sure you can have connections that are just as personal as those you have face-to-face. It just takes a lot of new skills that many folks don't have. I'm interviewing people who are already teaching online and making a good living doing it. I'd be interested in talking with you by Skype and learning more about how you work and what you're doing. Interested?

Meri Walker
mawstoolbox@gmail.com