Marica's meanderings

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Some thoughts from Perth

I am now in Perth on the next leg of my FLLinNZ journey. There has been an added personal bonus to this trip in that I am staying with family I have never met before. My mother’s brother was on his way from Croatia to see her in NZ many years ago. He stopped in Perth and never got any further. I have been surrounded by an incredibly loving family – my uncle, aunt, their three children and their respective partners and children. The added bonus is that my mother has joined me on this trip. I might add it took some persuading from various family members to get her here. Mama and her brother have now been reunited for only the second time in 50 years. Have a look at the result of this flexible learning output!

Mama and her brother. Only the second time they have been together in 50 years.

As I have been watching my mother and her brother talk endlessly about the past and the present (while I am working on my laptop!) I keep thinking of how technology cannot replace this intense human experience – or can it? They have spoken on the phone but it is not the same as being face to face for them. I can see why people shy away from communicating using technology. How do we get the same feeling that is generated by a hug, by touch, by a look or a quiet moment when two people just stare and you know there is a connection? Can we achieve this same intense level of communication using technology? Do we even want to?

As a distance educator I keep thinking about the connections I form with my learners whom I will never generally have the opportunity to meet in person. I ask myself whether or not I have managed to make any real kind of connection with them. After watching my mother and her brother I can’t help asking could they have achieved this same level of intimate communication if both of them were confident communication technology users. Is it merely their lack of technological skills that holds them back or is there some other human need that isn’t being served by using some form of mediated communication? Why is it that most people still want to meet face to face? Is it that we receive messages in these situations that are still not easily transferable using technology or is it that we haven’t fine-tuned our personal skills enough to learn how to receive the necessary cues which are being transmitted through different formats? Just some food for thought!

I have spent the last two days writing my first FLLinNZ progress report and keeping on top of emails. As I was writing my report I realized what an intensely busy three months I have had and it is no wonder I am feeling pretty exhausted. There are simply not enough hours in the day and one of the things I am struggling with is finding the time to reflect and collect my thoughts. I have written so many blog entries on scraps of paper as I am racing between things and somehow it never makes its way to here. I will have to refine my techniques. I am also accumulating hardware which is supposed to make everything easier yet I have not yet found that one piece of technology that will do everything I want it to. I will keep practicing and investigating – there are so many possibilities out there.

It seems that being a FLLinNZ takes on a life of its own and you find new skills you were not aware of. You need to be prepared to not have a life but the exciting part is you are being stimulated through everything you see, hear and read. This is an intensive learning journey and I am absolutely loving it.

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