Why Face to Face Still Matters: Guest Post by Cindy Minnich
We are thrilled to have Cindy Minnich here this week at pawlpblog.org as our Guest Blogger. Cindy is a high school English teacher and a regular contributor to The Nerdy Book Club website. Below, Cindy shares her reflections after attending nErDCamp this summer in Michigan.
It’s bright and early on the morning after two days of learning with friends and colleagues and rock star authors at nErDcamp MI in Parma, Michigan.
I’m packing and looking at a really long drive home.
I’m not complaining. It was worth every single mile I put on the odometer.
I guess I could have enjoyed this conference from afar. I mean, there’s a hashtag for this conference (and most of them these days) so I could have just armchaired it from home via Twitter and Google Docs and Facebook and Instagram and (later) blog post reflections about what they learned there.
I could, in theory, save myself a ton of time and effort and money by doing this for other conferences as well thanks to technology.
Yet this is my third year of coming to this conference. I have yet to miss an NCTE since my first one in Philly in 2009. I attend PCTELA and ALAN conferences. I have gone to book festivals and librarian conferences. I choose to be active in my NWP site. I try to take advantage of all of the face-to-face learning opportunities I can have, even at the expense of time, effort, and money.
I do it because it’s worth it.
I have certainly used technology to full advantage by living vicariously through the digital stream of posts about conferences that I cannot attend, but those tweets and posts are far from the complete experience. They are someone’s notes, the most important bits that they want to be able to hold on to later. They are the souvenirs that help the people in attendance recall the whole.
The whole is what is missing. And if you’ve been to a conference, you know that so much more happens than just the sessions. You have serendipitous meetings in the lobby. Conversations over coffee and meals. New friends found sitting next to you in sessions. Plotting and planning and scheming for projects and proposals. There’s a buzz and energy at a conference that you just want to be a part of – so we often run for long hours, not wanting to miss a single opportunity.
Kristin Ziemke introduced me to the term for this: FOMO.
Fear of missing out.
I know I have had long and fascinating discussions online, but nothing compares to the need to stay up just a little bit longer talking about books or current events or anything with these people you realize are your people. The people who value the same things you value. The people who traveled and invested their time, effort, and money to learn along with you to become better.
To become better. Together.
The reason to keep meeting face to face is because the best learning isn’t distilled into 140 characters – even if technology allows us to stay connected and learning together between conferences. It’s in the being around others, the accidental opportunities, the hugs, the discussions, the invitations – the energy and realization of being part of a bigger community that can recharge our souls and inspire us to do better.
Cindy Minnich is a high school English teacher at Upper Dauphin Area High School. She lives among her To Be Read stacks with her husband, son, and menagerie of furbabies. She doesn’t think that she’d ever have had the opportunities she has had in working with so many fantastic people on projects like The Nerdy Book Club or in professional organizations like NCTE, ALAN, and NWP if it wasn’t for Twitter. You can find her there at @cbethm.
Yes, you’re right, there’s nothing like meeting face to face, when the best in me meets the best in you and this generates all sorts of new ideas. the human element in conferences is what makes them so exciting.
Many thanks for a fabulous post that truly illuminates why Writing Institutes across the country mean so much to so many. While we use Twitter and other social media to reinforce the great learning that happens in an Institute, the cyber world can’t take the place of the rich experiences that the Face to Face experience provides. As you noted, the discussions, invitations, inspiration from face to face passion, the hugs, and the food 🙂 are deep, much deeper than a 140 character tweet — with that said, the tweets can keep us going long after the face to face comes to an end. Thank you for capturing what is still meaningful!