If you want to make it personal, try saying it to my face…


Larry Ferlazzo is questioning whether online relationships can every achieve the same level of meaningfulness (and I suspect intimacy) as face-to-face ones. Here is my argument in the affirmative….

Tonight, my school had a meeting of the Hmong Parent Group. We had parents there at every level of English literacy you can imagine, Hmong students from the local university who wanted to build an alliance, and a bunch of teachers (even a few non-Hmong teachers, like me). The meeting floated between Hmong, and English. Lots was translated, but not everything. My contribution to the group will be teaching a very old-fashioned, but CRITICAL technology skill to the group…how to operate the RISO machine. I mentioned this to Larry (online, btw) and he laughed because we both have experienced how important having lots of copies of something is to a cause. It’s a critical part of getting the word out.

Frankly, I cannot imagine organizing a group like that in any way but face to face, and low-tech information technologies will probably be the bedrock of our efforts. Now this doesn’t mean we won’t use technology at various, effective points. Three cell phones went off during the meeting. I could see using SMS messaging. The school already makes extensive use of robo-dial systems to communicate with parents (very effective with a principal and asst. principal who are fluent in Spanish and Hmong respectively). I even use the robo-dial system to send out podcasts.

Technology will be a tool, but it will never replace a face to face relationship with this group. The language and cultural barriers are high enough without seeing each other, but being able to look at one another and lay a gentle hand on an arm is too important to leave behind just yet.

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