Kelly, Ashley, and the Human Touch

Last Friday my district had a Superintendent’s Conference Day. Much of the day focused on technology and the promotion of networked learning—using Web 2.0 tools to communicate and learn from those outside our district.

Some of the feedback from the day revealed a concern amongst teachers that online communication is inferior to direct contact. We may lose the “human touch” and that the connections made may not be as powerful.

I’d like to share two experiences I’ve had in the last two days.

Yesterday I read a post entitled “Kelly” on Pete Reilly’s blog EdTechJourneys. In it Pete reflects on an experience he had with a student thirty years ago and the lessons he learned. I was moved by his post and left a comment about how I had connected with his message. I checked on the post again today and saw that others had left comments about they were similarly touched by Pete’s story.

Today, via a feed on my Google Reader account, I learned of a speech given yesterday by Barack Obama The posts encouraged that I should listen to the 37 minute speech in its entirety. I found the speech on YouTube. I also found the full text of the speech on the Wall Street Journal’s site. I did listen to and read the entire speech and found it to be powerful and moving.

To me the most poignant part of the speech was the story of Ashley that Obama relates toward the end of the speech. (Minute 32:27 on YouTube). Again, I was moved.

Evidently the speech made an impact on others as well. So far there are 45 comments on the YouTube site and many many more on the Wall Street Journal site.

Please take a moment to consider that I would have not known of either of these stories had it not been for my online network. Consider too how powerful the “human touch” is in each of these instances.