I like my twitter professional learning network. But I LOVE my face-to-face professional learning family. We have debates. These people challenge me. Though hard to swallow at times, they push my thinking; they force me to evaluate what’s best. It can be uncomfortable. It hurts much of the time. But I grow. And face-to-face is still the most genuine, powerful social space EVER.

I love watching presidential debates. The whole orchestration, intensity, speaking on things that matter (most of the time), and that firm handshake at the end. Debate is powerful. Debate is… just that. In education, there are debates every day. Have you seen twitter?

No one more than ME loves a great debate. And I don’t even HAVE to be right. I just love people. I just love going deep into perspectives and ideas. I like debate because it forces people to evaluate–constantly–what’s best for the greater good, our students, and their learning. But there’s an art to it, and I’m disappointed that that artistic format gets lost in humanity; in each other’s sins, especially pride, but also malice, manipulation, arrogance, vanity, and ignorance. I’m disappointed that many of us strive to make a science out of an art.

I’m a twitter fanatic. Someone follows me back–To me? That means I love you. Now, we can direct-message each other to extend learning, ask questions, and grow. Now, we’re in a reciprocal relationship where we respect each other and each other’s stuff to make us better for our learners.

Because of twitter, I’m reading, writing, evaluating, and reflecting more than ever in my life right now.  

Yet, I’ve seen and experienced on twitter–Too many debates… in writing. Tough sometimes to discern appropriate tone and meaning in the written word. My PLF members are alike in that we all want what’s best for students, but at the same time, we’re all a little bit different. Even in my PLF, misunderstandings have occasionally resulted in bad feelings and unnecessary hurt. One person was joking, but the other wasn’t. One person was speaking from the heart about a life experience, but the other was in beta-hypothetical. One person was referring to life in general, but the other was implying specifics. Misunderstandings happen in writing every day.

Writing is power. Words matter.

But what is a message sent if not sincerely received? 

In addition, in my twitter PLN, I’ve seen where a person was going strong in her stance, and then accidentally omitted a word, and misunderstandings galore. I’ve seen where a person–in the heat of the moment–said something he didn’t really mean, and even deleted it later, but too late–the damage was done. I’ve seen so much intended and unintended ambiguity; vanity; and outright fake, that I’ve come to embrace face-to-face even MORE–usually with a firm handshake, high-five, or hug. And my local PLF provides that learning opportunity for me, and I am forever grateful.

When I know I’m going to see you face-to-face soon, accountability is REAL

Nonverbals are priceless. I’m going to look you in the eye. Because I’m a hugger, we’re going to do one of those–even if it’s one of those half-hugs, but also with a firm handshake. We’re in this together. I reciprocate. I value you. You are an interesting story. I’m very anxious to see what I can learn from you, and also to see if I can be of any help along your learning journey as well.

I love education conferences: the people, learning, and overall experience. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate some presentation formats more than others. Whereas I once was a fan of lecture and the big-wig presenters, I’m now more a fan of ignites, playgrounds, posters, interactive, and panels. But how about that panel format? Could we extend it into a healthy debate? At the next education mega-conference, I’d love to see an education debate. Done well. Done right. And for all the right reasons.

A healthy debate is not necessarily about being right. It’s not even about being in opposition. But in education, could we debate two contrasting points-of-view that may BOTH be right in their context? Could the audience evaluate, grow, and apply debate-wrought points expressed to their own lives? To their students’ lives? And…

Can we shake hands before AND after the wonderful exchange of ideas, all in an effort to make learning experiences better for our students? After all, our #kidsdeserveit! Don’t believe me? Let’s debate!