Does voice matter?

As I was reading Shawn Cornally’s post on why the Rubik’s Cube team is trying to win a Nobel Prize tonight, I could hear him through it. All thanks to his wonderful appearance at a Global Physics Department meeting, I feel I’ve gotten to know a little of his personality, humor, and voice.

As I thought about it, I realized that was happening with lots of the bloggers that I read, since I’ve met so many of them through the GPD. It made me wonder how useful that amount of connection is. I’ve been known to downplay the importance of meetings and conferences, thinking that twitter etc might be able to play the same role, though more cheaply. However, most social media connections are asynchronous and usually without voice. Certainly meeting someone at a conference really lets you form a bond, out of which you can really build collaborative ideas. I just wonder how necessary it is.

AAPT in Philly is coming up soon and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of my online friends in person for the first time. I’m sure meeting them will give me deeper insights on their blog posts etc in the future. What I keep wondering, though, is can we do without the in-person meetings to save some money (my annual professional development funds don’t even cover my AAPT stay). Your thoughts?

About Andy Rundquist

Professor of physics at Hamline University in St. Paul, MN
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3 Responses to Does voice matter?

  1. Scott Thomas says:

    I would say its been awesome talking with a gpd member down here at FIU. Putting a full 3D face to the picture is really nice. Seeing a few John in a google hangout was also pretty cool.

  2. Joss Ives says:

    I think the voice makes it more efficient. It seems reasonable to get to know somebody quite well through asynchronous text-based methods, but it is really slow. Not impossible but slow.

    P.S. Looking forward to meeting Andy in person in Philly!

  3. John Burk says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about what has made our virtual collaborations (The Global Physics Dept, plus all of the other interactions via blogging and twitter) such an incredible source of professional development for me. Today I’m sitting in a fairly traditional workshop on using the new TI-nspire calculator, and it’s very well run, but overall, I find myself getting so much more from our regular GPD meetings.

    I do think the step of actually connecting with people via voice really did go a long way to show me just how powerful this could be. My first experience with this was back when Frank responded positively to a tweet I sent out about measuring the earth with Skype and a stick. We had a brief get to know you chat the day before our experiment, and maybe it was just Frank’s awesomeness, but I felt like this was a totally new level of collaboration. Now I see randomly organized chats on G+ about Matter and Interactions with Bruce Sherwood, and I think we’re in a completely different ball game than what I thought possible a few years ago.

    It also occurs to me that probably most physics resetters have figured this out. All last year I virtually collaborated with a team of professors and grad students from UC Boulder and GA Tech to develop and test our computational modeling curriculum, and our only connection was an hour long weekly Skype call, but this was enough for a very productive collaboration, and I’m sure those 400+ scientists collaborations have long ago discovered that they can do most of their collaborative work via regular conference calls. The question to me is how do we get these same researchers to apply this principle to professional development for their teaching, and this is probably tied to how do we get many of these teachers see the value of PER and professional development in the first place.

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