About 7 years ago (the year that I left), my school started a new tradition of holding a convocation during the first week of school. The convocation consists of a distinguished faculty member giving a 20-30 minute address about the value of learning in an effort to frame the academic year.
This time, the address was a very inspiring and thought provoking talk by the chair of the English Department, Elizabeth Roach, about the value of conversation, particularly face to face conversation (Link to recording and transcript of the talk).
I walked away from the talk so ready to have more conversations about the points Elizabeth raises. I’m certainly in full agreement of the value of face to face conversation and the need for more of it, but I also find myself wondering how schools with such remarkable cultures as the one I’m teaching at now, where 300 teenagers can sit with rapt attention about a talk that analyzes the poetry of Adrienne Rich, the writings of Sherry Turkle and Jane Austin, can use these cultures to shape how we use technology in productive ways to extend and enhance conversations rather than isolating ourselves.