Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet David Weksler

David Weksler has been a member of TAPPED IN since 1996. David is a current helpdesk volunteer and he also hosts the K-12 Math discussion group at TAPPED IN twice a month. David consults educators about educational technology and loves to help people learn more about computers and the Internet.

David's Perspective

It's Mother's Day, 2002, I'm at my sister's house in Pennsylvania and my folks are also here visiting. My brother-in-law has set the table with a huge variety of breakfast goodies: bagels, pastries, smoked salmon, papaya, strawberries and raspberries. We do have two mothers in the house at the moment.

I'm rushing to log into TAPPED IN this Sunday morning (I bought the pastries) while my father and my niece are working on a computer next to me. I'm looking forward to "see" who has shown up for the Sunday morning "Webheads" group at TAPPED IN. This group is composed of an international group of English as Second Language instructors and researchers and although I lead a math discussion in TAPPED IN, I so enjoy the dynamics of this group that I don't mind being out of the loop.

Before I can even type "hello", I've been greeted by 6 or more people who have gotten online earlier: they are in Pennsylvania, Spain, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Detroit, France, Argentina (it goes on). It's amazing. I'm helping make breakfast (not really helping very much) and I'm also chatting with this International group of ESL educators. It's AMAZING!

My introduction to TAPPED IN began in 1996, when I managed to get past the front desk at SRI in Menlo Park, CA and found myself sitting at Mark Schlager's desk. Mark is the Director of TAPPED IN and when he logged me into TAPPED IN to give me a quick introduction, I was intrigued. As "Road Warrior" for the Math Forum, a National Science Foundation research project, I spent a fair amount of time traveling to schools and to education and technology conferences in order to demonstrate the Math Forum's web site. Learning that I could do this within TAPPED IN and give virtual tours of the Math Forum and other web sites to teachers around the world left me with only this thought: COOL!

I was struck immediately by how TAPPED IN could help solve a basic problem I had: how to show teachers web pages effectively and answer their questions about what they are looking at. I have enjoyed traveling around the country working with educators, but clearly the travel has its cost. Bringing teachers to this Multi-User Virtual Environment (MUVE) seemed to be a superb idea.

Okay, so I've told you about what I was doing earlier today, how this got started for me 5 and a half years ago... so what's my perspective?

Well, I can say that TAPPED IN has supported me both professionally and personally, and I cannot imagine not having access to this wonderful community of educators and technologists that make TAPPED IN work. I believe the first person I met online after getting my membership was a teacher from Finland, who was taking a course on educational virtual environments and had even heard about the Math Forum. It IS a small world.

There have been groups of educators and teachers who have used TAPPED IN briefly in a concentrated fashion and then left, never to return. There are members who have had accounts for years and I smile when I recognize a familiar login name - they are old friends and I look forward to catching up.

In the course of the math education discussions I lead, frequently there are new teachers to TAPPED IN logging in for the first time. We try to make sure that everyone is introduced before the presentation of a particular topic begins, a TAPPED IN custom. It is invaluable, in my opinion, to not only know names, but also a little about where people live and teach. The effort to establish a sense of community in TAPPED IN is what keeps me as an avid member.

Personally, I have encountered and become close "virtual" friends with a remarkable range of people. Some teachers living in foreign countries have invited me to come visit them face-to-face. I've made arrangements with TAPPED IN "friends" to pick up people at airports, meet for dinner, have people stay at my house. BJ Berquist, the first virtual friend I met in person, helped me enormously with a presentation I gave to a group of people about using TAPPED IN.

The link I have to the real lives of people who come to TAPPED IN feels just as strong a relationship as I have with people I see from day to day. These relationships, as they are with educators using technology, have helped me understand more about the effective use of this vast array of educational technology by teachers in classrooms. As I've worked to support classroom teachers, I can really begin to understand what works, what doesn't and why.

It's been an interesting year since the beginning of September, 2001. I've been looking after my parent's house in New Jersey, where I grew up, while they are living in France. I've been out in California for work several times in the past few months and my sister's family has been away for various holidays, so my own family has seemed a bit "virtual" this year as well. My sister came down for breakfast and looked over my shoulder at the text of the TAPPED IN conversation scrolling up on the screen. "I can't keep up with who is saying what," she told me. That's how I feel after I've been looking after her two children for four days. It's just a matter of experience, I guess.