Tapped In Member Perspectives: Meet Kimberly Flack

Kim Flack (KimberlyRF) is an Instructional Specialist Coordinator working at ASSET-KAET-ASU in Flagstaff, AZ, training teachers to integrate technology into their everyday activities and curriculums. Kim taught high school Special Education and Journalism for 10 years prior to joining ASSET.

Kim's Perspective

"Hi, Welcome to TAPPED IN. Can I help you with anything?" The words on the screen spoke softly to me, and sounded in my ears like a clerk as I first enter a store to shop. I wasn't sure whether to click the X in the top of my screen quickly and run. I couldn't do this. Teenagers did chats, people on talk shows did chats, but teachers? I just didn't know. This was unfamiliar territory.

I found myself typing back. "Hi, I'm here for the Crazy 8s Summer Carnival." My response suddenly went from my typing area to the conversation above. I had entered cyberland, chatzone, TAPPED IN and there was no turning back. Suddenly people smiled, waved, nodded. The chat screen became alive with human interaction and a voice directed me to the appropriate location and said I could follow someone.

With a simple keystroke accompanying the word follow (/follow) I was able to attach myself to another educator and begin the conference. I was fascinated with the whole process. I attended 6 presentations that day. Of course, I began conservatively. I learned about PBS educator sites (I work with the local PBS affiliate and was drawn to hear their presentation - it seemed safe). I became familiar with the Global Educators' Network. I met someone who volunteered for TAPPED IN named Keiko who had an office with a pet and a coffee pot and served sushi. I checked in to various presentations as the day went on. I discovered I had a microphone following me, recording the text, my movements and that I immediately received a transcript of my travels and conference attendance in my email as I disconnected from TAPPED IN. That afternoon I attended a fun session, Virtual Pets. And, when I couldn't imagine this environment becoming more complex, I opted for a nightly tour of TAPPED IN offices and learned about how to create a Virtual Office. I was hooked! I set out to find room in the North end of the Tower. 2413 became my own!

Research says 95% or more of human interaction and conversation is nonverbal. When we transplant ourselves into the online environment, we often lose those nonverbal elements that are so vital to interacting with one another. We teach our students lessons in Netiquette and what it means to TYPE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS and warn them about rereading what they send to cyberspace, because it is all too easy to become misinterpreted, without those nonverbal elements of communication. The wonderful thing about TAPPED IN is they added this element to this cyber environment.

As you listen to presenters, you can add those most important elements to the conversation that show you are interested and participating. You can nod and smile and even raise your hand to ask a question. The presenters can project web sites off to the side of the chat area, much like an "in person" presenter would share an overhead image or handout. These features, coupled with presentation groups are often small, allow for intense interaction with the speaker and the audience members. Participants leave the presentation loaded with new web resources and ideas, armed and ready to go back and try new things in their classrooms.

The world wide web is such a vast place. The resources can seem overwhelming, and many times useless when simply searching alone at Google.com. But to receive a tour and explanation of sites created by other educators, and then to see how it connects to other resources on the web, makes those sites seem so much more applicable to classroom curriculum and so much more "safe" to use in my teaching. TAPPED IN adds all those dimensions to educator sites, by allowing guest speakers to share in this forum.

The calendar each month is full of events to attend: every content area, every age level, all over the world. In my work for ASSET, training teachers to use and integrate technology into their curriculums in Arizona, I hope to increase the number of face-to-face training sessions about the TAPPED IN environment so that more educators become comfortable using technology for more than just games or research reports. I encourage teachers to experience a guest speaker or a conference online, because how often do you pay hundreds of dollars to attend an event, but never get to ask your question or discuss a relevant issue very important to your teaching? TAPPED IN brings those experts in the field to a place that makes it okay to ask questions and make the presentation more personal.