My Personal Reflection As I think back on the whole experience, it almost scares me! While I could envision the end result, teachers working collaboratively in small groups in real time over the Internet, I only had vague ideas about how I would get there with no idea about how the specifics worked. I figured out how to overcome each obstacle as they arose. While I had no more knowledge than most of the teachers, it never occurred to me to be unsure. It did not occur to the others that I really did not know anymore than they knew. However, what I did have that they did not have, was blissful unawareness of any impossibilities. The thought never crossed my mind that I would not figure out a way to make this work. So I became the change I wanted them to follow (Maxwell, 2011).
Why I Think This Worked
There are several reasons why I think this study group model worked. First, there was a clear reason why we needed the change, financial and travel time. Second, I understood that change is a process, not an event, and so began the move forward with “baby steps” as I called them. I knew this could end up quite stressful for some because of their inability to change their mind map at the beginning (Black & Gregersen, 2002). Therefore, I took the necessary precautions to be sure all the pieces outlined by Ambrose (Ambrose, 1987) were in place for every individual. Getting the right technology was only 10 percent of the solution. The other 90 percent was getting the people trained to use the technology (Fisher & Fisher, 2001).
Since the previous structure of study groups incorporated the different levels of attention rates, the system was predisposed for success. What is interesting to note is that the time for training seemed to be in the same proportions as the retention rates. By that I mean, that 90% of the study group time was spent on teaching each other the new model, and 75% practicing the new model, and so forth, for the first year. It would be interesting to do a study to determine if there is any type of relationship between the two.
The virtual study group model has been working quite well since it began in 2000. It has saved the conference thousands of dollar in travel expenses. The teachers’ time has been optimized in the study groups, and while many of them say they miss the face to face every month, no one wants to go back to the travel necessary for that kind of interaction. Instead, we meet face to face at the beginning of the school year, and then face to face at the end. While virtual groups have definitely improved the time and cost involved with teacher study groups, I do not believe we will ever get away from the need to meet face-to-face for social interaction (Fisher & Fisher, 2001).