Meeting Old Friends For The First Time

Do you remember having penpals? I have fond memories of connecting with other kids from Japan and Australia as an elementary student. I also remember being so jealous when one of my classmates was able to actually meet his penpal face to face at Expo 86 in Vancouver.

I recently attended two conferences (well, one was an unconference) in Vancouver – EdCamp Vancouver (#edcampvan) and the Digital Learning Spring Conference (#edtechbc). My conference experience PRE-social media usually went something like this: I would arrive at the conference last minute, attend the keynote, listen to the presenters, take notes, and go home. I rarely knew anybody and I was not the person to just walk up to someone and introduce myself. I was a receiver of information and took part in very little educational dialogue.


From: http://bit.ly/lsRJUi

Flash forward to life after Twitter and blogging. For the past 2 years, I have connected with thousands of educators from around the globe; more recently I have connected with quite a few educators from BC. Prior to EdCamp, I posted a Tweet asking who was attending and I also posted some presentation ideas on the EdCamp site. Through this, I was able to have conversations even before the event started; I even arrived early to EdCamp because I was so excited to actually meet some of my Twitter friends face to face. When I walked into the library, I can think of no other way to describe it other than it felt like I was meeting my penpals for the first time. I felt I knew these people so well: I knew their values, their educational philosophies, and even a bit about their families. Instead of sitting in the corner waiting for the next presentation, I found myself seeking out educators and having powerful dialogue with people who I felt like I knew. I said to Heidi Hass Gable at one point “I have never met so many people for the first time… Whom I already knew”. There were plenty of smiles, handshakes, and even hugs as so many people were excited to connect with those who they had been “speaking” with for the past few months or years. (You can read more about my EdCamp experience here). I think this comfort level lead to the ongoing powerful challenging conversations that occurred throughout the day.

Two days later, I attended the #edtechBC conference which was keynoted by George and Alec Couros. George is someone who, prior to that day, had never met but have had endless chats through Twitter, blogging, email, and Gmail Video chats. I walked into the room just before he was about to present, he saw me, gave a wave and I think he wrote it best when he tweeted:

Tweet from @gcouros

I have always realized the power of social media as a professional development tool; I never could have imagined the resulting connections and face to face relationships. These relationships will never replace those within my school and district but social media has added so many passionate people to my professional learning network and, combined with conferences, truly has led to the feeling of meeting old friends for the first time.

Here is a list of people whom I connected with face-to-face for the first time (and a few whom I had the pleasure of reconnecting – if I missed you, I apologize!!!):

  • @davidwees – The man behind EdCamp. A math teacher in Vancouver and one of the most reflective educators I know.
  • @johnnybevacqua – An inspiring, reflective, energetic administrator from Vancouver. Encouraged by his reflections on student motivation.
  • @aakune – A passionate administrator and great leader from Delta. Only chatted with him for a few minutes but looking forward to the next time! Love his thoughts on educational leadership.
  • @remi_collins – A principal from Coquitlam, Remi and I actually completed the BCELC seminar series a few years ago but it was great to reconnect. I love his thoughts on grading and assessment. He is currently trying to pilot a project in his district that would see intermediates moving away from grades
  • @gmbondi A true family man and a guy who has a way with words around his powerful views on education. Gino is a principal in Vancouver.
  • @bsoong A senior science teacher in Vancouver – wish I had Bernie as a mentor to me when I was teaching high school science.
  • @aaronmueller You cannot help but smile when you hang out with Aaron – just a positive, happy guy who also happens to be an online educator in Vancouver.
  • @grantfrend An administrator in Maple Ridge who does it all. I love his reflective views on motivation of students.
  • @5_alive I love what Jaki, a teacher from Vancouver Island, is doing in her classroom around assessment! Her movement away from grades has significantly increased learning in her class.
  • @darcymullin When Darcy, a principal in Summerland, speaks, it is like he saying the words that I wish I knew how to say. Love his views on motivating students and his thoughts on assessment.
  • @tomschimmer The Assessment For Learning guru. District Principal from Penticton. #nuffsaid
  • @hhg One of my mentors on parent engagement in schools. The DPAC president in Coquitlam, Heidi works tirelessly to be a voice for students and parents.
  • @bryanhughes Passionate teacher in Vancouver – great views on EdTech.
  • @alissalu Energized administrator from Vancouver Island. Eats a mean burger.
  • @scienceworldTR Katie is just beaming with positivity – and great resources from Science World.
  • @teachingtammy A reflective, positive teacher from Vancouver.  Love some of the stuff she is trying with her class this year.
  • @millerblair Blair seems to do it all – math, tech, business, coach… an inspiring educator in Vancouver.
  • @emcavin Love the conversations Ed, a teacher in Vancouver, has with his class around motivation and education reform.
  • @fionade A lady that has been part of some key changes at our school. She is another mentor to me around parent voice, engagement and education reform. Fiona is about as passionate as they come and a member of @4moms1dream.
  • @cyberjohn07 The MAN when it comes to websites and distance learning. Check out his site for cool education sites. Love his energy.
  • @malchkiey Malcolm says it like it is – gotta respect that. Never even caught on that he was at EdCamp until it ended!
  • @stephenhurley All the way from Ontario, Stephen writes a darn good blog with powerful thoughts on ed reform.
  • @clthompson A science teacher from the Okanagan – cannot help but smile when you are around Claire.
  • @gcouros A man that needs no introduction… George is an online mentor to me. Creator of Connected Principals, principal in Alberta and social media guru, Roberto Luongo impersonator.. I just wish he would stop making fun of my phone.
  • @courosa Alec has been leading the way using social media to connect in education. I have never seen a man eat a burger that quickly. Poor younger brother George never had a chance growing up.
  • @chrkennedy One word: ENERGY. Wow, no wonder he became Superintendent of West Van at such an early age. A truly inspiring leader in BC Education and a leadership mentor to me.
  • @erringreg Erinn just oozes passion in education, especially around what she is doing with her “connected classroom”. Great sense of humour too!
  • @jbellsd60 District Principal of Technology in Fort St John, Jarrod is doing some awesome stuff with social media and schools.
  • @mthman Came up from the Washington and immediately liked this dude. Math teacher with a great future in educational leadership.
  • @mrmosesdotorg This guy blew me away with his thoughts on education technology. All the way from Vegas, he spread his ideas throughout BC at the EdTech conference. He is more than about technology, he is all about kids.
  • @tysune Tyler is a UBC student – I love this guy’s critical nature of his thoughts. A great perspective on education.
  • @learnbyliving Julia is someone who you meet and you just cannot help but stay and chat. Love her thoughts on education reform and overall learning. Reflective is a word that I seem to be using a lot but I must use this to describe her.
  • @4moms1dream A fantastic collaborative effort to change education with parent power. 4 BC moms with a purpose.
  • @g_kima Goran calls himself “just a parent” (is anybody “just a parent”?) 😉 . Although not a teacher, he is a true educator for more than just his kids. I love his perspectives on assessment and motivation. Organizer of TEDxKids in Vancouver.
  • @amy_stephenson A new Tweeter and teacher – another person you cannot help but smile when you are around.
  • @khforkids Her Twitter name says it all – Kimberlee is a mom with a purpose to encourage more parent engagement in schools. Another member of @4moms1dream

Thank you to all those that helped (and continue) to make my learning experiences so powerful!

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Chris Wejr

Proud father of twin girls and a son. Currently working as the Principal of Shortreed Elementary School (K-5) in Aldergove, BC, Canada. Passionate about instruction, strengths-based education and leadership, reconciliation, assessment, and human motivation.


  1. Wow! I remember that happening to me at BLC08 with @lizbdavis & others who I knew so well… and never ‘knew’ f2f, and that brings up 2 interesting points:

    1. Is it a generational thing that we place so much value on face-to-face meetings as an essential part of knowing someone? I know more about you and @gcouros than I know about some people I’ve worked in the same building with.

    2. Don’t students deserve to connect to peers in this same, powerful & meaningful way?

    Great post!

  2. Hey Chris!

    Couldn’t agree more with this post. My regret is that I could not be there with all of you!

    Looking forward to meeting you for the first time as well, my friend!

  3. Hi Chris,
    You described it perfectly! I missed EdCamp Vancouver, but my conference experience was very much the same as yours. Interesting how purposeful use of social media can create trust between like-minded individuals.

    And thanks for saying nice things about me 🙂 Great to meet you too!

  4. Chris, you’ve kept me busy tonight as I add to the list of people I follow on Twitter 🙂
    I wrote about my experience at the #edtechbc conference too (here) and how powerful it was meeting f2f those people that I learn from everyday online. Darcy Mullin said it really
    ; “We were quickly able to get past that initial awkwardness and get right to sharing ideas and learning from one another.”

    It was great meeting you f2f at #edtechbc. I hope we cross paths in person again soon.

  5. As I said via Twitter, your post makes me even more motivated to get out and meet some of the movers and shakers. Sad to have missed edcamp.

    Like Ms. Thompson, I found several new tweeps to add to my PLN.

    Cheers for the compilation. 🙂

  6. Chris you forgot someone:)

    Chris Wejr
    An inspiring BC administrator (and life long Canuck fan) who has taken the conversation about rewards in school to new thoughtful levels in BC. A thoughtful and reflective practioner, his blog is a must read.

  7. Terrific list. Although not at the event in person I was present virtually.

  8. It was great connecting with you buddy and I love this post. It is amazing that I have known you for so long yet never knew that you had that big rotary phone that you carried around. I will make sure by the next time I see you, I will convince you to get an iPhone 😛

    Thanks for the post buddy!

  9. What a great post! I know exactly how you felt. Last year, I went to ECOO for the first time, and I meant so many of my Twitter friends in real life. I almost felt “star struck.” Isn’t it a wonderful feeling?


  10. I love David’s thoughts and how to take this to students – if it is so powerful for adults, why not do this with students?

    I look forward to meeting more tweeps in the future!

  11. @George – hahahah… the rotary phone might be on its last legs so you may have bugged me enough that it just gave up on me. 🙂

  12. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the mention and kind words. My experience at Edcamp Vancouver was very similar to yours. As you so accurately described, ‘meeting old friends for the first time’ and engaging in rich discussion with them was a powerful experience. I believe that the many interactions between Edcamp participants prior to the day of the event were like a extended icebreaker activity. Because the majority of participants arrived knowing others in at least a virtual world, it immediately allowed for open, honest and respectful conversations. My hope is that an increasing number of stakeholders in education participate in ‘unconference’ events and establish powerful connections with others.

    And yes, I hope we have the chance to talk at greater length in the near future. I enjoy your perspectives and find you cause me to constantly reflect on my current practice.



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