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A lot is made about whether one can truly have “friends” on the Internet. It was probably Facebook that really got us talking when instead of using “connection” or some other less intimate word they used “Friend” as the type of connections we made as we connected with someone on the Internet through their site.

I have only known education with the Internet.  My first email address came with my first teaching job twenty-one years ago, and my first Internet access (AOL) was at home that first fall of teaching.  I have been thinking about friendship in the Internet era this week with the sudden passing of one of my Internet friends, Kevin Mowat.

Kevin was a Library Learning Consultant with the Winnipeg School Division.  We got to know each other through Twitter.  We shared a passion for school libraries and the key roles teacher-librarians play in leading learning.  I wrote something on my blog in 2011 that he saw, and we connected from there.  Kevin saw the good in the digital world for teachers – he would share resources and more importantly cheer people on – whether it was a colleague in Winnipeg or a Superintendent in West Vancouver.  When I wondered if people actually read my blog, Kevin would make a comment, or email a link to colleagues.

Kevin invited me and a colleague of mine Gary Kern to work with staff in Winnipeg in the fall of 2013.  What stands out four years later is the thoughtful way he treated us.  Gary and I would joke, can he really be this nice a person – nobody is this nice – but he was.  Some people can be nice online but they are often someone different when you meet them – Kevin online was Kevin in person.  It was a wonderful visit and Kevin’s colleagues clearly fed off his positive leadership.

As is the power of digital connections, after spending time together in 2013, we stayed even more connected over the last four years.  This past weekend wishing each other the best on Facebook as school started-up again.  I often thought Kevin was a great example of how friendship is changing in the digital world.

Another of our Internet friends, George Couros wrote a very nice tribute to Kevin earlier this week:

I got an alert on Twitter last night that Kevin was trending in Winnipeg.  The tweets were amazing – I wondered if it was just me that felt the way I did about Kevin – it wasn’t.  It is worth doing a Twitter search for Kevin – it will make you smile, and maybe cry.  So many of the comments kept using the words kind, generous, passionate, caring.

I spent just a few days with Kevin in-person, but he was a wonderful friend.  He is proof of the power and possibility of the Internet.  When we see others use the technology so poorly, he reminded us that technology can bring us together, build community and support each other.

My best to Kevin’s family and colleagues.  It is terribly sad.  The entire education community has lost one of its leaders.

Chris

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