Teaching and Learning Online – Week 1 Reflections

Just like with teaching a F2F class it strikes me how important it is to build a good group dynamic and a sense of belonging to the group at the beginning of a course. The role of the teacher here is important but also the attitude that the learner brings with her is important. The teacher needs to encourage the learner to interact socially by setting up “getting to know you” type activities/tasks. The learner needs to bring with her a willingness to interact, share and contribute synchronously and asynchronously.

There are also issues about learners feeling uncomfortable about being seen on video and therefore prefer just to use voice. Those that are interacting with them then miss out on the non-verbal and body language aspects of communication (see DET). This may lead to misunderstandings. It’s important for teacher to be seen so that the students pick up on both verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication and interaction.

Later on today I read a blog post on mLearning saying something along the same lines: A Party With an Atmosphere

In an online LE (Wimba etc) the teacher needs to sensitive to the learners preferences in the way they wish to interact, be that via video, audio or messaging and not push a learner into using one form of communication over another. The form of communication that a learner chooses has implications for the teacher (and other learners in the online classroom) in terms of classroom management and having to communicate with some leaners via audio/video and other s via IM.

Technical issues can also cause the same issues as above as some learners might not have sufficient bandwidth to allow video or audio interactions. The sound and video might drop out so that learners van hear what the teacher or other learners are saying.

The size of group has implication. Smaller  groups would allow more interaction between learners and the teacher but would you get the volume of meaningful comment, insights and experiences. Large groups also mean lots of posts which can be daunting if you don’t log on for a few days as the number of posts can really build up.

It strikes me how important it is to get a group dynamic going in the 1st week or. The learner really needs to get on the forum and post or should I say interact with their fellow learners. I really notice those co-learners that have put in the time to post a reply to all the postings in the getting to know you discussions. Hat’s off to them!


7 Responses to Teaching and Learning Online – Week 1 Reflections

  1. Aileen Silver says:

    I’ve enjoyed reading your reflections James. Don’t you think sharing our reflections extends everyone’s learning because we all see things from slightly (or wildly!) different perspectives.

  2. Hi Aileen

    Thanks for posting and congratulations on being the first ;-). I think a blog is a great way to reflect; its there for all to see and to comment on which, hopefully, promotes collaboration and critical thinking. 9 days ago I wouldn’t have really considered a blog as a tool to promote collaboration, but then a week’s a long time in an MA.

  3. kinkeddemand says:

    Sat in an EAL presentation yesterday it occured to me the content was a not-so-distant metaphor for my current experience, thus…

    We have many types of EAL kids here: they all have polite technical descriptions but the non-EAL teachers class them as ‘clueless’, ‘sponge’ and ‘GIGO’. Those names aren’t as damning as it may first appear. The first group have ‘no clue’ what you’re saying. They are frightened or bored. The second group are sponges: they are soaking up everything, but look like they are doing nothing. Even if you poke them, they won’t react except to leak a little of what you just put in. The third group are GIGO – Garbage In Garbage Out, meaning they understand much, but their external responses is to echo back to you what you tell them.

    So, aside from hugely offending the tireless work of the many linguists here, what was the point of all that? Bear with me.

    As a digital immigrant with a fair amount of data manipulation experience, I like to think I’m at least coherent in many technologies…then we started this module and I entered the world of social media, something I have not touched before. To steal from yesterday’s presentation

    “The [imingrant] student who arrives with no [local language] is in a blind panic, even if they don’t show it. They are struggling to understand the most basic instructions at a time their peers are worrying if their T-Shirt is cool enough. Academic performance is not just not at the front of their mind, it isn’t even in their mind. They are praying to make it through the day without embarrassing themselves…again. If you are not careful, patient, they live to dread this environment, and then the chance of any productive learning is practically lost. At best, they live their daily life like a prisoner, compelled to muddle through each day ass best they can with no escape until their sentence is spent.”

    Well that pretty much describes last week to me.

    Now I totally agree with James and Aileen, but I’m looking at James with envy. He’s off creating his blog, editing the class wiki, feeding back on the articles I haven’t found time to read yet…and I’m still failing to get Twitter to work.

    So yes, a collaborative class culture is vital, but I think you might have to wait a little for the relatively clueless amongst us to get up to speed such that we are focussing on output rather than just keeping up!

    • Aileen says:

      I guess I should have recognised your distinctive (and very entertaining) writing style but I was flummoxed by kinkeddemand and had to head back to emtech to find out it was you Steve!

      I’m in agreement with your metaphorical link to EAL to an extent but I was hoping that it isn’t just garbage coming out! (or going in…). They do appear to provide opportunities to ask questions and genuinely extend understanding.

      The only blog I’ve read in the past is that of Aki Riihilahti (Finnish footballer who used to play for Palace) and that was entirely for its comic value – I still check in from time to time even though he moved on several years ago. I’ve never really considered blogs as academic resources, yet there appears to be a whole raft of them.

      Incidentally, although it does appear that James is streets (nay, whole boroughs) ahead of me (us) in his knowledge and understanding of these new fangled technologies he seems like a decent sort who might help us poor DIs to get through this!

      • Crikey! It might seem I’m streets ahead to you but I certainly don’t feel that way! I’ve been an ‘active’ blogger for all of 2 weeks now :-).
        I would more than welcome the opportunity to demonstrate if I am a ‘decent sort’ or not.

      • Aileen says:

        Already demonstrated by maintaining contact, James!

  4. pauloboyle says:

    Hi James and Aileen,

    Trying to get that group dynamic thing going! Good to see you again on a module, I’m trying to keep up-to-date with the posts. Been reading the Richardson book, not too tech savvy myself, just trying to get into it. Real interesting reading everyone’s blogs, would like to comment more, but don’t have the time.

    Good points!

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