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GCTE Ramblings - Socialisation Strategies

Ice breakers, or kick starters etc, are well known and have of course been used for years. This is an example of an online take.

In 2007 Dr Shirley Reushle used Forums during week 1 as part of a socialization strategy, whereby she introduced herself in an interesting and personal way, unrelated to the unit content or her role as a teacher (although as it turns out she was still teaching). As people added their entries it allowed = everyone to get to know each other on a level playing field.  Contributions flowed because people were able to write about stuff they knew well, themselves. This was an empowering, social, engaging, and easy activity, perfect for creating connections among participants and engagement in the unit. The key here was that Shirley was still teaching - setting the scene  - leading by example and setting the tone and the theme for everyone else to follow.

In 2011 I had the opportunity to tutor under Dr Tiina Roppola for a unit called Learning with Technology, a core unit for pre-service teachers. Tiina introduced the students, and myself, to a relatively in-depth coverage of multiple modalities and their use. In particular how various modalities are used to communicate thoughts, ideas, feelings, etc, etc, etc. Being a visual learner myself it was a revelation to see that, for some at least, the use of multiple modalities in communication is a good thing!

Semester 2 2012 presented an opportunity to co-teach Assessment and Evaluation with Dr Coralie McCormack, a unit in the Graduate Certificate of Tertiary Education. This presents my first opportunity to teach into a fully online unit! Combining my experience of online courses as a student, particularly that of Shirley's unit, with my formal knowledge and experience tutoring for Tiina Roppola I suggested to Coralie that we incorporate images as an additional modality to textual introductions used in past semesters. And that we set a theme, in this case we used teaching spaces, but people also did there own thing which added interest and diversity.

So far people have not had too much trouble uploading images. Taking or reusing pictures is easier than making or re-purposing video which would require more advanced ICT literacies and could be a barrier to the activity. That said, we could have suggested "images, or any media you like".

This approach has worked very well for this cohort of about 25, larger cohorts may need to be split into groups. Shirley split our 2007 cohort of ~250 into 5 groups based on industry segment if I remember correctly.

Themes can be whatever you want, but providing some focus (e.g. personal or focused on other topics e.g. favourite plant or whatever) scaffolds the activity and gives people some direction. Very importantly providing a theme gives everyone the same stage and provides a big part of the level playing field. Of course some people deviate from this theme but if hey are confident to do so then it adds interest in my opinion, besides it's an informal introduction anyway and very much student centered.

As it turns out my colleague Coralie McCormack identified that one of the courses aims is to help participants esrtablish networks and connections, and that this kind of highly social and low risk activity lends itself well to facilitating achievement of this goal. In-depth knowledge of the discipline being learned is not necessary for deep engagement in this activity which is one of it's primary strengths.

In addition Coralie noted that far from being a one off activity that we leave behind, students may reuse these introductions later on when asked to find colleagues in similar disciplines or contexts for group/peer activities. The search feature of the Database tool in Moodle (used for this activity) will certainly come in handy for that.

Last but not least, when you know more about the people you are teaching you don't feel like your teaching in the dark. You can for example use the information people provide about their contexts and tailor weekly discussions to target what (for example) people want to know more about.


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