My online course prototype will supplement my in-person grade three classroom. Coming from an in-person environment, I already have a strong community of learners; learners who know each other well, who are (mostly) comfortable with each other in the classroom setting and who interact, in person, all day, everyday. Therefore, a strong classroom climate of interaction and collaboration is already well established, especially at this point of the school year (month six). My concern is that with my online course prototype, I may lose this community if I don’t put the time and attention into (temporarily) converting my in-person community of learners to an engaged group of online learners. The last thing I want is for my students to move to isolated work on a computer, without any interaction or collaboration with their peers.
My goal when introducing these online modules is to maintain a similar environment where students feel supported and celebrated for their efforts, both by myself and their peers. I hope to foster lots of student-teacher and peer-peer interaction throughout my two blended learning modules, using similar strategies online as I do in class. Students are used to frequently sharing their ideas, discussing class content in pairs, small groups and whole groups, and receiving lots of feedback while they are working – I will strive to maintain these key interactive pieces of my classroom climate as students work through my online learning prototype.
The blog post, Building Community in an Online Course, offers four key suggestions for online course community: allow students to get to know me and me them, allow students to get to know each other, create a safe and incusing environment and be present/responsive in the course; these four areas are priorities in my face-to-face practice and this blog offers valuable options for continuing to prioritize them in an online setting. I explore some of these in my examples below.
The following quote from the blog, 6 Strategies for Building Community in Online Courses, is at the forefront of my online community planning: “Community is more than participation; it requires moving from participation to engagement, involvement, and action.” I will be trying to push my young learners beyond simply participating when we complete our online modules. Authentic engagement is something I am always attempting to foster in-class as well!
Luckily, the primary program I am utilizing (Seesaw) has diverse options for communication within it. Interactions will primarily be taking place on this platform. Although not a traditional LMS, Seesaw allows for various forms of communication, including liking work, commenting on work and private or group messaging. As well, it can host photos, voice recordings and videos of myself (providing instruction or feedback) and students (sharing ideas and work).
- Likes & Commenting: Similar to a social media platform, Seesaw allows for classmates to like and comment on others’ work. Students will like and comment on their peers’ work on the Seesaw portfolio page, throughout the modules. When students post work, their peers will be able to see it and either ‘like’ it or give their feedback via a written or oral comment. I will provide explicit expectations for liking and commenting so the students understand the importance of this interactive piece. Commenting will serve as an ongoing peer review exercise, further supporting student-student interaction: “design activities that require student interaction: group work, peer review, etc.“
*To begin, I will require posts and comments to be approved by me before they are live on the Seesaw platform. This way, I can help ensure students are submitting their best work for peers to see and to promote respectful and useful commenting on others’ work. Pre-learning and practice on commenting expectations will be required as we have not accessed this tool on Seesaw yet. Comments will be visible to peers, myself and connected families which should help enforce respectful commenting. In addition, I will regularly comment on students’ work with celebratory messages and thoughtful feedback to model this; this will help mimic the in-person support students are used to receiving in class.
To help facilitate valuable comments, I will offer grade-level appropriate prompts for students to start with (such as: I like how you…/You did a good job on…/This reminds me of…/Did you think about…). As well, explicit instructions on netiquette will be necessary; this term was first introduced to me last week during the class readings: “remind students of the basic principles of ‘netiquette’ when communicating online.”
Seesaw offers many resources to help support student’s acquire and practice digital citizenship skills that will be necessary as we use these communication tools: https://app.seesaw.me/activities?subject=DigitalCitizenship
- Messaging: As well as public commenting, students are able to private message me. During these online modules, I will encourage students to message me with questions, as they typically would ask a question in our classroom. I will be actively checking and responding to messages so students feel supported during their online work. As well, I will be reaching out to students to check in with their learning and progress of the modules.
*This messaging feature allows me to fully “Communicate regularly/Be Present in the Course” with constant communication both on a whole group level (instructions, reminders, advice, check-ins) and one -on-one (more personal check in, aid).
- Photos, videos and recordings: The use of these three mediums, will allow for further interaction throughout these modules. Through our main Seesaw platform, students will be sharing work and ideas using photos (camera tool), recordings (microphone tool) and videos (recording tool). By collecting evidence of learning in these mediums, students will be more engaged in their own learning and the learning of their peers. Seeing and hearing themselves and their peers, instead of just reading typed words, will foster a stronger level of interaction and interest. I will also be using photos, videos and recordings to interact with the class, throughout the modules.
*Students are already familiar with these tools and are comfortable with submitting work via photo, recording and video response.
- Instructional Strategies: With inspiration from Michael Wesch, I will be using suggested techniques to better engage learners during online instruction. For my lessons, I plan to use POV and screen recording of methods of engagement without showing my face on the video. To demonstrate what we are learning/doing, I will use the POV technique: showing the viewer my point of view as I am completing a task. As well, instead of solely explaining steps verbally, I will screen record to demonstrate steps. Does anyone have a favorite screen recording and editing program that they can recommend? As well, I will use Wesch’s storytelling advice. Storytelling compliments our ELA Fairy tale unit theme well, so I will use the power of storytelling to further interest students when delivering course content via online videos. My young learners especially will benefit from these engagement strategies.
Thanks for reading! As always, I would love any feedback and/or other ideas to foster online interaction. Specifically, if you are Seesaw-savvy and have any tips and tricks for using it’s communication features, that would be appreciated! Looking forward to reading what you are doing to build community in your online courses!