This morning I spent time listening to the group of people discussing connected courses , describing their experience in the #etmooc. What struck me about the conversation was that they were describing how important it was that they had “set climate” first. They understood that tools can mediate the connections but people using the tools are the most important. They talked about their personal connection with the real humans also in the course around playfulness, but more important, kindness, openness and the knowledge that mistakes will be helped but not judged. The relationships among co-learners endure because there were one-to-one connections made that became part of their personal learning network.
They recognized that playfulness is often difficult in a serious academic course, but orienting students first to being learners together makes the difference for becoming co-learners. Let them adjust to the open, connected communication. “It’s different. Self-directed is new.” Howard Rheingold admits “This model takes more time” for faculty but makes a difference for learners developing trust… “Checking each other out…” Allow personal pace. Let them watch for a time, becoming comfortable in the connections. It can be “a transformative experience.” How do we make our courses more inclusive, engaging, accessible to all levels of learning and skill? Pre-course orientation to being connected in this way might be helpful…”more of an onramp.” Allow students to decide the way in which they communicate and interact.
I’m taking the liberty of naming their description of what made a difference to them personally in the etmooc as “teaching presence and setting climate,” defined in Community of Inquiry. Teaching presence becomes a way to develop trust among learners. The panel suggested: Model ways to present yourself to your co-learners. Call people by name. Recognize when someone joins the conversation. Be kind to the people in your learning community. Welcome engagement and comment thoughtfully on posts. When people are generous, so much can happen. A community can build in this emerging medium.
Another way to “Set climate.” is to begin with a learning project, as described by Professor Alec Couros in The Connected Teacher. Have students begin by seeking the answer to a real question they are intrigued by. First, they find and consume lots of media with information about the topic. “At some point, they make a connection with a person. The internet can mediate that connection.” They learn something and then share what they’ve learned, how they learned, and what mattered. They answer “How are you making learning visible? How are you contributing to the learning of others?” It begins the development of a community of learners. They begin to commit to teaching others what they know.
Teaching presence takes a leadership role in setting the climate and appears to precede both social and cognitive presence in the community of inquiry. http://johnwisneski.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Community-of-Inquiry-Our-current-understanding-of-teaching-presence.pdf