Presence and persona

Photo: Samuel Austin, Unsplash

The main reason why I was eager to participate in the ONL191-course was that I wanted to find reasons and tools for turning some of my classroom teaching into online parts. Therefore, I was looking forward to Topic 4 – a chance to dig into, ponder and mould a model for blended learning. 

First we had to consider and fit in emotions into the teaching reality. During the webinar it was nice to see and discuss the diagram/picture full of presences: social, cognitive and teaching presences – and intertwined with them all, emotional presence. In my different fields of work, a very important pillar has been – and still is – presence. Showing emotion (within limits) is important, as it makes you as a teacher more human and open to a more versatile communication. 

When you are dealing with smaller groups it is important not to act on an emotional communication level where you turn into a mother or father figure.  (I have noticed that some students tend to play the family game: if mummy says no, go ask daddy – or vice versa.) When working with larger groups it is important to still be personal and very present when you deliver your content, but this is when meeting the students “face2face”. 

Online communication is not anything that I’ve been brought up with. I continually learn new digital means, each one with its own netiquette. My experience thus far is that dialogue through messages on the learning platform is slow (e-mail is faster), and online meeting rooms limit parts of communication skills. (A reflection: acting on stage and on screen are two different things, even if the basic preparation is the same. Communicating only with your head/face online is like acting in a close-up – do not use big muscles or extensive movements. But are you being “yourself” then?)

How to communicate online and still transmit the “real” you is a challenge and definitely something I would like to look more into.

The task of Topic 4 was to design an online or blended course, encouraging engagement and collaborative learning. In our PBL group we decided to create a course purely online, using the structure of the five steps. It was very helpful to realize that the ONL 191 course follows these steps!  

My reality is that I will teach blended courses. Probably I will try to use the Padlet and webinars as a complement to the learning platform and the classroom meetings. I will try to create interesting, inspiring and challenging tasks that are to be done before the physical encounters.

But how to do it?

Sebastian in my group emphasized the importance of holding and keeping the interest and engagement of the students. That is the real challenge! There are lots of quizzes and tricks that I use in the classroom, and now I have to translate them into the online language. It is also very important to be available online, but probably I will stick to e-mail, phone calls and individual meetings at school.

After dealing with this topic, I find that offering courses to my students with miscellaneous working tools and means of communication is my cup of teaching. I do not (yet) want to leave out the face2face part, but I will try to somehow make the courses blend into the online world of my students – and investigate the online persona. Hopefully I will not turn into the character and namesake Elisabet in Ingmar Bergman’s movie “Persona” – since she ceased talking altogether.

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