George Lucas Educational Foundation

Fostering Community in Virtual Classroom

Fostering Community in Virtual Classroom

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I create my staff's weekly teacher newsletter with the efforts to deliver important procedural matters, I also want to create our own internal PLN while encouraging to branch out and create there own personal one. We are a cyber school with three separate offices spread across the state, along with our students. I've create a monthly topic on various topics. This topic is about fostering a community in an online classroom. Getting our students to engage in our virtual environment is an on-going challenge. We each bring our personality to our subject and must transfer that virtually so that our students will love us, right? Partially. It takes time and a patient hand to build that report with our students. Education author Cathy Davidson wrote that “if we can be replaced by a computer screen, we should be.   By that I mean if you offer nothing more as a teacher than a computer screen, then you are wasting everyone's time by being there.” Especially with some of our students coming to us with a predetermined image of what an adult is, what a teacher is, what an authority figure is. If we want our students to interact with one another, than we need to model the same behavior we desire. How do YOU get to know your students? What is it that you do to ’break the ice’ in the classroom?

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Keith Heggart's picture
Keith Heggart
High School Teacher from Sydney, Australia

Wow! Great question, Sarah. I'd love to hear more about your school - three separate offices sounds like it would be a challenge to coordinate. Anyway, in my experience, I've identified three little rules that I think really help to break the ice in any online classroom.

Firstly: A picture is worth a thousand words. In other words, encourage students to set up appropriate avatars of themselves next to their name. Ensure staff do the same.

Secondly: Synchronous trumps Asynchronous communication, simply because it allows for conversations through things like Skype and GTalk, rather than communication through email/ forums.

Thirdly: Games! Online games played together - especially those that require communication and cooperation are a great way to break the ice. The hard part is getting back to school work...

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