Virtual chats transcending the physical, time and space…

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Twitter is the closest thing we have 2virtual speech. The text “bites” similar in length 2reg convo. Gr8 training ground 4all communication.  Bernadette Keefe MD @nxtstop1

  • Crucial conversations for educators and students

After the #HMIchat  in January 2017, memories flooded back of a virtual classroom activity that occurred during a synchronous chat room event many years ago (2004).  The chat room was set up inside our learning management system – so participation consisted of members of our course group – however similar to the HMIchat it was a global community – we had students (educators) in our course from all parts of the world.

The course was “Teaching online strategies and tactics”, (part of a Masters in Educational technology at USQ).  It explored the principles of online pedagogy, and examined different ways to engage and teach students online. The course, itself was totally online and we were able to immerse ourselves in the different communication options available within our LMS – not quite as diverse as what we have available today with social media, but enough to experiment and explore.

The particular session in 2004 was so close to ‘real’ conversation or a brain storming activity that it left participants feeling speechless – comments included:

“What we experienced was like astral traveling into each other’s consciousness and connecting at such a fundamental level that it caused a euphoria of sort”

…the soul can transcend the physical

…a sense of sharing…not demonstrating…or observing but really sharing…

…we embarked on an adventure and admitted vulnerability by surrendering to the moment – we were truly ‘in the moment’

we were perceived as real people, even transcending this to a plane that I have only experienced in a period of intense meditation, where bodies, personalities, souls merge so that you are no longer aware of how or why this is occurring but you feel “at one” with the experience. Even the medium becomes irrelevant.

..we were in fact engaging in  high level pedagogy and reached the ‘max’ or the ‘peak’ of interaction.

So what are the characteristics that made the chat successful?

The human – ness of the virtual conversation can be defined as ‘social presence’ which generates a feeling of safety, mutual respect, connectedness  and willingness to share.

In our group chat there was mutual respect, and a knowing among participants that it was safe to contribute, safe to have your say, safe to have an opinion, safe to disagree.

..A sense of sharing and a desire to share – not demonstrating or observing but really sharing. Leaving your ego at the door (a disassociation from roles) and being prepared for anything – the parameters are articulated but the possibilities are endless.

A pre-determined agenda is important, it forms the basis for discussion, and allows participants to prepare for the activity. The post chat discussion is also worthwhile, to allow the participants to critically reflect on the key points, outcomes, issues and further meaning making.

The role of the moderator is also critical, they need subtly guide the conversation, allowing different pathways to be explored and if required to bring the group back on topic.   However in such a fast paced meeting of minds,  the moderator has to be quite skilled to keep track of the different threads, which can at times seem out of sync.

Today’s tweet chats offer the same virtual space for collaborative learning, where educators actively exchange ideas, explore perspectives, debate and problem solve in the context of a  ‘community of practice’.

As mentioned the tweet chat can be used as reflective practice, participants critically reflect their practice, on their contributions and those of others.

This type of conversational discourse is beneficial  for developing students digital literacy skills,  and as Bernadette Keefe tweeted, what  a great training ground for communication.  Tweet chats engender the idea of active learning – students shifting from passive to active engagement. Being able to co-construct knowledge through collective learning, sharing of perspectives and meaning making.

As educators we can encourage students to participate, share and collaborate in virtual spaces to develop and enhance their communication skills; to reflect on their learning; to explore perspectives and gain new understandings.  This highly interactive learning activity can transform the student learning experience.

Acknowledgement: Dr Shirley Reushle, Lecturer Teaching Online Strategies and Tactics, Faculty of Education, University of Southern Queensland.2004
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