A quick thought on an icebreaker

Okay – I’ve been taking a short for-credit course from the UK Open University, and since it has a reflection task at the end of every week, I had some grand lofty plan that I’d cross post that here and perhaps expand on it a little. I’m taking Online Teaching: Creating Courses for Adult Learners because I’m interested to see how the OU approaches this topic, how they teach it, and how the design of the course itself models the content that it is teaching.

So, week 11 of the course is starting. So that’s a whole 11 weeks I’ve failed to follow through on this excellent plan, and given I’ve had some holiday breaks and some pretty hard weeks recently, I’m not going to pretend that I am up to date on the coursework either. Assignment submission date is 1 September though. I’ll get there.

However, one little Twitter chat this week prompted some reflection on an icebreaker task that was in week 1 of the course, which in my view was a really great example of a simple activity but with some real complex thinking in the design of it. For a short activity it does a lot of work.

Since I have more than 280 characters here, I’ll expand on the activity a little.

There was a nice pre-amble paragraph that explained that lots of the images used in the course are openly licensed and linked to a few of the places that images came from. The guidance was clear that copyright images should only be linked to, but that it was okay to copy and upload openly licensed images for the activity.

The task itself was to find an image that represented something about learning to you. We were to share it in the discussion forum with an explanation, and then were to respond to a couple of other posts, and like a few images that we thought were good choices.

So, why do I like this activity?

  1. It provides lots of scope for personality but doesn’t ask for anything personal.
  2. It accommodates students working at different paces – including starting the coursework after the official start date. I’ve watched “late” students complete the activity and I would guess it might offer some sense of “joining” a community of learners. This could be quite a neat way to bridge some of the transactional distance in continuous enrolment courses.
  3. It teaches several digital literacies, in particular open licensing and how to use the discussion forums in the course.
  4. It gently embodies a wider culture of academic integrity; copying other people’s work without appropriate credit is not on.
  5. It builds community, and in this course peer discussion is a big part of the pedagogical design. It’s a MOOC course on the FutureLearn platform so is very light touch in terms of tutor support.

More reflections on this course will follow. Honestly. They will.

(Gif made by me from a piece of film in the Eric Lucey Film Collection CC-BY University of Edinburgh https://open.ed.ac.uk/eric-lucey-film-collection/)

2 thoughts on “A quick thought on an icebreaker

  1. I could create a long list of MOOCs I didn’t finish. I was always keen on “ice-breaker” activities and even included an exrended induction activity for Masters programmes I managed. 25+ years ago I used Gary Larson cartoons for an induction activity for HND Computing students – Shock horror on copyright front. The most thought-provoking piece I read recently on ice-breakers was from Sherri Spelic https://twitter.com/edifiedlistener/status/1286587070706835458?s=19 that also made me think about the wisdom of using humour in a multi-cultural group. I think the activity you were offered seems good for all the reasons you describe.

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