I recently answered 3 questions about online communication to contribute to a book to be published by ISTE. I would like to share the answers I provided and also be a critical thinker and talk about the difference between communication and expression.
How do we communicate online with students to help build relationships and help facilitate learning?
In order to build relationships with our students, we need to adjust to the millennials’ world and for instance, beyond emails and chat, we can use emojis, memes and other funny visuals that can be integrated in various online tools that students use to demonstrate their learning. This is an easy way to connect and indirectly tell them that we are mindful of their world and we want to make an effort to know them. It also supports an informal but respectful style of communication that students seem comfortable with but need to continue develop as part of digital citizenship to reflect on what’s appropriate and what’s not.
Keeping in mind a dialogue to facilitate learning, using “suggesting” mode in a GoogleDoc is an excellent way to provide feedback, seek collaboration and develop criteria of self-correction.
What strategies do we use to communicate synchronously with students?
Google Talk and Hangout are two very common tools to communicate synchronously with our students. Skype is another great tool to integrate screen sharing and webcam. Perhaps a less used tool but powerful is Google Cast for Education that allow students to cast their screen to the teacher’s screen which can be helpful to allow more students’ voice and equality in the classroom.
What strategies do we use to communicate asynchronously with students?
Emailing is the most common answer here but we can think of other ways, for instance, providing feedback on an assignment and returning it via Google Classroom. Google Groups and other forums can be used asynchronously to discuss with a group. Blogs/Sites/Eportfolio tools allow us to comment. other tools such as wiki and padlet also allow us to continue collaborating and sharing ideas without being online at the same time. Finally, making videos (flipping the classroom or sharing / commenting on videos) are great ways to communicate: students can also create their screen cast or selfie video and share with their teachers.
Being Critical about “Communication”
According to Caleb Gattegno, “communication is a miracle”. Indeed, we never exactly know if the mental image we have in mind when we communicate with someone else is the same mental image that the other person has, therefore, communication does not always (or often) work. I like the concept of “expression” because we can communicate without being understood but when we focus on “expression”, we really stress on what the person is trying to share and not what the other is receiving. The point here is to emphasis that sometimes even though there is no visible evidence of communication, there can be expression. Another idea is that if we listen to our students more (and “listen” in the sense of observing them expressing themselves in multiple ways, even ways that are not clearly defined under “communication”), we could “hear” them better and respond more effectively 🙂
This is a recent and powerful video by Roslyn Young and Piers Messum (both using the “Silent Way” approach – like me – invented by Caleb Gattegno), it’s a great explanation of this difference between communicating and expressing ourselves: