Building Social Community in an Online Course through Online Icebreakers!

Background: I teach online literacy courses, both undergraduate and graduate at The University of Texas at Arlington. I have been teaching online since 2008!

Drawing on ideas from Canadian scholar Terry Anderson and others (see here), a key foundation of online learning is to foster a Community of Inquiry (COI) where students are engaged not just cognitively engaged (which is what we often think learning is solely concerned with), but also socially engaged in a low-risk environment where the teacher is also virtually present in a variety of ways. A new book (2014) by Jon Dron and Terry Anderson, Teaching Crowds: Learning and Social Media (a free PDF can be located here) focuses on the COI framework on the wide vareity of social learning that can take place in an online course. I am looking forward to reading this!

In the meantime, a major goal of mine as an online instructor is to intentionally and strategically foster better student-student interaction to build a more solid foundation for discussions and interactions for students. Based on my readings of the following Jossey-Bass books, I started to implement the idea of “online icebreakers”. The two books that inspired me are below. They are quick reads! I made up most of the icebreakers myself, but several are variations on the icebreakers described in the books below and I have indicated this below.

Engaging the Online Learner: Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction (Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson) Jossey-Bass Publishing, 2011.

9781118018194_cover.indd

Continuing to Engage the Online Learner: More Activities and Resources for Creative Instruction (Rita-Marie Conrad and J. Ana Donaldson) Jossey-Bass Publishing, 2012.

How to get started with Online Icebreakers

These go in the general discussion board area on my learning management system (Blackboard in my case). During week 1, or, prior to the course start, if you choose to open your learning management system up a bit earlier than the official course start date, students are required to post to at least one icebreaker (2-3 paragraphs). Writing a more extended post with more detail is required in the course I teach on writing; it has the dual purpose of helping students consider one of the icebreaker topics as a final writing topic for a key assignment in the course of creating a personal piece of writing. Students are required to post at least three comments to peers.

Each icebreaker is a separate thread within a forum labelled “Online Icebreakers”. Students reply as comments to to a thread; students do not create their own forums. Create one icebreaker topic for about every 5-10 students. E.g., I have 130 students in an online course, so I have about 15 icebreakers so any one thread is not too “crowded”. Choice is essential. So if you have 25 students, I recommend about 5-6 icebreakers. Encourage students to do more than one icebreaker; creating an initial post in response to one icebreaker is a minimum). I even get icebreaker ideas from social media. Encourage students to embed multi-media!

ONLINE ICEBREAKERS

Directions to Students: Complete at least ONE online icebreaker. Go inside this forum to view the icebreakers. Your initial post should be at least two paragraphs. This is a chance to get “warmed up” in terms of writing so do not be skeletal here. Try to include a multi-media element (optional) such as a link, picture, or screenshot of a Google Map (if you are doing “Location, Location, Location”).

Etiquette reminder for students: 

****Everyone, Please Read: Guidelines and Etiquette for Icebreaker Postings

Hi Everyone!

People may be sharing personal views and perspectives here and elsewhere in the course (e.g., assignments). Please be respectful that we all have different points of view and experiences. When replying, look for strength and positive things to say in the writer’s ideas. Stay focused on providing constructive ideas and feedback. All work shared on discussion boards is confidential. Please do not share what you are reading with others. 

Icebreaker 1: Bucket List [Idea inspired from Conrad & Donaldson, 2012]

For this icebreaker, share what is on your top five “bucket list” of things you want to do and get accomplished in life! Share your list and why you selected what you did for each item on the list!

Icebreaker 2: What is your Dream Job as an Educator? [Idea inspired from Conrad & Donaldson, 2012]

Describe your dream job as an educator. What are your future plans as an educator? Can you locate a job ad that matches your dream job? If so, please also post the link! Describe how you can prepare for this dream job!

Icebreaker 3: Six-Word-Memoir

Describe your life in six words and then explain your self in a more detailed two paragraph description! [*Google “Six Word Memoir” in both the web and in “Images” to find examples of other people’s six word memoirs!]

Feel free to use a Word Cloud (Wordle or Tagxedo) or put your text in front of an image using a photo editing app or website. Describe your six-word memoir in several paragraphs and tell us a bit more about YOU beyond the six words!

Icebreaker 4: “Location, Location, Location” [Places Lived] [Idea inspired from Conrad & Donaldson, 2012]

What cities have you lived in? What was the best thing about living in each of these places? Feel free to include pictures! Include at least 2-3 places. If you wish, include a map with an arrow showing where you have lived. 

Dr. Semingson’s places lived (in chronological order): Austin, TX;  Kodiak Island, AK; Fairbanks, AK; Anchorage, AK; San Diego, CA; Santa Barbara, CA; Austin, TX [returned at age 25!], Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

Feel free to include images! Pictures are encouraged in the online icebreakers but are not required! Also post three or more comments to others. A comment is a paragraph or more in length. Don’t be skeletal in your writing in the icebreaker post and comments.

I grew up in Alaska from age 1-10! [I did  a screenshot in Google Maps and then cropped it and added text using “Paint”.

 

Icebreaker 5: Movie or Song (Soundtrack of your Life) [Idea inspired from Conrad & Donaldson, 2012]

What movie or song summarizes who you are? Include a link to either lyrics or a YouTube video of the song (if it’s a song) or a link to a movie site (e.g., IMBD) describing the movie. Why did you pick this? What genre is the song and/or movie? Explain and also respond to other posting(s) on this thread!

Icebreaker 6: Purpose and Passion

What are you passionate about in life and in work? Make a list of these. Share and elaborate upon these.

Be sure to leave a comment for someone on this thread and also other threads if you have time!

Icebreaker 7: Teachers who Blog! Do you have a blog to share with us?

Do you have a blog? Even if you don’t post often, feel free to share your blog (or blogs if you have more than one) link here (be sure it hyperlinks by clicking the link button and inserting the link).

Dr. Semingson’s Blogs:

Professional blog: http://virtualgadfly.com/

Memoir/vignette blog: https://mytruelifestories.wordpress.com/

Healthy Living blog: http://exploringhealthylivingdfw.blogspot.com/

Share what your blog is about and what you hope to post in future posts (“blogging goals”). I have heard of people setting up a schedule for themselves of posts!

If you want to start a blog, I suggest Blogger (through Google) or WordPress.

How to start a blog: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/start-teacher-blog-tips-resources-matt-davis

Icebreaker 8: Pets! 

Do you have a pet. past or present? Share pictures and let us know about your pet(s)! Tell us about how your pet(s) came into your life. I have a rescue dog, Dexter the Westie. He even has his own Facebook page! https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dexter-the-Westie/1412588495677182?ref=hl

Dexter says, “Hi!”. Hello, Everypawdy!

Dexter has a chaise lounge and stairs to get on it!

Dexter gets tucked in with his blankie!

Icebreaker 9: Sports/Athletics!

Are you an athlete or do you have a sport you especially like?

I am primarily a swimmer at heart, but I am currently learning to play golf and have started doing weight training!

At the Driving Range in Euless, TX

Icebreaker 10: What are You Reading? List What you are Reading

What are you reading? Share some titles and authors of your favorite books! What genres do you generally prefer, as a reader?

Feel free to use a list. Explain your book choices in detail! Feel free to add links to the author’s website. You can focus on children’s/YA books or books you are reading (personal and/or professional). If you wish, add quotes by your favorite writer(s).

Icebreaker 11: Major Turning Point(s)!

What has been a major turning point in your life? There might be more than one turning point…For me (Dr. Semingson), mine include getting a PhD, buying my first house, and my childhood move from Alaska to San Diego at age 10.

Icebreaker 12: Who I Admire

Who do you admire most? Why do you admire them? It can be someone from your “real life” or it can be someone you have never met or even someone from history that has passed on already. Please share your list! Feel free to include images or a link (e.g., to an inspiring video). You can list more than one person!

I encourage you to try these in your class, whether it’s face-to-face and supplemented by a learning management system, a blended/hybrid format, or if you are teaching online! I hope to continue to tweak these and encourage students to add multi-media!

Icebreaker 13: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (Travel Adventures)

Are any of you travelers? Tell us about a journey (or two!) that you have been on, whether it was a simple local day trip,staycation, or world journey! I have only been to Canada (briefly!) and Mexico (Tijuana!) and most of my travels  have been in the United States. I like to read about other people’s traveling adventures. Feel free to post any pictures in your short narrative. Be detailed and descriptive in your write-up!

Icebreaker 14: Dream Home and/or Dream Car (or Both!) [Idea inspired from Conrad & Donaldson, 2012]

What is your dream home? What is your dream car? What style and decorating themes best suit your interior design themes? Do you have home decorating tips? What car style do you like? Feel free to describe either or both!

Icebreaker 15: Beautiful Moments-“What is your most beautiful moment in life”?

What has been a “beautiful moment” in your life? It can be literal (e.g., a breathtaking view) or symbolic (e.g., life event). See my example here. You can write about more than one beautiful moment in your post!

As you can see, students also learn a bit more about me both personally and professionally!

What do you think about this activity?

99 comments

  1. The self education industry is a $355 Million per day industry and is expected to TRIPLE in the next 5 years! And with the right strategy this could be your opportunity to:

    Get in early before it is oversaturated.
    Help others go faster while you get paid
    Fix a broken system
    Make an impact on the world
    Get paid for a skill, hobby, passion or expertise you already have (or get paid from someone else’s)

    And Tony Robbins, Russell Brunson and Dean Graziosi are finally going to show YOU how to take advantage of it…

    (Now if you don’t already know who these 3 guys are then you’ll want to listen up!! They’ve impacted millions of lives and have generated billions of dollars)

    Look, if you’ve ever thought about (or even if you never thought about) getting paid for something you know (like a passion or a skill)… or even getting paid from what others know, then you have to attend.

    This is one of the fastest growing industries online and in all areas of the world.

    And for the first time ever they’re doing a webclass training on how to extract your wisdom (or somebody else’s) and get other people to pay you for it!

    You can save your spot here (and when you do register, you’re immediately going to get a brand new, never before seen training from Tony and Dean. No one else will ever get a chance to see this rare training except for us).

    kbbmint.com

    After hearing what they’re teaching, I truly believe this is the #1 way to make a massive income, make a massive impact on the world and leave a legacy!

    And here’s just a fraction of what you’ll learn this week:

    The mostly hidden $129 Billion dollar market and how you can make a massive impact and leave a legacy by profiting from it.

    The KBB Triangle: The 3 ways to profit (whether you’re an expert with a thriving business, just getting started, or even if you’re at complete rock bottom)

    The framework to profit from what you (or someone else) already knows – or by creating community and bringing people together.

    Plus you’ll even be able to ask them questions when they do Q&A at the end of the training. (Chat is limited so show up early).

    There’s no other time where you’re going to have this opportunity. So BE THERE! Because if you’re not going to make a shift in your life now, then when? And if not with these guys, then let me ask with who?

    This is your rare chance to learn from 3 people who started from nothing and went on to generate billions of dollars and build massive companies.

    Spots are filling up faster than they ever have, so you need to hurry and go here to save your spot

    https://kbbmint.com

    Register now and I’ll see you there this week – Plus they did a few brand new “pre-event” trainings that only those who register get access to.

    Talk soon

  2. Hello! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this site? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had issues with hackers and I’m looking at alternatives for another platform. I would be awesome if you could point me in the direction of a good platform.

  3. I think this is among the most significant info for me. And i’m glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The site style is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  4. My coder is trying to persuade me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the expenses.
    But he’s tryiong none the less. I’ve been using WordPress on a number of
    websites for about a year and am concerned about switching to another platform.
    I have heard great things about blogengine.net. Is there a
    way I can import all my wordpress posts into it? Any help would be
    greatly appreciated!

  5. It’s the best time to make some plans for the future
    and it’s time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if
    I could I desire to suggest you few interesting things or advice.

    Maybe you can write next articles referring to this article.

    I want to read more things about it!

  6. Excellent beat ! I wish to apprentice whilst
    you amend your website, how could i subscribe for a weblog site?
    The account helped me a applicable deal. I have been tiny
    bit familiar of this your broadcast provided vivid transparent concept

  7. Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wished to say that I’ve truly enjoyed surfing around your blog posts.
    In any case I will be subscribing to your feed and I hope you
    write again very soon!

  8. Its such as you read my mind! You seem to grasp a
    lot about this, like you wrote the ebook in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few percent to drive the message home a
    little bit, but instead of that, that is excellent
    blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.

  9. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you make this website yourself or did you hire someone to do it
    for you? Plz respond as I’m looking to create my own blog and would like to know where
    u got this from. thanks a lot

  10. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added
    I get three e-mails with the same comment. Is there any way you
    can remove me from that service? Thank you!

  11. Hi, this weekend is pleasant in support of me, because this moment i am reading this impressive educational paragraph here at my residence.

    Take a look at my web blog :: w88

  12. Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your
    blog and in accession capital to assert that I acquire actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Any way I’ll be subscribing to your augment and even I achievement you access consistently
    rapidly.

    Here is my webpage m88

  13. An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a
    co-worker who was conducting a little homework on this.
    And he actually bought me dinner due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him…

    lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this topic here
    on your site.

    Feel free to surf to my homepage :: fun88

  14. I’m curious to find out what blog system you are working with?
    I’m having some minor security problems with
    my latest website and I’d like to find something more safeguarded.
    Do you have any suggestions?

  15. Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Look advanced to far added agreeable from you! However, how
    could we communicate?

  16. It’s truly very complicated in this full of activity life to listen news on Television, so I simply use internet for that purpose, and take the latest information.

  17. Hey! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where I could find a captcha plugin for my comment form?

    I’m using the same blog platform as yours and
    I’m having trouble finding one? Thanks a lot!

  18. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up. The text in your post seem to be running off the
    screen in Chrome. I’m not sure if this is a formatting issue or something to do with web browser compatibility but I figured I’d post
    to let you know. The layout look great though!
    Hope you get the issue solved soon. Thanks

  19. I think what you said made a ton of sense. However, what about this?
    suppose you typed a catchier post title? I am not saying
    your content isn’t good., however suppose you added a title that grabbed a
    person’s attention? I mean Building Social Community in an Online
    Course through Online Icebreakers! – Virtual Gadfly:
    Moving Forward into the Future of Learning is kinda plain. You might peek
    at Yahoo’s front page and note how they create post headlines to get viewers to click.

    You might try adding a video or a picture or two to get people interested
    about everything’ve got to say. Just my opinion,
    it could make your website a little livelier.

  20. I’m extremely impressed with your writing
    skills as well as with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
    Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one
    these days.

    my web page: Movie Trailers

  21. Hi there everyone, it’s my first visit at this site, and post is genuinely fruitful
    in support of me, keep up posting these types of articles.

    Here is my web site … w88

  22. Hi my friend! I want to say that this post is amazing, great
    written and come with almost all significant infos.
    I’d like to see extra posts like this .

  23. I was extremely pleased to find this site.
    I need to to thank you for your time just for this wonderful
    read!! I definitely liked every part of it and i also have you bookmarked to look at new stuff on your
    blog.

  24. Excellent blog here! Additionally your site loads up fast!
    What web host are you the use of? Can I get your associate hyperlink to your host?
    I want my website loaded up as quickly as yours
    lol

  25. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t
    loading properly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.
    I’ve tried it in two different browsers and both show the same outcome.

  26. Your style is very unique compared to other people I’ve
    read stuff from. Thank you for posting when you have the opportunity,
    Guess I will just bookmark this web site.

  27. Does your site have a contact page? I’m having trouble locating
    it but, I’d like to send you an e-mail. I’ve got some recommendations for your blog
    you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great website
    and I look forward to seeing it improve over time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *