Opportunities and Challenges of Communication

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As educators, we may not think that we have to learn how to communicate in the online environment, but we do. While working on the quad blogging assignment with my Flat Classroom team mates, there were times when I really just wanted to talk to them, face to face. It wasn’t that I couldn’t communicate with them well through Twitter or on our Google doc; it’s just that I wanted to hear from them that we understood each other. And I wanted to see their responses to our discussion. And I wanted them to hear me. Virtual conversations seem truncated to me. There is no time or space to illustrate an idea, expand a thought, or clarify a concept through metaphor, analogy or anecdote. Maybe it’s just me because I am a chatty person and an English teacher, but I don’t think so.

Consider the graphic above. Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano of Langwitches.org  created it to illustrate her understanding of how teachers’ acquire both blogging skills and know-how. Clearly, learning how to use the medium is a process, but so too is learning how to communicate through and with the medium.

Another example is learning how to use Twitter both asynchronously and synchronously. My team mates and I used Twitter asynchronously to communicate information about when and what information had been placed on our Google doc, and to plan how we were going to collect data from Twitter. That communication went well. However, the synchronous use of Twitter via a Tweet chat is another skill altogether. We did not use Tweet chat for our flat classroom work, but one could create a hash tag for a group of students and they could then synchronously chat. There are many challenges to chatting successfully in a Tweet chat: speed, remembering to add the hash tag, and the art of re-tweeting can make chats intimidating experiences. Solution: teacher and peer modelling, practice, and more practice.

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