Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Identity Accelerator #6: Present Yourself Using a Digital Poster

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching


Full credit to one of my Master of Education students, Nazreen Beaulieu, for telling me about this one! I learn so much from my students.

The idea is to ask students to create a digital poster that incorporates 10 adjectives that they would use to describe themselves. The title of the poster is “I am . . .” The students are also encouraged to use a metaphor such as “life is a dance”, or “life is a rollercoaster”. The images, videos, sounds, and animations that the students choose correspond to the adjectives and should fit into the chosen theme.

By asking the students to express themselves in this way, they share conceptions of themselves. They can express their sense of humour, creativity, emotional states, and interests.

This activity can be used as an icebreaker to facilitate community development.



Primarily working via a learning management system, I find that it is easier to do this asynchronously. The students can take a few days to learn the software and compose their posters. The instructor and students can share links to their digital posters (or upload if sufficient bandwidth). Then, they can comment on each others’ posters in a text discussion. Nazreen’s class used VoiceThread ( to comment on each other’s posters. This allowed them to listen to each other rather than simply relying on text.


It is possible for the students to share their digital posters synchronously. Then, you can bring them together in a synchronous discussion area (Adobe Connect, Big Blue Button, Blackboard Collaborate, etc.) to discuss their impressions of each others’ posters.

Preparation & instructions


Instructor Responsibilities



According to Nazreen, there are some advantages and disadvantages to the use of digital posters (face-to-face environment):

I taught mostly synchronous high school classes and a big motivator was turning the whiteboard over to the students for the opening 10 minutes of class. Some doodled, some shared memes while other just chatted. Having access to the whiteboard gave them a sense of ownership though that I think was important not only to build community but also to keep them engaged.”

“Bandwidth always proved to be a nagging culprit and resistor to equality. For those with high-speed internet, audio and video led to the creation of some awesome vines embedded in their glogs while others had to make do with just pictures.”


I haven’t tried this yet, but I would love to!



Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this entry.

 Thank you, Nazreen!

Identity Accelerator #5: Group Word Search

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching



Last week we had another great ETAD Studio (#etadsi) at St. Paul’s College in Muenster, Saskatchewan. While there, someone (thanks, JR!) mentioned a couple of excellent books by Patti Shank:

Shank: Online Learning Idea Book (1st Edition)Shank, P. (2007). The online learning idea book: 95 proven ways to enhance technology-based and blended learning (1st ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Retrieved from





Shank: Online Learning Idea Book (2nd Edition)Shank, P. (2011). The online learning idea book: Proven ways to enhance technology-based and blended learning (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer. Retrieved from




This ideas comes from Shank’s first edition. On page 173, Shank describes the use of a custom word search puzzle as a synchronous activity. (Shank indicates that the idea originates from Karen Hyder (managing director, Kaleidoscope Training and Consulting, Palmyra, NY).

In this activity, the students will see a word search puzzle on screen, and it is their job to locate the words. There are a number of ways that this task can be done so as to encourage collaboration and teamwork.





Instructor responsibilities



I am anxious to try this activity. It would help pass the time at the beginning of a session when participants are checking their audio settings and troubleshooting technical issues. By asking the students to work together in locating the words in the puzzle, it gives them an opportunity to interact in a goal-oriented way. Similarly, if a group of students is asked to collaborate to produce a word search puzzle, discuss their selections, and provide definitions prior to class, they once again have an opportunity to share ideas and get to know each other.


To be rated . . .

Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this entry.

Identity Accelerator #4: Sorting Your Stuff [Intro to Thematic Coding in Qualitative Research]

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching · Tags: ,



“Sorting your stuff” is a fun activity. It can lead so some personal revelations. What this activity involves is the participants emptying their handbags, book bags, backpacks, or other containers that they have with them. Then, they sort the objects into two or three categories and, in doing so, explain how they chose the categories into which they sorted the objects.

This is an activity that I have used in conducting workshops on phenomenography. But, recently at the 32nd Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference (2015), I noted that some professors* of qualitative research methods also use this activity to introduce basic thematic coding. It is, however, possible to use this activity simply as an “introductions and welcome” activity in a more general sense. For classes that are not related to qualitative research, facilitators can ask students to select object of different topics and themes.





Teacher responsibilities



I have had excellent success in using this activity for facilitating phenomenography workshops. However, it is important to remind students of qualitative research that they will more than likely be categorizing complex concepts. The use of simple manipulatives has its limitations. Therefore, I recommend this type of activity as a springboard. More in-depth discussions and activities are necessary in any instruction of qualitative thematic coding.

By asking the students to reach into their own handbags and backpacks, you are asking them to share some information about themselves. What we carry with us daily can provide insights into who we are as people. This activity can stimulate interesting and, at times, interesting discussions about what is important to us. I use “us” because the instructor should actively demonstrate and share alongside the students. In this way, this activity very much contributes to the acceleration of identities.


Rating 4.5 stars

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Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this entry.

*Note: The speakers at the 32nd Annual Qualitative Analysis Conference who mentioned this technique were: Gail Lindsay (UOIT) and Jasna Schwind (Ryerson University).

Identity Accelerator #3: Mystery Guest

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching



This activity is a based on the old Canadian TV series “Front Page Challenge”. According to the Museum of Broadcast Communications, this quiz show “featured four panelists, usually well-known journalists, who would ask yes-or-no questions in an attempt to correctly identify a mystery challenger connected to a front-page news item, as well as the news item itself. After the panelist had guessed correctly—or been stumped—they would proceed to interview the challenger”.


Naturally, this activity is ideal for social studies or political science classes. However, this idea can be used in nearly any class. In my case, for example, I would consider selecting someone who is an expert in instructional design or and educational learning theory.








Teacher responsibilities



Mystery Guest would be an ideal activity for beginning a unit on a specific topic. For example, if I were starting a research methodology unit on design-based research (DBR), I would consider inviting Dr. Terry Anderson to join the activity. Advance preparation (in collusion with the guest prior to the session) of interview questions/discussion would include topics such as




I would provide a rating of this activity, but I have yet to try it.


Note: for an introduction to identity accelerators for online teaching and learning visit this previous entry.

Identity Accelerator #2: Guess The Untruth

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching


Guess The Untruth is an activity that I adopted years ago when teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Lethbridge. Originally, it was a way to encourage students to practice the present perfect tense. This activity can be very interesting and engaging. It offers the students an opportunity to share their cleverness, their sense of humour, and some interesting aspects of their lives. In other words, the students can start sharing and shaping their identities.

Most recently, I have been using this activity with my master-level students at the beginning of the semester. It gives the students a break from the usual welcome forum introductions in which we ask them to tell us about themselves and why they are taking the class. (I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to do this when I was a student.)



Teacher demonstration

  • Updating his/her profile.
  • Starting a discussion thread with the three statements about him/herself.
  • Guessing about one or two of the students’ statements and demonstrating the logic processes by comparing what is said in the profile and how the three statements might be truthful or not.
  • Fessing up! This, too, is part of leading the group: ending the activity and debriefing.


I often send out a welcome letter to the students a week or two before an online course starts. On the course start date, I then explain this activity in a video as well as in text. (I recommend offering text scripts of videos just in case the students have bandwidth issues.)

Wthin a day of starting the activity, there can be 100 or more discussion messages posted for a class of 20 students. It can be a high volume activity, so be prepared.

I have had consistently good experience with this activity and I highly recommend it. Try drawing upon interesting snippets from your own life. For example:

  • I have been marooned on the Orinoco River.
  • I like catsup on my waffles.
  • I have practiced Judo in Spain.

Which do you think is the false statement?


Rating: 5 stars 

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Note: My students recently shared this article with me:

Dixon, J. S., Crooks, H., & Henry, K. (2006). Breaking the ice: Supporting collaboration and the development of community online. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 32(2). Retrieved from

In this article, the authors discuss a similar activity called “Liar, Liar”.

Identity Accelerator #1: Twenty Questions

mkoole, · Categories: Identity



Twenty Questions is an old game that many of us played as children. But, we can also use it as a “serious game”.  I would recommend that it be used as a warmer later into the semester after the students have already introduced themselves and engaged in some interaction. If used as a collaborative activity, the students can discuss strategy. Online collaborative activities help the students get to know each other better.






Teacher demonstration



I used this activity last night during a synchronous discussion with some graduate students studying program evaluation. Since I didn’t want to take too much time, I used one concept to get the class warmed up. I chose a concept that allowed the session to focus on a fundamental idea that branched into the current assignment. The concept was “program”. The exercise allowed us to discuss the definition and characteristics of a “program” as per program evaluation parlance. The discussion for the subsequent hour centered on program evaluation planning: focusing the evaluation, determining stakeholders, questions formulation, and selecting appropriate models. For the current assignment, it is essential for the students to wisely select a program of clear scope and boundaries in order to succeed in the development of a program evaluation plan. (It is a 6-week course!  They need to choose something do-able.) Anyways, I recommend that you choose the concept(s) strategically: something relevant and important to the subsequent discussion.  The students appeared highly engaged.

Rating: 4.5 stars 

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Identity Accelerators for Online Teaching and Learning

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology, Identity, Teaching

As higher education embraces educational technologies to greater extents, it is not uncommon for faculty to find themselves suddenly facilitating online classes. They might be asked to lead online discussions through synchronous tools such as Adobe Connect, Blackboard Collaborate, and Big Blue Button to name a few of the tools available. Asynchronous, text-based discussions remain common likely due to temporal and spatial flexibility.

Those new to online facilitation might feel that the online environment is one of disembodiment offering few contextual or physical cues that instructors traditionally rely upon in face-to-face classrooms in order to determine comprehension, prior knowledge, and attentiveness. Some instructors might feel a sense of isolation because they cannot see and, therefore, feel they cannot get to know their students well enough to anticipate their needs.

Some scholars suggest that online learning offers a more egalitarian environment where learners can interact unimpeded by issues of race, nationality, gender, and social status; others suggest that the online environment is simply another modality. I take the position that online modalities offer an array of social cues. Walther (1996) proposes that participants in mediated environments form impressions of one another much as they would in face-to-face environments, but that it takes longer to generate and collect observations. He argued that online interaction can even become hyperpersonal?leading to greater intimacy as individuals employ additional techniques to plan, contemplate, edit, and project identities of self and others (Chayko, 2008, Henderson & Gilding, 2004; Merchant, 2006, Walther, 1996). Furthermore, anticipation of future interaction has been found in some longitudinal studies to prompt “communicators to seek more information about one another, to act more friendly, and to cooperate in negotiations” (Walther, 1996, p. 12).

Beyond the notion of the hyperpersonal, we might also see students actively shaping their identities based on what they would like to project. Walther et. al. (2006) propose that, in the absence of visual cues in online interactions, people will actively select aspects to present, taking more time to compose their messages. In return, those who receive these messages will develop “idealized attributions of their online partners” (p. 637).

And, humans are never disembodied. In any given online class, students and facilitators are tapping on keyboards, speaking into microphones, snapping pictures, and sharing videos. They are using their fingers, voices, ears, eyes and minds to manipulate the technologies that surround them. They are situated within physical contexts; they have been socialized in physical contexts. And, they bring their situatedness, their prior knowledge, with them into their online interactions. As online facilitators, we need to harness the tools at our disposal in order to get to know our students. We need to learn how to read online cues. Our students also need opportunities to share their prior knowledge and express who they are outside of andin relation to their instructors and fellow online classmates.

To this end, I am going to start sharing and collecting what I am calling “identity accelerators”. These are activities that can be used in a variety of online contexts. I would like to invite anyone out there in the world to share ideas on how to increase engagement and identity development in online teaching and learning environments.

And, I am always looking for ideas and collaborators. Send ideas.


References & related materials:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities: The dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Henderson, S., & Gilding, M. (2004). “I”ve never clicked this much with anyone in my life’: Trust, and hyperpersonal communication in online friendship. New Media & Society, 6(4), 487–506.

Koole, M. (2014). Identity and the itinerant online learner. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(6), 1–19. Retrieved from

Koole, M. (2010). The Web of Identity: Selfhood and Belonging in Online Learning Networks. In The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (Vol. Aalborg, D). Retrieved from

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2013). The web of Identity: A model of digital identity formation in networked learning environments. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media (1st ed., pp. 14–28). Hershey, PA: IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-4666-1915-9.ch002

Merchant, G. (2006). Identity, Social Networks and Online Communication. E-Learning, 3(2), 235–244. Retrieved from

Walther, J. B. (1996). Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 32(1), 3–43.

Walther , J. B., Loh, T., Granka, L. (2005). Let me count the ways: The interchange or verbal and nonverbal cues in computer-mediated and face-to-face affinity. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 24 (2005), pp. 36–65. Retrieved from:

Six Styles of Classroom Video Projects – A Handout

mkoole, · Categories: Educational technology

Thanks to my Twitter buddies, I was notified of this rather excellent resource. In this handout, Richard Byrne shares some excellent ideas for teachers who wish to use video in the classroom. He outlines the following types of video projects:

  1. One-take videos
      • Post to YouTube


  2. Audio slideshows


  3. Whiteboard/screencast instructional videos


  4. Animated videos


  5. Stopmotion and timelapse videos


  6. Documentary/feature films


For a full description of each category, visit Richard Byrne’s page: Free Technology for Teachers.


Tools for Mobile Learning

mkoole, · Categories: Mobile learning, Teaching

Technologies useful in mobile learning

This list is being developed as I sit and listen to workshops and presentations at the Mobile Learning Week at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris (February 17 to 21).

I’ll clean up this list when I get a chance:

Interesting technologies

Nifty Tools for Instructors

mkoole, · Categories: Teaching

Before using any of these tools, check the legal agreements. In some cases, you might forfeit ownership over your creative work. Nonetheless, these are some useful tools. For the most part they are free except where indicated. If you know of any additional tools, let me know . . . leave a comment.

Quiz tools


Concept Mapping


Video Creation


Image Capture


Online Multimedia Posters


iPad tools


Mobile Tools