Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

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.