Initial anxieties can be overcome

June 7, 2011

Task one has been a great success.  The students have really made an effort to create their blog and have written some very insightful blog posts.  The interaction has been enlightening with students commenting on each others post and writing very encouraging and supportive replies.  I’m very fascinated by the buzz of interaction and the students are sharing their thoughts and interests as well as their frustrations.  Some posts in particular have created a surge of responses with some very personal and heartfelt communication.  I’m delighted that students are engaging with each other and I didn’t imagine it would be so productive in the first week.  The initial skype chats proved to be very worthwhile with students expressing their excitement about the course and sharing any concerns they had so far.  I used the time wisely to talk about any problems they were encountering with interaction and technology and emphasised that the course would work most effectively if everyone continually supported and interacted with each other.

It has not all been successful as two students have still not started the first task and I’m concerned with whether they will contribute to the course.  I have tried to encourage them and sent e.mails reassuring that I can assist with any difficulties whether it be technological problems or anxieties related to interacting.  I hope that they can still participate with the course but I’m unsure whether they will continue.  I am aware that they may be following other students interactions and may feel intimidated by sharing their own points of view and interests.  This is known as lurking and although they appear to not to be participating they could still be showing an interest in the task without anyone knowing.

Students all stated that they were initially nervous about starting the course but felt more relaxed after talking over skype and starting the first task.  For several students this was their first time creating an online blog and although anxious at first they were able to successfully create one and start writing blog posts.  Initially some students were unsure about publishing their writing online but realised the benefits and were excited about sharing their thoughts with others.  I reassured students and explained that the most important thing about writing a blog post is the content and they don’t need to worry as much about making mistakes.

Most of the students also expressed anxiety about using SL.  Again I tried to reassure them that it takes time to get used to this new virtual environment and showed empathy by expressing that I’m also very new to SL and understand their anxiety.  One student in particular stated that they had already tried to communicate with others in SL but had a very unsettling experience.  They only wanted to practice conversational English but were frequently harassed and unsettled by some very explicit propositions.  I was naively unaware of this happening in SL and from this found out that their can be a problem with griefers  who can make the SL experience very uncomfortable.  I reassured the student and advised her to be careful as some places should not be visited in SL.  I will make sure that students are aware of this and point them in the direction of places where they can safely practice conversation.

All in all its been a very encouraging and eventful experience.  I’m excited to continue and look forward to seeing how task two develops.In accordance with Salmon’s model it seems that students are ready to start stage three; Information Exchange, where students will find and exchange meaningful information with each other which should provide a spark to encourage interaction towards forming a community of practice.

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