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One part ninja, three parts Glinda? Exploring the ideal online teaching presence

Is the ideal online teaching presence just over the rainbow?

I have always imagined an ideal teaching presence would evoke a feeling of joy and awe — a natural and organic sense of being connected with that perfect guide on the side. From the opening YouTube course orientation to the multimedia announcements, the right presence makes the learners feel supported. There are plenty of reminders to ask for help and even a pretty Twitter button for just in time support — learners reflect “wow, this teacher’s a ninja of online tips and tricks!!” Embedded social tools incorporate the presence of peers. This online learning experience shines and sparkles! It’s so sparkly in fact… you can even hear this song ‘Optimistic Voices‘ from the Wizard of Oz playing.

Foru Friends Approach the Emerald City, The Wizard of Oz, 1939 MGM Film

You’re out of the woods – You’re out of the dark – You’re out of the night :: Step into the sun, step into the light :: Keep straight ahead For the most glorious place :: On the Face of the Earth Or the sky :: Hold onto your breath – Hold onto your heart – Hold onto your hope March up to the gate :: And bid it open ~Optimistic Voices, The Wizard of Oz, 1939 MGM Film

Ohhh! Love that, pretty voices. Colorful images – let’s hashtag that #NOFILTER. 

but is that it?

is that all it takes to make students successful?

Of course not!

There’s a lot more to teaching presence than the look and feel (although shiny and sparkly can be nice).

Behind the curtain

Behind the gates of the Emerald City, our four friends find ‘a humbug.’ When students actually seek assistance beyond the helpful reminders and announcements, that’s where my teaching persona matters most.

from Chapter 16: The Magic Art of the Great Humbug; image from Lambertville Library

from Chapter 16: The Magic Art of the Great Humbug; image from Lambertville Library

Through experience I have learned that the teaching persona that helps my students relate to me best is rooted in my expectations for positive outcomes.

I express this presence most often not when things are shiny and happy, but rather when things get rough. (Think Glinda, the good witch of the north, with the candidness and authenticity of Oprah and a wee bit of Tina Fey humor).

I expect questions… and even a little confusion.
Just because I expect positive outcomes doesn’t mean I expect the road to be paved with gold (or yellow brick). Rather, I expect it to be bumpy from time to time, especially at the beginning.  My teaching presence needs to be endlessly patient and kind when approached by students as the learning community is forming. There may be some repetition involved, but that’s what it takes to develop an environment where people can take risks. Because I teach social media, taking risks is essential for growth.

I assume people are doing the best they can with what they know. Every learner can grow. By meeting them where they are at (instead of where I ‘want’ them to be) I can be more effective.
Treating people the way YOU want to be treated doesn’t always work best. Not everyone needs or wants the same thing. Really listening to learners and finding out where they are goes a long way toward developing autonomy. The people I often spend the most time with become the peer leaders in the future.

There is always a better way to do things and move forward in  a positive direction.
You can’t expect to anticipate their every need, but you can toss out the idea that you know it all – acknowledge that when learners are struggling it’s a cue that YOU and THEY can probably do it better. But how? Listening and observing learners carefully can give you insights into pathways that can make other learners more successful. When I receive feedback, I cherish it – and when I give feedback, I try to say exactly what needs to be said in a way that moves us forward toward our goals.

What do you think?

If you’re not feeling it… what’s the ‘devil’s advocate’ perspective on this teaching persona? I want to think more about this!

If you’re feeling it… Can you think of a better character besides Glinda that espouses this persona?

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