A recent article at The Chronicle (5 min read) highlighted what I think is the essence of using photography and imagery in a blog post.
All learning environments are mediated in one form or another and distance learning environments are mediated in such a way that personalities are invisible.
In the same way that Lang writes:
After 20 minutes of concentrating on my task, vaguely aware that we were doing something good but mostly focused on getting salad on the plates and keeping an eye on my 10-year-old, a man broke the invisible barrier that separated the volunteers from the recipients of our charity. “Hey, thank you,” he said, speaking loudly and directly across the counter to us. “I really appreciate what you guys are doing. Without folks like you, there wouldn’t be … “
We too can get caught up in the tools and processes that we use to ‘educate our students’ (I have that in scare quotes because I strongly believe that the majority of education is learning that is entirely dependent upon what students do, rather than what ‘teachers’ do). When we get caught in the tools, we lose sight of learners.
The Community of Inquiry model of learning highlights the need for online learning environments to allow for social presence, or the ability of participants to project their personalities into the learning environment and to feel comfortable and supported as they engage in learning activities.
Photos and imagery, especially photos that we have taken and that show a part of our personalities, are very powerful ways to allow and promote social presence in our web platforms. An example might be the tweet I posted for the YouShow Daily last week.
You can learn a lot about my family in those pictures, and making personal connections is important. Again, Lang says,
personal relationships are what students document as the most profound and memorable aspects of their college experience
The problem arises when we become so engrossed in our performance that we sever our connection with the audience. Great classroom lecturers might not carry into the classroom what great actors in theater know: You are always seeking connections with the audience rather than just with the material.
So, how are you connecting? How can your images promote that connection, that social presence?
being present by Colin Madland is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.