I have been reflecting for some time now on the matter of ephemeral vs enduring comments and what the implications are for the online â€˜teacherâ€™. Clearly, in a f2f context much is said that is not meant, or at least the intended meaning is misinterpreted. By contrast in a f2f context, any misunderstandings are subject too the opportunity for immediate negotiation of meaning through feedback, questioning, dialogue, etc. In an online world negotiation of meaning is a qualitatively different process and there is far more scope for misunderstandings, breakdowns in communication, etc., as individuals are left to â€˜ponderâ€™ alone with fewer points of reference to help them establish a balanced point of view. This is well recognised and we attempt to mitigate it by the use of the â€˜cardinal ruleâ€™ for online communities of always assuming good intent.
For the online teacher, this is a very exposing environment as their every word is available to be analysed in a way that would not be possible with ephemeral f2f conversations. One could argue that in knowing this the online teachers should take the greatest of care to compose their every â€˜utteranceâ€™, but I would suggest that this both unsustainable from a workload point of view and perhaps more importantly detrimental to the type discourse we are trying to promote. That is discourse characterised by the modelling of critically reflective practice, creativity, risk taking, and, for some, a senses of humour! All this is done with the intention of moving learning towards the â€˜delightfulâ€™ end of the experience continuum.
This is a very uneven field on which online teachers play with their students, as their every â€˜movementâ€™ can be dissected and analysed and â€˜played backâ€™ out of context. Clearly, the studentsâ€™ utterances are also there for analysis by fellow students and online teachers alike. In the case of the online teacher, however, their professional approach should be supported in a community of colleagues to help them establish strong reference points about intent, meaning, and appropriate responses. The overriding aim of this being to help the student towards their chosen learning goals in a way that recognises a student centred approach to developing a critically reflective learner.
So is this a dangerous and professionally demanding territory for online teachers? I think the answer has to be yes, but one that is worth pursuing!