HumanMOOC Week 1: Instructor Presence

* Combined post for Week 1, Activity 1 (create intro presence) and Activity 2 (reflect), plus Activity 3 (learn a new tool) *

I just created something fun for my "Instructor Presence" activity; instead of doing an animated gif from a video (which was one of the options I saw in the Assignment Bank), I made an animated gif from some images, spelling out a message letter by letter. I've set it to just run once here so it doesn't drive people crazy; you can see the infinite looping version at the bottom of the page.

And no, that cat is not "me" and no, I have not created an instructor video. I take a different approach to the idea of "instructor presence" in my classes: my goal is not so much for the students to try to get to know me, the person, as a person; instead, my goal is to convey to them in every way how I can be their guide and helper on their learning adventure ... which might include making an animated GIF. :-)

I hope that the journey can be both fun and challenging, and as a result I hope that the students will like what they are doing and, therefore, like me too. But you know, it's actually okay if they don't like me as a person; the only thing that really matters is that they should like what they are doing in the class. So, if my admittedly weird and quirky personality is not what a student is looking for in an instructor, that's okay: I want to show the student at every step that I can still be a good helper in their learning journey even if I am not the instructor they expected.

And the same is true for me as a teacher in relation to the students: as a general rule, I have lots of positive affection for my students; I like them a lot. But if there are students who, for whatever reason, I do not really click with personally, that's okay too. I have to believe that I can still be a good teacher for every student. In fact, we would probably be in serious trouble if we all had to like each other personally for a class to succeed!

So, my goal is not so much about me-the-person and, even more precarious, about the students liking me. Instead, my focus is on what we can DO together as a class, and how we can help each other to learn new things and share them with each other to increase the learning. That's why, for my "instructor presence" activity here, I wanted to make a "hi there" cat animated GIF. It's fun and friendly, and it's also practical: when I made the GIF, I wrote out the step by step instructions for how I did that so that any student who wants to make something similar can do that: Animated Letter/Word GIFs. I am guessing quite a few of them will take me up on this challenge! (And there are lots of others to choose from too; this is just the newest one.)

Plus, I enjoyed this myself because I learned something new! Normally I use the GIMP to make animations, but for this purpose I found a super-simple browser-based tool that I could recommend to students. After trying a few, I decided that was the most clean and simple while still offering good configuration options.

Further thoughts about Introductions and "making" in general:

If you take a look at how the Introduction activity happens in my classes,
it doesn't come first in the Orientation week; instead, it comes near the end. First, the students DO things: they start a blog, they learn how to create blog posts with images and links, they tell a story and post it in their blog. And then... after all that doing and making, they write up an Introduction blog post, and I write up an Introduction post too in exactly the same way, using the same instructions as the students do.

Personally, I think that makes for a better Introduction than a talking head in a video. By sharing something like this with the students, it lets them know that I have an interest in words and images, and that I like to use digital tools to work with words and images. Most importantly of all: it shows the students that I really enjoy teaching other people how to use those tools! So, I could tell them those things... but why not show them instead?

It's a good writer's maxim: show, don't tell. :-)

And here again is my show-and-tell, this time on an infinite loop: HI THERE!