Et 523 – Module 1 – Reflection

Virtual Ice Breakers for Adults

In the past couple of weeks, we have worked on a wiki project in “Advanced Online Teaching.” I immediately attempted to latch onto a group, but there was very little movement in the discussion forum. I wound up working w/ a classmate over email and we thought we were done early in the week, 2 weeks ago.

Via email, we pulled together about 6 or 7 Virtual Ice Breakers for adults between us. We sent our ideas  back and forth, and decided to choose 4 that we really liked. In the wiki, I created a new sub-page under the main page for Adult Virtual Ice Breakers called “Traditional Adult Virtual Ice Breakers.” We pasted our ice breakers, here, added our names, and saved our changes.

It is not easy for me to get something done and then never look at it, though, so I checked out the wiki to see what other people were doing, and they had turned our wiki page into the planning page! They had pulled all of their information from the main wiki page and pasted it onto our sub-page!

Apparently my name was still associated with that group and they had assumed that I’d taken the liberty of creating a planning page. This turned out to be fine, as I was more concerned with how the person I’d been communicating with via email would react. Not having much choice and deciding one large, cohesive project made more sense than several unrelated projects, we hopped on board.

In my absence from the second group, it LOOKED to me like there was a little activity on the Moodle discussion board, but then it stalled. A couple of people were trying to join late and some people were trying to start conversations in comments section of the wiki.

We needed to be pulled together, so I sent a group email out and we put to a vote what we were doing. We got a consensus and if you click on the link to the Adult Virtual Ice Breakers wiki, you’ll see a main introductory page with all of our names, as well as a sub-page for each of our ice breakers. I encouraged the group to add their names to their ice breakers because we didn’t know how the wiki was going to be graded. Every person contributed to the production of the wiki site, however.

Here’s the ice breaker I put together, followed by a second one that I didn’t submit for grading:

Math Warm-up

Subject: Basic Math, Pre-Algebra or Statistics
By Sarah Miller
Face-to-Face Ice Breaker
Diversity Walk
At a leadership retreat in 2011, we were asked to participate in a diversity walk, where we would be asked something like “take 2 steps forward if you graduated with a bachelor’s degree” or “take a step back if you took out student loans,” things like that.That’s what I started to think about, when I put this together, but of course it’s difficult to have people take 2 steps forward or 2 steps back online, so I wound up with an ice breaker for an online math class.
Here’s a link to the most similar activity I could find to the activity we did at our retreat.
Virual Ice Breaker
Online Math Ice Breaker (Basic Math-Beginning Algebra) – Synchronous or Asynchronous
Take a Survey of Students’ Interests – this can be done in one of several ways:
  • Email students ahead of time with a link to the survey (asynchronous).
  • Once class has started, post a link to the survey in a discussion forum (asynchronous).
  • Hold a synchronous session in Adobe Connect, BlackBoard Collaborate or Google+, where you would post the link in the chat or on a slide in your presentation.
Questions that you can ask in this survey might include the following:
  • Yes or No Questions (Have you traveled to the Great Lakes)
  • Multiple Choice Questions (How many pets do you have – 0, 1, 2, 3)
  • Things that are easily grouped together (Age, for instance)
These 2 types of questions are probably going to be the easiest to tally up and find a way to display visually. The graph is mostly to have something for them to look at.
Example graph - icebreaker.
Figure 1 – this graph shoes the number of students in the class that fall within each of these age ranges.
From this graph, not only can your students see the variation in ages of their classmates (or how many years they have been teaching or how many pets they have, etc.), you can ask them a variety of questions like:
  • How many total students are in the class?
  • What percentage of students are in the age range of 26-30 years old?
  • How many students are in the age range of 18-25?
  • What is the best way to determine the average age of students in the class from the information on this graph?
This might not be the best way to get to know classmates on an individual basis, but it might give students a sense of the overall makeup of the class.

Show and Tell

Synchronous or Asynchronous

By Sarah Miller

F2F version:

Online Version: Choose an object and talk to the class about why it’s special to you or what the story behind its acquisition is.

In the discussion forum, post the following instructions:

  1. Take a photo of an object, pet, person or place and post in the discussion forum.
  2. Tell a story about why it’s special to them.
  3. Once you have posted your photo and story, reply to at least 2 classmates. Either tell them what you could relate to in their story or let them know about another object that has some significance for you that their story reminded you of.

This is meant to be asynchronous, but I think you could also make it synchronous by doing the following.

  1. Hold an Adobe Connect or Blackboard Collaborate session. (You might want to collect the photos ahead of time and arrange them in preparation for a live session. Do this via email or via an asynchronous discussion forum.)
  2. When each student’s object comes up in the slideshow, they would take control of the microphone and describe it, and talk about why it’s special them. 

Once everyone has told their story, a second part of the live session would be for anyone to comment on any of the photos or stories that were not their own that they connected with or that reminded them of another special place or object.

I looked at the K-12 wiki pages and I really liked that they divided their ice breakers into chunks by grade level – one of my classmates suggested we might be able to do this with ours. I think we eventually collectively agreed that this might not be the best way for us to divide the adult ice breakers up.
I thought maybe we could divide them up by subject area, but a lot of the ice breakers weren’t associated with any particular subject – they were just used for students to get to know one another. Our final decision was for each of us to elaborate on one ice breaker, and we would each create a page in the wiki, creatively name it, and paste our ice breaker there.

Tonight at 8 PM, I deleted our “planning page” and we have finally completed this thing. I don’t think the assignment required 2 weeks – it could have easily been completed in a week.

I read the article by Meishar-Tal and Gorsky (1), and a major difference between what we worked on and the wiki they were writing about is that I don’t think that Google Sites tracks the movement of each person in the group, so we don’t have a way to know who completed which edits outside of putting our names on things or claiming ownership in the comments of the “wiki.”

Correction: if you click on “Site Activity” at the bottom of the Google Site page, you can view the most recent activity by you and your classmates.

We dealt with just a half dozen people in our group and worked to collaborate and agree on what we were doing with the wiki. I don’t know how much collaboration was done on the glossary wiki described in the paper, but I do think they had much more precise instructions for their activity than we did. It sounded like it was more of an individual activity. By this I mean that there is no mention of collaboration among students on this project except that each person is looking at the wiki and deciding for themselves what needs to be added, changed, moved, deleted or formatted.

If I were going to facilitate a wiki in one of my online classes, it would probably be something like the glossary activity that Meishar-Tal and Gorsky talk about, but with some group work. I don’t have a lot of experience with using collaborative activities in my online math classes, so this is new territory for me. There is a lot of vocabulary in math classes that one needs to become familiar with, however, and this could  be a good way for students to become familiar with it. It be fun to divide them up into groups and have them complete a portion of the glossary terms and add them to the wiki.

In this module, I was introduced to a couple of different types of wikis. I actually liked one of them so well that I considered using it for my final portfolio site. I will edit this and add the name, when I think of it.


  1. Meishar-Tal, H. (2010). Wikis: what students do and do not do when writing collaboratively. Open Learning, 25(1), 25–35.


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