Saturday, September 12, 2009

VIDEO - Community Wall

Above is a sample of an instructional video produced for a nationwide community of language learners.

This community existed to provide members online venues for social interaction in their second languages, so social learning activities targeted at language development were integrated into its core functioning. As such, the usefulness of the community depended on member participation.

Cultivating an open, trusting and supportive environment for adult learners to comfortably share new ideas in a second language was a challenge. For me, this was related to the parallel challenge of asking adult learners to pick up and use new communication technologies in natural and unselfconscious ways.

There needed to be a feeling of learner control over the technology, a desire to communicate and a sense of tolerance within the community for (both technological and linguistic) mistakes.

I tried to address these needs in the member activity above -- the Community Wall: a personal introduction to the online community -- which for me wraps social skills (sharing of personal histories) with technological skills (using the online tools) important for building virtual communities.

The instructional video for this activity, which is one of the first things a new member would see in the community, therefore tackles multiple objectives:
  • Familiarizes members with the space
  • Introduces online tools - empowers members to change the space
  • Encourages sharing of personal details - fosters a sense of community
  • Applies a task-based approach - uses adult/distance learning models
  • Supports member-to-member communications - motivates social learning
All of the above had to address an audience that included second-language viewers, so the instructions had to be comprehensible and useful without being overwhelming technologically or linguistically.

I chose video (rather than text) for these instructions because I felt that, as the community developer and administrator, my own image and live voice would help to humanize the activity and lend to the sense of community I was asking members to participate in. The video also served as a listening comprehension exercise for members, thereby meeting their language-learning objectives.

Launched as a group introduction to the community, this activity aimed to generate curiosity, enthusiasm and member connections vital to the future growth of the community.

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