Thursday, September 28, 2017

What's in a name?

So what's in a name?

Well, in an OWC, potentially a lot.

Your students' representations of themselves in many LMSs still, especially early in the term, will be that simple sequence of two (or three) words: First name, (middle name), last name. While in some cases they can associate a photo or icon with their identity, names are often how others in the class will initially know who they are.

As a teacher, you should encourage students to use names in constructive ways. This may sound obvious and straightforward, and indeed it is not complex, but you should have strategies to help them do this.

For one, you should encourage them, in any communications they write to you or others, to sign off with the name they would like to be known by in the class. Often, the LMS name is not the name the student goes by. This is easy to address onsite, and students take care of it in first-day introductions. However, students report to me that their LMS names are linked to a school's registrar software, so students' LSM presence is locked in to that identifier. They also tell me that it can be quite an ordeal if they want to change the way their names appear.

They should thus be clear, by signing off, what name they want to be called every time. Because of texting interfaces, they may not be in the habit of signing their names, but you can make it clear that signing off is part of their communications, especially when coupled with a complementary close.

In any dialogic class exchange, you should also encourage/require students to address directly by name whoever they are talking to, be it you or other students.

In fact, I strongly encourage that all posts and communications be identified by sender and recipient. These brief moments of identity reflection also can help them think rhetorically. The communicative narcissism that electronic communication might breed -- the nameless text that implicitly says, "Don't you KNOW who I am?" -- can be disrupted by a teaching-learning environment in which you have to think for a moment not just who you are but with whom you are talking.

They can reinforce their identity in an early term icebreaker, a brief exercise/assignment that might include identifying what they want to be called, and perhaps why. 

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