The beginning of the (unique) Fall semester brought with it a a flurry of creative posts from many on how to build community online and how to engage students in unique online activities and discussions. A few from the good people behind Equity Unbound are gathered here.

One of my favorite activities comes from a chapter called “Getting to Know You: The First Week of Class and Beyond” written by Dunlap and Lowenthal in 2011. The activity is called Superhero Powers, and my adaptation of it invites students to engage with the following prompt:

Tell us a little bit about yourself by creating a drawing of yourself to share with the rest of the class. Your drawing should portray you as a superhero and include your superhero name. You can use pen, pencils, crayons and paper to do this and upload a photograph of your drawing, or you can use any other kind of illustration or graphics application. My superhero persona is posted below as well! [Note: Drawing isn’t a skill I have mastered, so I find that including my own image helps students understand that what we’re aiming for here isn’t drawing skills!]

I also like the ones below. I can’t remember what prompted the creation of this one, but I model responses by including my own artifacts. This one works well for the course that I teach on the “histories, debates, myths, and futures of learning technology.” Unlike the activity above, this includes an option between artifacts.

The aim of this activity is to introduce us to one another in an interesting way. Many of you know each other, but we have people from multiple groups in this course, so the goal here is not only to introduce us to each other, but also to provide some new information about ourselves to people who already know us. I thought we should tackle this task by taking a walk down memory lane. That sort of trip aligns with the spirit of the course as well, which is to investigate histories and foundations. To introduce ourselves to one another, I would like to ask you to (a) locate a music video posted on video-sharing platform like YouTube that reminds you of your childhood or teenage years, or (b) post a photo of you as a young child . You can do both if you like, but one or the other is also fine. In addition to posting one or both of these artifacts, I’d like you to share a little bit about yourself. What do you do? Why are you taking this course? But, also, please do tell us what sort of memories the video or photo bring back. Aim for 5-7 sentences of text about yourself. Please don’t just post a link/photo with no explanation. To show you an example of this task, I have completed this activity myself and posted it as a response to the discussion thread. A word of caution: A lot of music videos contain language and imagery which may be offensive to various groups of people. Please review the lyrics and watch the whole video before you post it to ensure that it is appropriate.