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Tips and hints for supporting online GroupsBefore you start: • Make sure you know your participants: where do they come from, what do they have in common, are they all likely to be experienced, etc.? • Fill in your profile with information and a picture so that others will be able to get to know you and can relate to your experience, background, etc.First steps as a (sub) moderator: Think about how to guide newcomers to the online group and introduce them to its habits. • Using a forum for newcomers can be useful to start the discussion and give initial guidance. ‘Can I suggest you start by introducing yourself in the forum …’ • Make sure no initial messages go unanswered. ‘Welcome Fred, I see from your profile that you live in Berlin. That’s a really nice town!’ • Sometimes it is useful to ask about participants initial expectations on the Group. ‘Let’s start by indicating what you hope to get from the group …’ • It is often a good idea to clarify the objectives of the Group. ‘Welcome to our Group. Our motto here is: a community stays active, as long as each member is active and shares his/her ideas, practices and material with the rest of the members…Encouraging the discussion: • You might want to put people into small groups to make them feel more at ease. ‘Let’s split into groups to talk about how we have used the Internet with our pupils’ • Encourage participants to express their emotions and to be sociable in their interactions. ‘That’s interesting Carla, how did it make you feel when it worked so well?’ • Help refocus the debate with open questions if things seem to be straying off topic or drying up. ‘Great ideas. What else could we use to present images to pupils?’ • Be a role model by giving examples yourself. ‘I like Google docs. They were useful for sharing timetables with colleagues over the internet and I realised I could use them with pupils in my geography class for sharing their projects’ • Thread the discussions, summarise and move on when needed. ‘I note three things that have emerged from the discussions … Why don’t we move on to look at …’Leading to autonomy: • Encourage people to try things out and to talk about their teaching practice. ‘Jane, why don’t you try that out in your class and tell us next week how it worked out?’ • Foster critical thinking by asking probing questions. ‘What made you come to that conclusion Lucia? Do you think it could be used in other contexts? • Encourage others to offer help if you see that people need support. ‘Does anyone have a solution that might help Alejandro with his problem?’ • If you see things are going smoothly, stand back and encourage others to take the lead. ‘Pascale, would you like to lead a discussion on your experiences with Wikis?’ Brian Holmes, March 2013 http://holmesbrian.blogspot.be