Ice-breakers and re-energizers in teaching

Almost all of us have faced the reluctant learner who refuses to participate in class, where nothing helps to draw him or her out of their protective shell. That is why educators need to have instructional strategies designed to help learners getting to know one another and create safe classrooms for learning where everyone feels comfortable. Ice-breakers and re-energizers are instructional strategies which can help facilitate learning in face-to-face teaching and online teaching.

Ice-breakers “break the ice” in various ways. They help group members get acquainted and begin conversations, build trust and get people to feel more open to one another.

Re-energizers can be used as transitions or a time to “clear the mind”, encouraging vitality and enthusiasm.

Both activities also lead to a free exchange of information and enhanced communication between group members. Ice-breakers and re-energizers are not one-time events to be used solely on the first day of the class, but can be used throughout the course.

Here are some ideas for online course ice-breakers. Ask learners to:

  • Post a favorite quote
  • Post 3 words that describe their past, present & future
  • Share a theme song representing their life
  • Describe a characteristic unique to him or herself
  • Respond to the posts of other students that resonate with them

Here you see my example of an ice-breaker e-tivity. I have used the discussion tool in the learning platform called ”itslearning”:









Guest writer Alejandro Ceballos

We were surprised! Video assignments for students a method for fieldwork in online courses

Hi! My name is Alejandro Ceballos. I work as an academic secretary, project manager and e-moderator at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen. I have been highly involved in the development of global online courses at the Faculty. I want to share experiences from the latest project I have been involved in.

Associate Professor Bjarne W. Strobel, the IT Learning Center (course team) and me developed this project under the framework of the summer course; Restoration of European Ecosystems and Fresh Waters.

One day Bjarne got the idea of developing a pedagogical method for fieldwork in online courses, since until now all our online courses were based on discussing literature, theory and experiences from participants.

But how could we organize it when students online do not meet physically? We decided to do a pilot in this summer course when students from different places in Europe were gathered to learn. We asked the students to use their smartphones and produce video assignments.

The summer course comprises four to five weeks of full time study; two to three weeks distance learning as preparation for the two-week intensive field course.

During the three weeks of distance learning the students were required to read materials and to complete an assignment where they have to produce a video about a restoration ecosystem project. The course involves students from different part of Europe and the world and they were asked to produce a video assignment about the same topic within different geographic locations. The course had 4 different e-modules for students to study in the Learning Management System:



(text inserted in MindNode by Expect Learning)

The distance learning phase was a fundamental preparation for the last two weeks of the course where the students had lectures face-to face and had to produce two more video assignments.

Lesson learned: when we prepared and produced the activities online we were very careful to make a very basic and well-described tasks. We did not want to scare the students with the new format of the assignment. However once we did the evaluation of the online phase of the course we were surprised because the students expressed that the instructions and tasks were sometimes too detailed and some of the information was not relevant since they were familiar with the audio visual tools they needed to use to produce the videos.

This showed us that we were too naive thinking that the video assignment would be something shocking for the students!

Another surprise was that we were expecting very simple videos, but the students actually produced very complex videos. They used many different audio-visual tools and resources and it was a great surprise. We learned that students nowadays are familiar with the technology. They know which editing software to use and how to find it. They know where to find the relevant information on how to produce a video.

I think it is the responsibility of the teachers to include these new tools in the teaching methodology in order to modernize and improve the quality of the students learning experience, develop more up-to-date ways of teaching, adapted to the new way of how students learn. You can read more about the project and watch videoes here


Top 20 apps for learning

Which apps do you recommend for learning and why? Send me an e-mail and tell me and then I will create a list of Top 20 Apps for Learning.

Right now we have on the list:

1. ReplayNote
2. Bamboo paper
3. MindNode

Write to


My favourite App at the moment

I have never really used mindmaps before. But after I found this app called “MindNode” I think it’s much more fun to produce mindmaps and structure my ideas. After you have created your mindmap you simply choose “save to photos” and it is saved directly from the MindNode to your photo library. Then you can insert it in documents (use the app “Pages e.g.) or in your Learning Management System. I think your learners would like to see your notes organized like this.

There are a lot of good reasons for structuring your thoughts in mindmaps.

If you want to know more about the technique you can read Tony Buzan’s books about mindmapping or search for videos with Tony Buzan on youtube.

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