Getting to Know Your Online Students Through Truths and Lies

It’s your first night for your online course.  You meet with your online students through video conferencing (We use so that your distant students will have a feeling of belonging to a group instead of just talking with each other through discussion forums. This is when you have to take attendance, review the syllabus and preview the class so that your students will know what to expect, right?
Wrong.  Involved learning is a social process and if you want your students to feel “part of the class”, it is more important for you to help them connect with you and the class members in the first class session.  This is especially important in an online class where faltering technology and unfamiliarity can get in the way of students feeling part of group.
There are plenty of ice breakers that teachers do in face-to-face classrooms, but they don’t usually translate to  online interaction well.  I teach an online course entitled Using Digital and Social Media in Education for undergrads and graduate students at the University of Northern Iowa. I was looking around for a way to create an easy-to-use interactive ice breaker and I happened upon an idea for the age old game, 2 Truths and a Lie.
Two Truths and a Lie is a great party game where you make three statements about yourself.  Two of the statements are true and one is a lie. This activity allows people to share about themselves at a comfortable level of disclosure. The only problem is that if we just make the statements orally, the interaction with the class can get lost. The trick is to  create an interactive tool.  I did this using an Open Google Spreadsheet.  This was a document where students could type their statements simultaneously and then post judgments about their opinions about each of their colleagues’ disclosures.
Preparation Steps
  1. Begin by creating a Google Spreadsheet like the one in Figure 1.  (You can actually make a copy of my spreadsheet,
  2. Set the “Share” settings so that “Anyone with the Link” “Can edit” the file. This will allow your students to add their Truths and Lies and add their voted in the appropriate columns.  Your students won’t need to sign-in to do this.
  3. Add your name in the “0” row and then add your students’ names in the appropriate rows.
  4. Add your 2 Truths and a Lie in your section.  This is a great way to share something about yourself while demonstrating the process.
Running Truths and Lies
  1. Share the link to your spreadsheet with your students.
  2. Show them their names and the number next to each of their names. 
  3. Point out that there are numbered columns in the table and that each of their columns align with the numbers next to their names.
  4. Have them read each of your statements and cast their votes about whether they are Truths or Lies.
  5. Once they have casted their votes, you can tell the story about each of your statements.
  6. As you tell each story, add a T or L in the Answer column. The column has been set so that letters into this column will be red.
  7. Now it is time for your students to share about themselves. Each of the students will add their statements (2 truths and a lie).
  8. Once they have added their statements, they just need to cast their votes.
  9. The best part comes now when your students explain their statements like you did with your proclamations.   You might want to break it up so that half of your students share now and the others do it towards the end of your session.
Caution: I found that students who were connecting through their ipads had problems completing the table.  This seemed to be fixed by downloading the Sheets App from the Apple Store.
Give this a try.  I would love to get your feedback and hear about how it worked in your class.

What’s YOUR opinion?
Leave a comment and keep the discussion going.

0 thoughts on “Getting to Know Your Online Students Through Truths and Lies

  1. I loved this activity. I especially liked how you set it up in the spreadsheet. I was able to access it quickly,directions were clear, and I got to learn about my classmates!

  2. I loved this activity. I especially liked how you set it up in the spreadsheet. I was able to access it quickly,directions were clear, and I got to learn about my classmates!

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