Having recently listened in on a diverse range of virtual sessions as part of Royal Road University’s Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT), I thought the discussions were stimulating and comprehensive. The discussions covered a wide range of topics from mindful social media engagement, to Rhizomatic learning, and even to culture and design. The discussions invited much reflection for someone new to the field like myself.
A discussion on mindfulness and the use of social media presented by Jaigris Hodson started the symposium off. With the recent Facebook scandal that saw millions of user data exposed, Hodson (2018) cautions educators to carefully consider how we are using social media in creating learning experiences. As data can reveal very intimate and sensitive information, Hodson (2018) points out that we might be inadvertently exposing learners to experiences which might not be ‘safe’, and which can expose personal data that a learner might not want to be collected. Hodson (2018) calls on educators to become the ‘expert’ of social media tools/technology if advocating their use in the student’s learning experience. This is in an effort to understand the pitfalls of the platforms used, so that alternate options can be provided.
I agree that as educators we need to be mindful of how we require social media for our learners and ensure alternate options. However, ‘being an expert’ in an ever-changing and evolving technological environment will have its limitations as the pace of technological advancement develops faster than humans are able to understand or anticipate (Bridle, 2018). Perhaps in consideration of this limitation, rather than try to be the expert, the aim is to equip learners with tools for cultivating mindfulness.
Carolyn Levy (2018) offers some additional insights on the theme of mindfulness from a cultural perspective. She focuses on the ‘intersection of design and culture’ and integrates elements from her recent international projects developing training for organizations in New Zealand and Vietnam. Levy (2018) highlights the necessity to reflect on our own ‘cultural norms, and assumptions’ and the influence they may exert on the work we do designing virtual learning spaces. One intriguing example that Levy discusses involves the role of ‘collaboration.’ Collaboration may involve different cultural values in a democratic society than in a culture that values hierarchical constructs. If differences in cultural values are not considered, it is easy to impose our own beliefs onto others without regard for possible consequences.
As an interculturalist, I am interested in how to effectively communicate across cultural differences. From this perspective, I would emphasize the need to understand one’s own cultural norms and to consider how those biases may impact working on an international design project in virtual learning space. Since cultural practices are embedded deep within us, Levy’s recommendation to examine our own ‘cultural biases’ is critical and begins with learning about oneself. A starting point to better understand and develop our own intercultural competence can be achieved through one of the many intercultural training assessment tools. A list of these technologies is listed on the website for The Intercultural Communication Institute.
Another session of the symposium that resonated with me was Dave Cormier’s 2017 session on intentional messiness of online communities. I was especially intrigued by the idea of ‘rhizomatic learning.’ As Cormier (2017) describes on his blog, a ‘rhizome,’ also called a ‘creeping rootstalk,‘ is a plant stem that sends out roots and stalks to spread. Accordingly, ‘rhizomatic learning’ emphasizes the idea that as learners we all have different needs based around our own learning contexts. In this way, Cormier (2017) highlights ‘ownership’ of the learning as belonging to the learner who controls the process of learning, creating a personalized learning journey. Admittedly, Cormier (2017) describes this approach as messy, but it is a model that fosters creativity and opens up questions to consider for designing innovative learning experiences.
There are many additional rich topics in the virtual symposium which warrant further discussion and reflection. What is clear from all of them, as Carolyn Levy (2017) so aptly mentions, is that the “notion of industrial education is changing” and will continue to evolve – online learning is helping to change our landscape of learning.
Bridle, J. (2018, June 15). Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/jun/15/rise-of-the-machines-has-technology-evolved-beyond-our-control-
Cormier, D. (April 18, 2017). Intentional messiness of online communities. RRU MALAT Virtual Symposium 2017.
Hodson, J. (April 16, 2018). “Mindful” social media engagement in an age of Cambridge Analytics. RRU MALAT Virtual Symposium 2018.
Levy, C. (April 20, 2018). Design & culture. RRU MALAT Virtual Symposium 2018.
Veletsianos, G. & Childs, E. (April 20, 2018). Threading the themes together. RRU MALAT Virtual Symposium 2018