Reflecting on Weller

Reflection of tree on water
Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash

In reflecting on Weller’s discussion of educational technologies (2020), I strongly connected to the reoccurring theme of collaboration. Collaboration resonates with my own experiences as an educator, but it is also an interesting lens for the public criticisms of the online learning as we attempted to adjust education during a pandemic.

Weller refers frequently to how the collaboration of educators was influential in a technology’s adoption into education. Weller’s summary of bulletin board systems refers to the “use of academic real estate” (13). This is an effective term to refer to how educators need to selectively expend their time and energy. Through collaboration they can share this burden. Again, in the chapter on learning objects, Weller explains how elements of learning objects survived through consortiums of subscribed educators. This reminds me of the Western Canadian Learning Network (WCLN) on which our school relies for our own content and is what makes it possible for DL schools in BC to offer diverse courses. It seems from Weller’s summaries that those technologies that survived to be adopted into education were adopted because there was a collaborative effort to share information and thereby share the burden of time and energy.

As a firm advocate of Distributed Learning, I struggle with the criticisms of BC’s schools’ online model that was adopted after Spring break. I hear “well we know that that didn’t work” from colleagues, senior administration, and government officials. Rather than dismissing it as failure, we could all gain more from reflecting on why it failed. The primary reason for its assumed failure is that there was little opportunity for collaborative planning and a motivation driven by panic rather than sound pedagogical theory. I admit, that prior to this book, the history of educational technology was a self-centered one that lived within my own experiences. The history that Weller presents could have helped us all in the transition in response to the pandemic. Instead of reliving some of history’s mistakes we could have moved forward collaboratively with focus and support.

Reference

Weller, M. (2020). 25 Years of Ed Tech. Athabasca University Press.

 

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6 thoughts on “Reflecting on Weller”

  1. Thank you for these thoughts, Kristin.
    I want to begin by acknowledging that this is a particularly challenging time for everyone, and answers aren’t going to be easy or simple. We can all learn from what’s happened before us – and that’s part of the premise of the course – but, we also need to be mindful that contexts differ and change over time. For instance, Weller writes about higher ed and writes about a time that we weren’t going through a pandemic. In my opinion, a quick shift to remote teaching is a bit different than the pre-planned, well-developed, and self-selected choice to teach online. What I hope *that* refers to when people say “we know that *that* didn’t work” is “abrupt, unplanned, unsupported, and immediate transition to a completely different option that wasn’t our or our students’ choice.” I think it may also be worthwhile to explore what “worked” means here. I would think it’s unfair to compare what happened in the Spring with what the normal day-to-day status quo and expect that the Spring would generate any sort of similar or better outcome, but you’re right: a number of individuals in the field were concerned that people would point to the Spring as evidence of DL being unsuccessful. Perhaps more collaboration at the time, and moving forward, would be good for all of us. Are there any lessons in the current chapter you read that would be helpful towards resolving – or at least addressing – some of this?

    1. Thanks for your comment, George, and I’m sorry for my late reply. Our current context is definitely unique and challenging and I do hope that, in the end, there is a new appreciation for the some of the many benefits to online learning.

  2. When our group studied theoretical frameworks in LRNT 522, collaboration was a common theme among our frameworks (Constructivism, Mobile-learning, and Self-Efficacy. Looks like we work best and learn best, when work together!

    1. Hi Patrick. Thanks for your comment and sorry for my late reply. I agree! Especially in a field where the tools can change, it’s important that we support each other.

  3. I agree, there was not enough technological knowledge before heading into the online environment. But do you think the failure had more to do with the idea that people often take the path of least resistance? The beginning of the pandemic essentially became a series of snow days. We had too many roadblocks and were snowed in. We didn’t have a solid foundation on how to deliver online school but also we didn’t have the tools or the right mindset. There was a shortage of up-to-date equipment, not everyone had wifi and most importantly, students believed they heard from the ministry that the year was finished. They thought their final marks would be based on the work done before spring break and that participation now didn’t really matter. Students gave up and choose the path that made sense for them. Knowing September would have an increase in Covid cases, wouldn’t it have been better to spend the summer preparing, rearranging, and planning and then hit restart on the online learning? Forgive me, tomorrow is our first day back and I’m a tad bit nervous!

    1. Hi Wendy. Thanks for your comment and sorry for my late reply. I hope going back to school has been going well for you. It’s been an interesting transition for me for sure. I should have prefaced my post by saying that I was already teaching online as I’m at a DL school. There was definitely no down-time for the DL teachers. I do agree with you that the conflicting messaging was harmful to having a clear goal to work together towards. The shift to online seemed to work better, in my experience, for people who were working together. I think in all circumstances, we are better when we work together.

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