A curation of vivid, impassioned presentations, the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) Virtual Symposium 2021 set a tone for the MALAT program by kick starting our collective adventure with grace, curiosity and excitement. As an educator, I found myself relating to numerous arguments made by the presenters. On many occasions throughout the week-long symposium, I took notes, copied and pasted links, and made connections whenever possible. It was only mid-way through the symposium when I realized the work I was doing – the attempts at absorbing a seemingly endless amount of knowledge – was an act of preparation. My compressed and scattered work was a microcosm, and a symbol, for the kind of work done by those who were presenting before me. With each presentation, it was evident that much of the meaning-making was happening during the process of knowledge acquisition.
On Monday, April 12 2021, Amanda Coolidge spoke of Open Education, and the many ongoing initiatives associated with open educational resources. In her presentation, Coolidge acknowledged limited access to the internet and to technology for students in rural and Indigenous communities. As a teacher in the centre of Canada’s largest metropolis, I know firsthand of the inequities of the digital divide, and began my note-taking.
Extending her argument, Coolidge offered a policy report entitled Bridging Digital Equity and Culturally Responsive Education in PreK–12, Leveraging Pandemic Pedagogy to Rethink the Status Quo, where the shift to remote learning in the United States exposed digital inequities for students exacerbating the longstanding digital divide. The report also highlighted the toll on teachers and the many hats educators have had to wear in order to maintain some semblance of a status quo (Prescott, 2021). Resources like these, and there are many, reveal how the transition to online learning could have been more efficient, and maybe more importantly how inequitable the current infrastructure is when considering access to education for all.
On Thursday, April 15 2021, Dr. Susan Crichton shared 8 Design Principles for Online Learning, a study done through the Canadian eLearning Network (CANeLearn), in British Columbia. Using a Design Thinking approach, the authors co-constructed 8 Design Principles based on conversations and lived experiences of online educators in BC (Crichton & Kinsel, 2021). In this presentation, Dr. Crichton explained the work being done to include educators’ voices to inform practice, and of the successful output of design conversations. After reading the eight principles, I felt a little less alone and a little more equipped.
The concept of education is complex and multifaceted. How a person understands, considers and interacts with education depends on one’s positionality, and in Canada, that positionality contends with a long history of colonialism and capitalism. In his presentation, How can we incorporate Indigenous Worldviews in the creation of online culturally safe learning environments?, Earl Einarson argues for a move away from the concept of Indigenous Ways of Knowing toward Indigenous Worldviews, and advocates for one’s awareness of their positionality. It was through the process of his applied research project, that Einarson concluded that the concept of Indigenous Ways of Knowing was too broad a term. Specifically, that it narrows the scope of Indigeneity; that Indigenous communities see pan-Indigenous labels as a one-size-fits-all approach (Einarson, 2021). As Einarson shared these aspects of his research, I knew that I would hold onto his advice, to continue my own self-reflection and to be aware of my own positionality.
Over the course of the week, many meaningful connections were made. From Earl Einarson’s critique of the concept Indigenous Ways of Knowing, to Amanda Coolidge’s bridging the access gap through Open Source Education, presenters challenged the audience to consider education through different lenses. It is examples like these that have helped me to establish a foundation, a starting point, from which to begin to build my own path and I am grateful for the opportunity.
Coolidge, A. (2021, April 12-16). Open education: what it is; what it does and its amazing impact! [Symposium Presentation]. Master of Arts in Learning and Technology Virtual Symposium, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mQS_o-C_jO2taghriJfXKDsgfa1fUL0mTDMo2JTGSJc/edit#
Crichton, S., & Kinsel, E. (2021, April 12-16). Design conversations with bc educator: Lessons learned during covid-19 and more – canelearn [Symposium Presentation]. Master of Arts in Learning and Technology Virtual Symposium, Royal Roads University, Victoria, BC, Canada. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1mQS_o-C_jO2taghriJfXKDsgfa1fUL0mTDMo2JTGSJc/edit#
Crichton, S., & Kinsel, E. (2021, March 23). Design principles for online learning: british columbia study. https://secureservercdn.net/184.108.40.206/sgf.292.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/CANeLearn-BC-Study-Design-Principles-for-Online-Learning-March-23-2021.pdf
Einarson, E. (2021). How can we incorporate Indigenous Worldviews in the creation of online culturally safe learning environments? [Unpublished applied research project]. Royal Roads University.
Prescott, S. (2021, January 19). From: Bridging digital equity and culturally responsive education in prek–12: Leveraging pandemic pedagogy to rethink the status quo. https://www.newamerica.org/education-policy/reports/bridging-digital-equity-and-culturally-responsive-education-in-prek12/framing-the-problem