So many questions….

The last two weeks has been perfect for me to better understand the history of education and technology. This week, reading chapter 11 Connectivism, framed many changes our organization went through in the 2010’s and provided a richer context and a wider view of what was happening in the field of ESL and education. In Canada, many language schools started to see much more regulation through TESL Canada, the Centre for Canadian Language Benchmarks, and the Private Career Training Institutions Agency which later became the Private Training Institutions Branch under the provincial government. This meant that more stringent regulations regarding lesson delivery, content, assessment, and teacher qualifications were implemented. Looking back now it does look a little like the wild west. I was witness to the introduction of innovative technology such as smartboards as well as a push for more problem-based learning and assessment. During this period, I saw much change in the industry. It was at this time that our organization had discussions of offering online classes.   

Before starting my MALAT journey I had never known of constructivism. My teaching career started abroad in Japan and I was parachuted into the profession at age 24. I used a trial-and-error approach as well as a little intuition to guide my teaching. In this chapter I was fascinated by the principles Martin Weller discussed. He quotes Siemens (2005) who defines connectivism as “the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements — not entirely under the control of the individual.” 

I found these principles especially enlightening and  it reinforced my confidence in some of the choices I have made in and outside of the classroom during the pandemic. Siemens stated it was not a pedagogy but a set of principles (2005).  

  • Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions. 
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. 
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances. 
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known. 
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning. 
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. 
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities. 
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. 

With many of my organization’s classes remaining hybrid indefinitely, I feel these principles could be shared with other teachers in my organization to give them confidence to know that giving students more decision making options and encouraging connections between students can be an advantage and that teachers do not need to control every aspect of learning. I would also encourage other teachers in my organization to be open to nurturing networks and being open to maintaining connections. Could a distance learning program be created using these principles for my students who are working day and night just afford the tuition they need to remain in Canada? Wouldn’t this be a more effective way to study and work? 

Many in our organization are reluctant to allow learning to reside solely in digital environments. There are also many issues surrounding accessibility for many of our students. This week have a new Chief Executive Officer of ISSBC who has a firm understanding of technology in education and has expressed that there are ways to overcome this accessibility and trepidation. By being flexible and aware of students’ needs and understanding that not everyone can afford an internet connection or a computer is key. There are many questions right now in our organization but if this year is as revolutionary as last, who knows what is possible?

25 Years of Ed Tech: The Serialized Audio Version. (2021). https://25years.opened.ca/.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://er.dut.ac.za/bitstream/handle/123456789/69/Siemens_2005_Connectivism_A_learning_theory_for_the_digital_age.pdf

2 thoughts on “So many questions….

  1. Hi Sam,
    Thanks for providing those updates regulations in language schools as there were next to none when I was in the field years ago. It really was the wild wild west.
    You have raised some really good points around flexibility and awareness of students’ individual needs. I’m curious to know what would you like to have happen moving forward if there weren’t “reluctance”. Would it be a blended/hybrid or completely online?
    Siemen’s principles resonate for me as I had a recent experience with my group of professionals who each came with years of working experience which I acknowledged. I posed a question and allowed them to come up with the answer along with the rationale. It allowed us all to agree and “construct” the final answer after some discussion and hearing others thoughts and opinions.
    Look forward to further discussions with you.

    1. Hi Gail. Great question. I think the best thing moving forward is to adopt a hybrid model that embraces synchronous and asynchronous learning but I imagine that this would not be embraced by organizations, students, or teachers until they were to observe and participate in successful examples of hybrid learning.
      looking forward to future discussions with you as well.

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