Saturday, October 24, 2009

CCK09: Connectivism and Culture

Connectivism offers the language learning community perhaps a new way of looking at what is learning, knowledge, and language acquisition. Let's take the notion of Intercultural Community Competency (ICC). A connectivist view on learning culture would approach it from both an epistemological (What is knowledge?) and ontological (Who am I?) perspective, among others. That is, the learning of culture would be the same as language learners making connections (i.e., at the biological, cognitive, and social level) as to the importance and relevance of culture and language within a given educational setting. This requires the language educator to facilitate the connective process through providing models and demonstrations (Downes) in order for language learners to "practice and reflect" to use Downes's words. In language learning, modeling and demonstrating does not (and should not in my view) come solely from the teacher. Technology now affords us a variety of ways at looking beyond the classroom in incorporating models and demonstrations that don't necessarily exclude didactic interventions as long as these interventions don't become the main source of "teaching" and "learning".

So, ICC as an emergent phenomenon is viewed as outcomes that cannot be reduced down to their individual parts. Language educators facilitate learners to make their own connections with regard to culture, utilizing technology and their social skills to foster this pursuit. This connectivist approach is quite different than the teacher providing most of the cultural information (mainly through didactic instruction) to the learner which is certainly to be biased in one form or the other. Stated another way, the learner recognizes cultural similarities and differences through a process of discovery that is provoked and supported by one or many language educators, peers, and/or subordinate learners.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Intercultural Communicative Competence (ICC)

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the ANUPI 2009 conference with common themes that include ICC and learning competencies. After attending a couple of talks on the subject of ICC, I quickly realized how open-ended these discussions can be. Teacher evaluation and classroom instruction were both addressed in terms of ICC which led me to think how difficult it is to approach culture and language learning in any deterministic way (e.g., cultural antidotes typically found in textbooks). SimilarlyICC as an emergent phenomenon can have it's shortcomings depending on who is providing the input.  For example, if the teacher is the sole "provider" of cultural information, there is a likelihood that students will form both good and bad stereotypes.  Generalizing groups of people will certainly result in misunderstandings should the language learner ever come in contact with individuals with this perceived cultural background.

The way to foster ICC is to create opportunities for language learners to communicate with others, then provide the means for them to reflect on how others are similar and different than themselves.  Instead of generalizing a group of people, learners can articulate individual cultural attributes in an appreciative way.  Thus, the goal is to gain the understandings and dispositions necessary to communicate with others, recognizing the influences that culture has on people and how they communicate.  Ideally, the teacher's role is to facilitate this recognition process as opposed to supplying cultural information through didactic instruction.

Friday, October 16, 2009

My ESL (and EFL) Friends

Good session on providing tips (singing is option) on how to use WiZiQ with ESL/EFL learners...kind of a content course if you will for English language learners/educators.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

CCK09: The social dimension within connectivism

Miz Minh referred me to the book To think: in language, learning, and education (1), and as I was reading point #9 (on page 157), I saw a connection between what some would say as learning styles not existing to the present course on connectivism and connected knowledge, CCK09.  I would rephrase Smith's (1991) denial of "thinking in words" as follows:

The connections we form produce the visual images we perceive, or allow us to hear others in our "mind's ear".  So instead of looking at a "visual learner" as having a particular networked pattern in the brain, an educator, for example, would attempt to create an experience that allowed the learner to pursue the most salient cognitive, metacognitive, and social connections necessary, recognizing that each learner enters this same experience through a variety of "preferences and propensities" (Smith, 1991, 157).  

Reflecting on how I achieved this notion (granted, not all that profound), I recognize a variety of connective principles at play.  My own personal learning network - PLN - (Downes likes PLE) provided me with the connections necessary to reach this idea (i.e., a connection in itself).  There is a social element here which brought me in contact, to a degree, with Miz Minh, Smith, Willingham, and Downes.  Socially, I would say that I have more of a connection with Downes simply having participated in CCK08/09, even though I have not personally met any of these individuals. However, cognitively, the information that each of these individuals provides me takes on a different form.

Miz Minh afforded me the means for making cognitive connections between Smith, Willingham, and Downes that is distinct from the social connections previously mentioned.  Thus, I can have a stronger social connection with Downes - by taking the CCK08/09 courses - but might have a stronger cognitive connection with Willingham if I agree with his ideas over the other individuals mentioned here, for example.

Inge de Waard asks the question, Do you think Connectivism...should actively take part in society?

I think society provides the basis for making cognitive and biological connections.  It's not just about networking with people, it's what you do with the information you obtain from those people that makes the difference.  For example, I could set up a language exchange for language learners where they talk to native speakers in their respective target languages via Skype.  This alone might give the impression that this is a good social connection because they have contact with native speakers.  But this is just an affordance.  The potential is there for them to learn from a native speaker (through the development of cognitive connections) but it does not mean they will automatically do so.  Perhaps, the language educator will need to guide the learners through the experience in order to facilitate their learning, that is the social and technological dimensions of this experience provide an opportunity for action on the part of the language learner to cultivate cognitive/biological connections based on individual "preferences and propensities" (Smith, 1991, 157).

The social and technological dimensions of connectivism provide the affordances necessary to develop the cognitive and biological connections required for continued growth.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Language Exchange Webinar

I would like to invite everyone to a language exchange webinar designed to provide language educators opportunities to share experiences.