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Logbook Entries:

Questions about virtual learning and its relationship to culture: Edited Dec 5,

Posted by Ed Pawliw at Thursday, September 17, 2015 9:28:29 PM

Last Edited:Monday, December 7, 2015 3:40:59 PM

This post contains reflections on questions I asked at the beginning of the course. Grey
highlighted text was posted on completion of the course material.

With our ever widening global reach, we will be able to reach more people with our
virtual classes/learning opportunities.

What affect will this have on people from diverse cultures? There seems to be a three-
pronged answer to this: The exposure to others' cultural norms could create a shift in
one's own core beliefs and norms, a person could influence others as an enlightenment
to the poster's culture, and there could be a "third culture" created as a result of the
negotiated virtual space (Virtual cosmopolitanism: Constructing Third Culture and
Transmitting Social and Cultural Capital Through Social Media. Bree McEwanand
Miriam Sobre-Denton; Journal of International and Intercultural Communication; Vol. 4,
Issue 4, 2011. Pages 252-258).

Will the cultural base that an instructor has hinder the ability of the students to learn due
to unintentional cultural influence? The ability of a virtual course designer will, even
unintended, still contain biases that are built into the infrastructure of the platform used.
The designer must be ultra-vigilant and have an editor expert in the field of virtual
course design who can vet the content for unintended cultural influence and reference.

How will the learning process of our virtual classroom be hampered/enhanced/guided

by our cultural influences? In order to produce an environment that is conducive to the
largest population of learners, there must be a negotiated cultural space that is equally
contributed to and accepted by all. Kind of a class cultural charter.

Will we be moving to a more globally inclusive (integrated) culture due to this expanding
reach? Could an unintended outcome of virtual learning and the global reach it has be a
less diverse global society as it becomes more integrated/influenced by "culture
creep"? There are conflicting viewpoints on the effects of the virtual environment on
cultures. Some believe that cultures will be homogenized while others believe that
virtual spaces dedicated to specific cultures will contribute to a support system for
cultural members, especially those that may not have geographically close support

Generally, in designing a course, we tend to focus on our target audience. How do we

hit such a moving target as a virtual classroom with essentially limitless cultural
permutations? Generally, for each course, there must be a mix of elements that satisfy
the diverse learner. There must also be a mix of elements that satisfy the greatest
number of students relating to their cultural backgrounds. To this end, a negotiated
space with buy-in/contribution from all course stakeholders would produce the greatest
chance of success for the most learners.

Is it possible to pasteurize a virtual classroom to the point that all cultural interferences
are removed and would this also remove the passion and character that creates a
dynamic learning environment? Since the virtual space is culturally western based, it
would be impossible to remove all vestiges of cultural influence. Also, such an
environment would be akin to stepping into a room with 18% grey walls, floors, and
furniture. There would be no appeal, interest, or grip on the learner.A negotiated space
agin would create buy-in, a sense of ownership.

How accepting would a virtual student body be to intended cultural personality in

curricular delivery? Would this be seen as an attempt at subversion of culture in the
guise of a learning environment? This would be a tough proposition to lead with, as the
audience would have no personal reference for the instructor. This would probably be
totally lost on the students as well as creating confusion and disenfranchisement. If the
technique was mentioned at the outset of the course, the effect would lose its
effectiveness. Also, with the asynchronous nature of virtual learning environments, the
spontaneity would also be lost.

In a traditional classroom, engagement with students can be achieved by employing

cultural contexts that may be somewhat foreign to the audience. This tends to sharpen
their focus as they look for these idiosyncrasies in the delivery of the curricular
outcomes (ie using stereotyped generational/geographical) references. In essence,
culture can be used as "infotainment". In these and other creative teaching strategies
that we employ, how is it possible to use similar techniques in a virtual classroom so
that the class can "come alive" for the student without offending/confusing them? With
the varied backgrounds of the audience one would have to tack from a more global
perspective. Becoming familiar with the cultural identities of an intended audience would
be absolutely daunting as one attempts to present an engaging virtual classroom that
could provide the student with elements that would make them feel welcome, engage,
and identify with the course. Here again, creating a negotiated cultural space with all
users would assure the participants that they "own" the space and feel more
comfortable and more receptive to engaging. The techniques used to engae students
would have to be culturally sensitive to all users. What may be considered as humour,
There are at least 20 types of identifiable humour (
types-and-forms-of-humor/).Their appeal and the ability of people to recognize and
appreciate it rest on several factors such as transcending culture, language, geographic
area, etc. make it extremely challenging to use. Maybe it is better to do as once said in
a B movie from a bygone era "Just the facts Ma'am".

The concept of a Third Culture provides a strong framework for establishing virtual
spaces. These must be negotiated to have the greatest chance at successful outcomes
for the student.

No two people will be the same. People may have commonalities, but they have
individual experiences affecting this as well.

No two courses will have the same "personality" as they will have different participants
with different levels of interest, commitment, and time space for the topic.

The ability to be able to analyze the communicaction patterns in online courses would
be an invaluable tool in being able to use this to adapt the course platform to better
meet the needs of students as seen through these investigations.

Static vs Dynamic Views of Culture

Posted by Ed Pawliw at Sunday, September 20, 2015 12:27:28 PM

Reflection 1:

Static and dynamic views of culture almost seem to align with two of Piaget's stages of
cognitive development. Jensen (2003) appears to support this as well.

The static view of culture seems to align with Piaget's concrete operational thinking
stage. Where a static view of culture tends to lock one in to an egocentric view of their
culture in the world, so concrete operational thought locks people in to certain thought
processes that do not allow consideration of new or alternate ideas. People in both of
these do not seem to be able to extend past the context within which they exist. In
working with an older gentleman for a number of years that was from an eastern
European background, he did not seem to advance his cultural reference past the "old
country" views he had. He said on many occasions that he was "too old to change"
even though he had been in Canada for over 30 years. Though there is nothing wrong
at all with this, it made it very difficult for him to operate and relate to people in the
workplace that were less accommodating to those with traditional, fixed cultural
reference. The flip side of those with static views of culture are those that do not
recognize, adapt, or attempt to understand those with fixed traditional cultural
backgrounds. These people do not seem to empathize with static cultural viewpoints
such that they in a way also have a static cultural viewpoint.

The dynamic view of culture appears to align with formal operational thought processes
stage from Piaget. In both of these one is open to new/diverse ways of considering
context. A dynamic cultural perspective allows one to see how "new-to-them" cultural
components could benefit and enrich their own life experience and success at
interacting with the world. A formal operational thinker is able to think in the abstract,
allowing them to bring new and diverse considerations into their thought/decision
making processes. A dynamic view of culture allows for this type of consideration and
for seeing how the new cultural exposure enriches their life experience.

With the awareness of such diverse cultural viewpoints, and understanding that people
would also be an amalgamation of the two extremes, customizing distance learning
courses for these diverse perspectives becomes challenging. I teach technical courses
that really have no basis in culture. In order to more successfully create a course that
reaches and is relevant from a cultural perspective to the students, some sort of activity
at the front end would be necessary in order to diversify the presentation of the course
to meet these needs.

Presenting in front of a "live audience", one can use the nonverbal visual clues,
immediate reaction and responses from those present in the seats in order to gain the
wide audience cultural perspective and be able to adjust and adapt on the go. In a
distance learning scenario, the style with which a course is set up for would not
necessarily work for all student participants. The curricular content would remain the
same but the presentation style and shell (packaging and layout) would have to be
altered in order to satisfy the needs of the students. This would be akin to adjusting the
delivery of curriculum in the classroom for diverse learners.

What kind of culturally related factors can affect the way in which we interpret symbols
and make sense of messages?

We run a gamut of situational contexts associated with the learning of symbols. No two
people have exactly the same baseline in a classroom, let alone a community or a
society. With varied upbringing and sub-cultural influences when young, signal
processing deviates from an early age. The acquisition of a symbol library is the very
education we are constantly undertaking. The introduction to language that is presented
by elders that have their own diverse background naturally leads to variations in symbol
recognition and interpretation. The elders will have their own unique methods of
interpreting symbols. We learn these symbol interpretation skills and then add to the
toolbox with new experiences that shape how we encode and decode the symbols. The
socio-economic contexts we experience will affect what symbols we learn and how they
are interpreted. As we interact with various groups, we experience symbol encoding and
decoding and can analyze and adjust our own interpretation system. As discussed in
reflection 2, religion has a great effect on symbol interpretation. The immersion
individuals have in their religion will determine the depth to which they understand the
symbolism in this context. There are those that will have a superficial association with
the symbols, while others will have an in-depth knowledge of all the nuances of the
symbols. Career sub-cultures will affect symbol processing as well. These groups have
their own symbol vernacular, such as schematic symbols used in electronic circuit
diagrams. Interest will also have an effect on symbol recognition and interpretation. If a
person invests time and emotion into a particular area of interest, they will evolve their
understanding of symbology in that area and this will have a ripple effect through their
symbol library.

The amount of investment a person puts into symbol encoding and decoding will affect
how they relate to others in a wide range of contexts. People will have varying amounts
of proficiency in symbol interpretation in accordance with the variety of sub-cultures they
are involved in.

M2U1 PADDIE: Instructional Design with Consideration for Cultural Diversity

Posted by Ed Pawliw at Sunday, October 18, 2015 3:46:00 PM

Last Edited: Sunday, October 18, 2015 4:23:09 PM

Parrish, P. & Linder-VanBerschot, J. A. (2010) in their article, Addressing Challenges of

Multicultural Education and Training, mention that the instructional design process must
include four important elements when considering the cultural diversity of the student
base. These are awareness, communication, process, and accommodation. Several
instructional design models in the process element that are sensitive to cultural diversity
were presented. One of the models presented offered a twist on the ADDIE model of
instructional design.

In my education to become a teacher, a form of the ADDIE method was presented for
instructional design which I have used throughout my teaching career. When I read that
Thomas, Mitchell, and Joseph (2002) had an addition to this process, this extension
really struck a chord. By adding pervasive cultural factors, the instructional design
process would include empathy for the diversity of cultures our classroom and VLE
participants possess. According to Thomas et al, this would include examining
instructional design for cultural sensitivity, interaction with the audience to ensure
cultural relativity, and introspection with respect to cultural values. This new element in
the instructional design process warrants a new acronym, PADDIE. With the pervasive
cultural considerations taking the prominent position at the beginning of the acronym
reflects the importance of cultural considerations in planning instruction and that these
factors must be kept in mind throughout the instructional design process. I do believe
that, instinctively, educators design their instruction for the audience they are targeting.
To formalize the process of being sensitive to cultural diversity while planning instruction
highlights the importance of being aware of the cultural reference points the audience
brings with them.
Responses to Hands-On Assignment Blog Entries:

Grade 9 Math and Language Barriers

Posted by Rosalynn Lapointe at Monday, October 12, 2015 8:16:14 PM

Hi Rosalynn
I too found that there is limited data relating to student diversity in our Alberta
classrooms. For some reason, the focus seems to be on the funding per student instead
of providing the programs and supports a student truly needs. Without any sort of
sampling, it is near impossible for the classroom teacher to know the true diversity of
their audience. At my high school in Calgary, the only diversity data the school had was
that about 24% of students are ESL. We do get accommodation sheets for students
with IPPs to assist with differentiated instruction, but as you pointed out, what about the
students new to our system? As you probably noticed, once a student has been
identified as perhaps needing supports, the progress wheel turns slow in getting the
testing completed to develop IPPs for these students. Also, there is no data giving us an
idea of cultural identity in our school communities. This indicates that we are not really
using cultural factors in instructional design. Your students arriving from Eastern
Canada would probably have a much different educational experience and cultural
background than students arriving from Sri Lanka.
Thanks for the post

Participation in a webcast using VoIP or chat option

Posted by Mariana Reinoso Gamboa at Sunday, November 15, 2015 11:59:21


Hi Mariana
The participation in this course, or lack thereof, points to a number of factors that may
address the lack of communication:
Would the cultural background of the participants preclude them from contributing in
deference to the empowered instructor?
The lack of input from those not based in North America could point to the lack of
comfort interacting on a western culture based platform.
The participants may have an anxiety level that precludes their comfort with the course.
Until their anxiety is managed and the course culture is negotiated, such as through
introductory icebreakers, there will be a high stress level among participants.
One would have to determine if the course could be populated with reflective versus
active learners. This would give the appearance of disinterested learners.
The power relations/structure of the course may not have been negotiated among the
users, creating uncertainty and possibly a cultural hegemony may be at play.
The digital divide may also be a factor as participants may not be comfortable or familiar
with the features of the environment.
The readings from our course indicate that establishing a third culture that is negotiated
by all users would allow them to feel more empowered and embodied to contribute to
the environment.

The Anons - Culture in Absence of Identity

Posted by Adam Matthews at Friday, December 4, 2015 3:51:17 AM

Last Edited: Monday, December 7, 2015 4:21:36 AM

The Anons – Culture in Absence of Identity

Adam Matthews

The image board 4chan represents all that is moral and immoral about the internet.
From lolcats to the genesis of the hacker group Anonymous, its cultural products have
likely come to your attention.

Hi Adam
Wow. I have heard 4chan mentioned by one particular student I taught in the past but
had no idea to what extent it was "open". The fact that this student visited this site and
interacted on it surprises me. He talked about his experiences on it quite often. This
student was a visible cultural minority in our middle class suburban western based
school. He was also on the honour roll and took IB (International Baccalaureate)
classes. The fact that this site is so anonymous could have been the draw for this
student to create an online persona that allowed him to be another. By the same token,
this would create an other that is simply not true to the whole self. Participating in a site
such as this might be a way for the participants to negotiate their own culture,
experimenting with elements they wouldn't be able to in their embodied physical reality.
Discussion Forum Posts:
The Sophistication of ICT Use by Population Posted Nov. 11 11:30 PM

According to Internet World Stats, there is a 45% internet usage penetration1 in the
world. While there are statistics for how many people from various countries and world
regions are connected, a question arises with respect to how the internet is used.
The sophistication of tasks that are completed would be an interesting gauge for quality
of internet utilization. This would be a measure that has more meaning than simply who
is plugged in to the internet. Researching the degree to which a person's quality of life is
improved, productivity is increased, knowledge is gained, enlightenment achieved from
research, or the like would be one indicator of technological intelligence. Another
indicator of technological sophistication would be researching the tools used and the
procedures employed in order to gain the desired outcome. The statistics of number of
users by country or region can be used to show growth and relative saturation points in
area. Focusing on how technologies are used better represents the maturity level a
certain population has with information and communication technologies.
Wellman's (2004) three ages of internet studies2 chronicles the development of
the internet. With each age, the relative complexity of tasks that can be undertaken
indicates the progression and expansion of capabilities of the on line experience. Using
a similar system to rank the complexity of tasks performed would be an indicator of the
on line skills of a population. While 78.6% of North Americans in 2011 had accessed
the internet, what is not evident is what tasks were completed and how savvy the
population is with respect to internet use.
Another interesting concept raised in the article, "Internet Research Ethics" (Buchanan
and Zimmer, 2015), is of the internet being utilized as a research tool versus a research
venue. As stated in the article:

As a tool, Internet research is enabled by search engines, data aggregators,

databases, catalogs, and repositories, while venues include such places or
locales as conversation applications (IM/chat rooms, for
example), MUDs, MOOs, MMORPGs, (forms of role playing games, virtual
worlds) newsgroups, home pages, blogs, micro-blogging (i.e., Twitter), RSS
feeds, crowd sourcing applications, or online course

The distinction of the internet as a research tool versus research venue provides
another classification system that could be used to study the relative refinement a
population has in using technology.
Researching the on line tasks completed by a population would provide an indicator of
whether they recognize the internet as more than a one dimensional experience. This
would indicate the depth to which the technology has been accepted, embraced, and
recognized as a support for varied facets of a society, providing a picture of the ICT
sophistication of the populace.
2. Wellman, 2004, in "New media and Society, 6, 108-114
3. Buchanan, Elizabeth A. and Zimmer, Michael, "Internet Research Ethics", The
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL
= <>.

Reflecting on Hewling's Third Culture Posted Nov. 11 12:22 PM

Hewling states that a culture can be viewed as an evolving entity, that does not just
have bipolar elements, as in a digital signal. Rather, classroom cultures contain an
infinite range of states and positions as in analogue signals. From Campbell, 2000,
Chase, Macfayden, Reeder, & Roche, 2002, Morse, 2003, with the global mobility of
individuals, many have at least two cultural reference points. This adds credence to
Hewling's point that the baseline individuals bring to the class cultural mediation will be
greatly varied and cannot be based on stereotypes.

Though cultures may have some basic similar elements, it is individuals (Scollon and
Wong-Scollon, 2001) and not whole generalized cultural groups that are present in
classes. Those cultural elements and the importance of them that students bring with
them will create a distinct cultural entity when mediated with the other students in the
class, whether online or face-to-face. Hewling also states that a students' previous
experience in face-to-face education environments will also affect how they
conceptualize the online class, their expectations and perceptions.

Teaching students that are in the formative years of reconciling and establishing their
personal philosophical and cultural baselines, the constant flux and growth in the
student does point to a need for recognition of the culture of online classes being
negotiated by the course members, just as it is in face-to-face classes. Hewling
indicates that the online environment for a particular class could actually take on a
different personality than the culture evident in the face-to-face class depending on the
acceptance of the mode of delivery by the members.

Hewling points out that the culture must have full participation to truly be engaged by all
members. This is also true in face-to-face classes. All students must be recognized and
guided to buy into the class for them to truly feel ownership and gain maximum value
from the educational experience. In establishing online resources, courses, and
interactive elements for students, important to the establishment of a course culture,
there will need to be elements installed that appeal to all members...figuratively a carrot
on a stick, a worm on a hook, a piece of cheese in the trap, to encourage all to buy in to
create a true dynamic class culture representing all and owned by all.
One huge take-away from the article is the lack of training teachers have in the analysis
of and its implications in all types of mediated communication. When reading the
analysis of the discussion board messages, I was taken back to my experience in this
course thus far and especially Online Seminar 1. It leads one to reflect on elements of
the process and interactions and how valuable these tools would be to educators. Being
able to perform this analysis on both face to face and online offerings would allow the
front line teachers to have a better understanding of their clientèle and be better able to
meet their specific requirements as well as reconcile a class culture to one that is more
richly representative of the student body.

Cultural Diversity and COI Posted Dec. 2 9:03 PM

The community of inquiry model presented by Garrison, Anderson, and Archer (2000)
has potential points of cultural stressors where the three presences intersect. In the
three intersections involving two presences, supporting discourse, setting climate, and
regulating learning, each of these would have to be reconciled to varying degrees for a
diverse audience. This indicates that these areas, to be successful for participants
within a class, must be fluid to allow for their individual requirements. This would
indicate that there would have to be multimodal abilities including course components
such as communication, presentation of course content, and evaluation to suit individual
participants’ educational needs, Even allowances for technological infrastructure
difference must be taken into account, for as Hewling (2009) states,
Technology is not a learning accessory but an integral part of how students
perceive and receive content and, thus, learning; WYSIWYG (‘what you see is
what you get’) is not – in online learning practice – always what you get. 1
This creates a situation where there are layers of stressors that must be accounted for
in the design and delivery of online courses. Cultural diversity would be encased in the
three presences and as shown in the diagram below, create additional considerations
where the presences interrelate.
Culturally mediated

Supporting discourse discourse

Cognitive Presence
Social Presence

Inter/cultural Inter/cultural
Culturally Educational experience
Social Presence
Cognitive Presence

climate Culturally mediated

Setting climate regulation

Regulating learning
Teaching Presence
Teaching Presence Culturally mediated educational


As seen in the above diagram, adding in a stressor such as cultural considerations

greatly complicates the Community of Inquiry model. Also, when cultural factors are
added into the mix, the focal point where there is a successful educational experience
becomes much narrower. This is represented by the intersection of the three
inter/culturally mediated presences designated as the culturally mediated educational
experience. The addition of cultural diversity to the model indicates that there are
varying degrees of supporting discourse, regulating learning, and setting climate.
While this is a cursory examination of how cultural and intercultural factors may affect
the online learning experience, it does highlight how narrow the window of opportunity is
to create the ideal learning environment for a specific student and how matters are
complicated with the number of diverse individuals participating in the educational

1. Hewling, A. (2009). Technology as 'Cultural Player' in Online Learning
 In M. N. Lamy & R. Goodfellow (Eds.), Learning Cultures in
Online Education (pp. 113-130). UK: Continuum Press.

*With apologies to Garrison, Anderson, and Archer for brutalizing their model.
Contribution From a Classmate Important for My Learning:
Discussion Forum
Thread: On another Note – Place and Holistic E-Learning Posted Nov. 11
3:12 PM

Jo-anne Chrona
On Another Note - Place and Holistic E-learning

In “Introduction: Mediated Intercultural Communication Matters: Understanding New

Media, Dialectics and Social Change (Cheong, Martin & Macfadyen, 2012) the authors
refer to another chapter that explores the concept that “matter matters” (7). Yes, “online
communication is rooted in biographical and physical histories and realities” (7). Who
we are, or identify as, in online communication is necessarily embodied in those realities
(even if we are constructing identities in online worlds that contradict the ones we have
in face-to-face interactions). Where we are geographically situated affects our
understandings of the world that goes beyond the geopolitical influences. I am
interested in exploring further how the physical landscape, and our connection to it (or
lack of perceived connection) affects our interactions with each other, and in

There is something else that springs to mind by the phrase “matter matters”. There are
cultural understandings of the world shared by many people that we need to approach
teaching and learning – including online learning – with attention to all aspects of being.
This holistic approach suggests that an effective educational experience attends to the
four aspects of a whole and healthy being. Some Indigenous peoples use the concept
of the Medicine Wheel (sometimes called the Sacred Circle) to identify these four
aspects: mental, physical, spiritual, and emotional (Brown, 2004; Cajete, 1994; Regnier,
1995; Weenie, 1998). These aspects do not exist in isolation from each other; they are
viewed as equal and integrated parts of the whole, and each must be attended to
simultaneously in the development of the whole person. Learning is understood to be a
holistic process that simultaneously attends to each of those dimensions.

A complete integration of the four aspects of the person might be seen as running
contrary to a post-industrial Euro-American worldview, which some might argue,
compartmentalizes these aspects of people’s existence, with only some aspects (i.e.
mental, physical, and only very recently social-emotional) being contained within the
domain of education or schooling.

The questions that I have been thinking about over the last couple of years is how we
can construct on-line learning experiences that honour that holistic approach by
attending to other aspects of being besides the accepted cognitive domain. Where do
we make space for the social-emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of the learner?
I also think about how we can create or design e-learning opportunities that make space
for the integration of place consciousness of the learner (that goes beyond the geo-
political forces of place).


Additional References:

Brown, L. (2004) Making the classroom a healthy place: The development of affective
competency in Aboriginal pedagogy (Doctoral Dissertation). Retrieved from

Cajete, G (1994) Look to the Mountain. Skyland North Carolina: Kivaki Press

Regnier, R. (1995) The sacred circle. In M. Battiste and J. Barman (Eds.), The Circle
Unfolds (pp. 47-72). Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

Weenie, A. Aboriginal Pedagogy: the sacred circle concept. In Lenore Stiffarm (ed.), As
We See... Aboriginal Pedagogy (pp. 59-66). University of Saskatoon: University
Extension Press