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Burnt Toast: Smells Like Canadian Spirit

“I smell burnt toast,” is just one of the memorable quotes from Historica Canada’s well-known Heritage Minutes series. As I read through the guide to the Canadian Citizenship Test, Discover Canada, I was reminded of these popular commercials from the 1990s. As a visual learner, interacting with history in this way helped me retain these historical moments.

The reason for my review of the Discover Canada guide was that I had been charged with the task of creating a Moodle site as a companion to the Citizenship Test Preparation Course offered by national Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. Moodle is an online learning platform made up of videos, activities, assignments and quizzes aimed at helping students interact with content uploaded by an instructor.

The Citizenship Test Preparation Course gives citizenship candidates an overview of what to expect when they have to write their citizenship test. This test is required by all people ages 18-55 who are applying to become Canadian citizens. It is the last step before someone can participate in a citizenship ceremony.

I was happy to learn that the Museum was expanding the scope of their course to include an online learning option. The Museum is currently in the process of widening the breadth of their programming to better represent themselves as the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21. This expansion of the course will make it available to everyone across Canada. The creation of an online learning site got me reflecting on the use of the Internet in learning today.

The value of technological integration is often questioned, as far too often it is used as a novelty rather than an effective learning tool. However, ignoring technological advances and how we connect with others in our daily lives gives it short shrift.

I would hazard to guess that the majority of the people reading this have a mobile device either nearby or on their person. These extra appendages show our need for new relationships. I’m not just talking about the way relationships are shaped or formed through platforms such as social media but the relationship we have with the technology and the Internet itself.

Recognizing these relationships can help us better define the tasks we set for ourselves as educators. When planning and designing learning opportunities, online platforms open up a course to a greater number of participants than would ever be able to take it in person. They give people the option of consuming lessons in smaller doses and at their own pace. They also provide the opportunity to take part in review activities and quizzes which can help reinforce their retention.

Many people spend at least part of their day online. Taking this into account, we need to recognize the value of making online time productive. When we provide an online learning environment it can facilitate ongoing access to learning materials. Thus allowing people to learn when it is best for them.

Online learning needs to be an option for those who choose it. Technology often becomes something we add onto a learning experience or an adaptation for those that require it. We need to continue to narrow this gap and start making technology an integral part of educational design. Not giving people this choice shows a narrow scope when it comes to inclusion.

Often I hear the arguments that technology is a barrier in that it is another medium that we must learn before the content of what we are trying to teach can be constructed by the learner. However, this could be said of any content delivery system. We must have literacy before we can unlock the knowledge of the printed word and we must have numeracy before we can access mathematical ideas.

Taking all this into account shows us the importance of the educator as someone who can assist learning through technology. The facilitator is someone who can guide the learner but this role must be just that, a facilitator. As we redefine our roles as educators, we need to better learn how to adapt our learning experiences to make them more accessible through technology.