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Connectivism: A Theory of Learning for a Digital Age

Collectivism word cloudIn this guest post, Thomas Baker, a teacher and teacher trainer in Chile, and President of TESOL Chile, introduces the concept of digital connectivism and the impact it has on teachers and students of the English language.

[Image courtesy of wlonline, via Flickr]

Connectivism has been called, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” (Siemens, 2005).  I aim to share what I have learned about connectivism,  and what it means for English Language Teaching.

What I share comes from a Massive Open On-line Course (MOOC) called, Connectivism and Connected Knowledge 2011 (CCK11).  The course facilitators are George Siemens and Stephen Downes.  Siemens first wrote about connectivism in 2005.  Since then, he and Downes have worked together to develop the theory and practice of connectivism.  The CCK11 course is where I enter the picture, as a learner and EFL teacher.

In this post, I will do three things:

  1. Define connectivism.
  2. State the principles of connectivism.
  3. Relate connectivism to EFL teaching.

Before I begin, I add that I am sharing what I have understood in CCK11. Therefore, I alone am responsible for any errors, omissions, or inaccuracies in this post, and not George Siemens or Stephen Downes.

1.  Connectivism is defined as, “a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized.

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Business English teachers – Getting through those interviews

A woman and two men on an interview panel looking seriousEvan Frendo works in corporate language training. Here he describes the sorts of things potential employers might be looking for when hiring Business English trainers to work in-house.

One of the things I sometimes do as a Business English training consultant is help HR departments recruit freelance trainers to work in-house. The whole job involves deciding, often within a short space of time, just how suitable a teacher might be for a particular position. Teaching qualifications are a useful start, but they rarely show evidence of someone’s ability to work in an in-house training context. Experience counts too, of course, but just because a candidate can boast years of experience does not mean that the person necessarily knows what they are doing – there are a surprising number of experienced trainers out there who lack elementary knowledge and skills. What we are basically looking for during a job interview is evidence of a person’s competence as a trainer, as well as potential for development. This is where models like KSA (knowledge, skills and attitude) can be particularly helpful, because they provide a framework within which to work.


Here we are looking for evidence that the candidate has theoretical knowledge not only of the teaching / training world, but also of the business world. Here are some questions we might ask:

  • How do people learn languages?
  • How would you explain the difference between training and teaching? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each in a corporate context?
  • Can you describe a recently published course book aimed at ESP / Business English learners? What do you like / dislike about it?
  • What would you understand by the term “business process”?
  • What can you tell us about our industry and our company?

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