Sunday, September 14, 2008

What is 'Connectivism'?

I think I understand Connectivism as a theory – but I’m not sure I truly understand how to apply Connectivism to a range of learning situation – I’m not sure Connectivism can be considered to be a ‘separate or independent’ learning theory but more of a means by which knowledge and information can be aggregated and shared.

I understand the power of the network and can think of many examples in my work place where I rely upon my networks to help me aggregate the avalanche of information we receive – I know that if I miss anything which is relevant to me, eventually someone in our organisation will tell me about this missing piece of knowledge.

I know that staying networked through Twitter, blogs, communities of practice, learning circles, and friends – has certainly widen my access to information and I often use the aggregate of all of these networked peoples’ knowledges and experiences to construct my own understanding and opinions. I can see how technology has widen my participation in creating and contributing my own new knowledge as it allows me to access a wider base of ideas and concepts. However, I have a ‘lust for learning’.

I’m not sure however if ‘connectivism’ as an independent learning theory can facilitate the development of new knowledge in others, but perhaps provide a means to support the ability to access new information.

Through my experience as an educator, I’ve found individuals often don’t know how to independently formulate their own learning/knowledge ie they often don’t know how to:

- formulate questions
- search and filter information
- assemble and convert information it into new knowledge
- use or understand the power of networked learning to build and share their new knowledge or have it validated

These processes require higher order thinking and understanding about how we learn and most people don’t conscientiously evaluate how they learn and heavily rely on trained / knowledgeable individuals to structure or ‘construct’ that learning.

My observations of humans is that they are often sheep or sponges as they follow and soak up what they are ‘fed’ – rarely questioning their environments and networks – staying within their ‘strong’ ties, too scared, skeptical or inexperienced to move into the realm of ‘weak’ networks for fear of the unknown, unable to conceptualise the power of widen networks – particularly online networks. Developing or constructing the right kinds of networks is also a developed and conscience skill.

Although I’m a little skeptical about ‘connectivism’ as a learning theory in its own right – I believe its principles provide an individual with a means of making sense of their interconnected but disconnected world, where multi-media and technology provides access, as well as the ability to create and change information, – and building the ‘right’ network to gather the right information ie being socially networked, is a valuable and desirable skill to filter the ever increasing avalanche of information in the knowledge era – as well as help create independent and creative thinkers.

It’s creating the right kinds of learning opportunities by which an individual will be able to foster and develop these skills and not stay in their ‘little boxes’ using ‘connectivism’ which is what I’m hoping this course will help me better understand.


Sheryl said...

Allison, I enjoyed reading your analysis of Connectivism. I will need to make another reading of it though. It seems that the proponents make some comparisons that I would like to analyze. Thanks for making me think. My brain needs that!

Sarah Stewart said...

Like you, Alison, I am having trouble seeing how I can apply this in my formal courses. I see the value of networks and I have learned and grown a 100 fold in the last year as a result on networked learning. But there are certain things that have to be 'given' to a learner. And there are learners that just would not cope in the chaotic world that we are seeing in CCK08.

Nevertheless, I whole-heartedly embrace some of the principles such as openness and autonomy of the learner - the challenge for me is how I apply that to my courses that are strongly 'controlled' by syllabus.

samccoy said...

Since I read your blog, I was given this URL for a symposium on Disruptive Innovation and the Future of Online Learning. It seems to me that these are connected ideas.

theother66 (formally MadMiller) said...

Thank you for all of your comments - I'm really enjoying this course and I'm finding a lot of value in how I view 'networks'.

Perhaps as the course unfolds they'll be more practical advice about how to apply to the linear curriculum/training packages which we are used to or how we can facilitate the transference of knowledge within a network.