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Sunday, July 01, 2007

Web 2.0 is Connectivity

"Web 2.0 is connectivity - through self expression and technological simplicity."

That was my response to a recent challenge to come up with a snappy one liner to explain what web 2.0 is. In terms of an explanation of web 2.0 it probably does not explain what it is and maybe it is not possible in a snappy one-liner. What it does do i believe is go to the heart and the ethos of web 2.0 technology.

Connectivity is a theme that is figuring strongly in relation to learning, lately for me. In a recent essay i drew attention to the socio-constructivist principles of Vygotsky (1962; 1978) and the view that the higher mental functioning in an individual would not be possible without social interaction (connections) and this social interaction is compatible with brain science theories such as Gee (1992) who suggests that “our capacity for learning can be explained in terms of the brain engaging in this sort of ongoing interaction with the world”.

This was reinforced by the very interesting Stephen Downes half hour blog where he talked about many things including associative learning and how "The result in the brain is strengthening or weakening of a set of neural connections, a relatively slow process." His point is that it's not about content transfer, it's about repeated exposure (preferably where it is highly salient, as this impacts the strength of the neural connection).

He goes on to say that transfer of information via a presentation would not result in knowledge transfer to audiences but it is the "repetition of instances required in order to create a weight of experience on a certain subject." , that will result of an individual acquiring their own knowledge.

The thrust of his blog is that people have to create their own knowledge from their own experiences and that the knowledge becomes stronger through the more connections an individual has exposure to related subject matter. It is the connecting of new experiences/ information which consolidates knowledge acquisition.

George Siemens draws together the ideas of Vygotsky, Gee, web 2.0 technology and the ideas of Downes in his theory of connectivism

What are the implications for teaching?
Teaching staff not conversant with the new technology may well ask, why should i bother with it. Well these web 2.0 technology tools can be used to promote interaction and collaboration amongst students in their own group as a starting point. Connections can be made if desired outside the group to other students and subject experts. Both staff and students can use the new technology to connect easily to resources and contacts to help organize and administer teaching and learning more efficiently. This will improve the opportunity to acquire knowledge.

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