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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Distinguishing Connectivism

I have read lots of the fantastic discussions that are going in the CCK08 course, but I needed to break away from the pack and without reference to the wealth of information, think through for myself how connectivism can be distinguished from other learning theories. I would welcome your thoughts and insights in order that I can clarify my understanding. I know that i could go and read this somewhere, but i felt i) it was beneficial for me to think it through and ii) beneficial to get some feedback. thanks in advance

Making sense of Connectivism

Connectivism would not exist without the technological development of modern communication infrastructures (physical pipes) and the advent of social software (facilitating pipes). It would also not exist if there was not a sufficient mindset of participation, externalisation and sharing from individuals. It would appear that over time that individuals in different fields, individuals with different perspectives, individuals with different goals have recognised value in the new facilitating pipes, to indeed lay the foundations for the claim that connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age. Ertmer’s and Newby’s (1993) offer “five definitive questions to distinguish learning theory”. I shall outline my own understanding of how connectivism can answer these questions

A. How does learning occur?
Learners are connected by a variety of informal/formal, weak/strong networks that signpost the Learner to sources of knowledge. Sources of knowledge may be for example an electronic document, a physical event to visit, an online discussion, an online aggregation of resources, an email, a database of information, a video or auditory resource. The network is a network of people.

B. What factors influence learning?
The factors that influence learning will be the scope and quality of the people in the networks, the ability to differentiate between valid sources of knowledge (what constitutes valid knowledge: the authority, credibility of the source, some supporting evidence), the ability to recognize links between prior knowledge or previously unconnected knowledge.

C. What is the role of memory?
Knowledge can be stored in non human appliances. Although I have probably repeated that phrase parrot fashion, the act of thinking about and addressing this issue has made it clear and apparent to me that it makes sense to store knowledge (discussions, electronic resources, communications) in a non human appliance. I finally get it! - the “learning is in the network” (I think, I need confirmation to cement my understanding, can you help?). There is too much to remember, better to remember the connections to get to the knowledge.

D. How does transfer occur?
‘Transfer refers to the application of learned knowledge in new ways or situations, as well as to how prior learning affects’ new learning Ertmer’s and Newby’s (1993). Not sure about this could it possibly be that that transfer occurs through continual connectivity, but then ultimately does this not coincide with either a constructive need to make meaning and understand. I am struggling with differentiating between a connectivism and constructivism in this regard.

E. What types of learning are best explained by this theory
Struggling with this one as well. On the one hand it correlates with the notions of linking together concepts, making sense of patterns or disorganised information, but when an individual embarks on connectivist learning are they not just connecting?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Making a Massive Open Online Course Work (for me)

Here we go with some ramblings, ideas and unrefined thoughts on participating in a massive open online course.

Logistically I think the infrastructure is in place and everything is setup nicely for whatever develops or is to come. Some people love the Daily, My favourite is the Connectivism wiki HUB page. This is my anchor, home base. The Daily email is also a valuable connector to keep you in touch with the many things that are going on.

What I Like
So what do I like about participating in this massive open online course. I like the fact that it is an experiment in determining whether such an unwieldy beast can be harnessed for effective learning purposes.

It’s Unworkable
The premise I presume from most people would be that it is unworkable! And they are right (only joking). Well maybe not. The good thing about participating is trying to fathom ways of making it work. I am not exactly sure what I hope to learn or achieve, perhaps this does not help, but here are a few unrefined thoughts on the course so far.

Emotional Connectedness
If the course is attempting to show connectivism in action, at the moment I do not think it is working. For me connectivism has an emotional quality that due to the abundance of people and information and my own external workload is currently missing. The discussions could lead to some emotional connectivity for me, but I have not got deep enough into a conversation yet. I think to get some emotional connectivity out of this course I need to start working with others on an activity, even if it is just one other person. This is a slightly eureka moment in that it has confirmed for me that activity theory and the notion of learning by doing are very important to learning. Putting the idea of working on a practical task aside I have a few other raw thoughts on ways to increase engagement and connectedness for this type of massive open online course

Strategies to improve emotional connectedness
In a massive open online course how can emotional connectedness be best facilitated.

1. People tagging with visual map to identify clusters of interest, controlled by slider to change views. Participants need a quicker method of finding out about people and if there are any mutual interests. On enrolment similar to many sites that ask you to list 5 things that you are interested in, there could be a form that identifies general interest tags, course goal tags, aspiration tags, learning needs tags, service offered tags, I need tags, work experience tag etc etc. Access to this information should be by an interactive visual ‘map’. This type of thing I’ve seen done in flash with slider controls. There was an interesting map to do with the changes in population for the worlds cities as I recall that surfaced on the web 18 months or so ago. I cannot find an example readily to hand at the moment.

2. A Game: The course could be delivered in the style of a game or a competition.

3. Synch Breakout Rooms: Use of breakout rooms for smaller groups in synchronous meetings to discuss issues, a scribe takes notes and back into the massive auditorium  for quick review of small group notes.

Well just a few ideas there. Better out here than stuck in my head. Hopefully this might trigger an insight for other colleagues on the course.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Connectivism Course: First thoughts

The course is a wonderful opportunity to interact with a passionate group of people who appreciate the potential of a connectivist mindset. So even though at present I don’t have time to fully enjoy this (yeah, yeah, yeah), I am going to have a good go.

Orientating the learner

I am very clear now that in online courses that employ ‘new’ connectivist, web 2.0 participatory techniques it pays to do as much as possible upfront to orientate the learner to what is required and what to expect.

I enjoyed George’s articulate presentation that included a talking head video introduction. This was followed by voiceover slides explaining about what to expect on the course: the hub, the daily and the moodle area as a central place for discussion. Also the initial schedule outlined the weekly schedule overview and how to participate. The approach to the course was explained to orientate the learner to what is required. The participants were reminded to use the tag CCK08 to aggregate useful resources for all those enrolled on the course. George emphasised that you will find your own comfortable way and reassured participants that it might be slightly uncomfortable in the beginning - explained that tools will be provided to help deal with all the information that will becoming your way and gave some ideas on how to start. Delivered in a conversational style, with a personal touch and emphasising support is always at hand, I felt good as a participant on this course.

Initial Introductions - things that stood out

Vance Stevens quote (we read this one Vance:-)) “the idea of distributed learning networks as opposed to communities or groups”

Jeffrey Keeler’s objectives, which made me think that it would be useful to develop some objectives of my own, rather than just considering participating a success. Here are his objectives:

To consider this course a success, I want three things to happen:

1. Learn one new instructional method for teaching and facilitating online

2. Experience one new technology that I can practically implement in my work.

3. Gain some insight that opens me to a new perspective for me to begin a new thread of research and writing

A Thing I have learnt

Recognition of the use and power of Google alerts

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Connectivism Course - Pre Assignment Introduction

I am a Distance Learning Developer at De Montfort University, Leicester, England, UK. I am just about to finish my dissertation for a masters degree in the field of interactive and collaborative learning. During the course of my study have been captivated by connectivism and the use of web 2.0 tools to help make connectivism the ‘learning theory for the digital age’ :-)

Connecting, socializing, interacting, collaborating, sharing etc etc make learning enjoyable. I am participating in the course to get a deeper understanding of the theory, to learn from the experiences of others, to be enlightened as to the use of new technologies (as a by product of participating) and to explore ways to facilitate the type of learning mentioned above.

In order for this course to be successful I need to participate. Like Nancy White mentioned, due to other committments it will be a tough ask – (could have done with a month later start to finish off my dissertation), but as Nike say ‘just do it’.

My blog will outline my study over the past year or so - My prime interest, because I think it is the most beneficial to negating any isolation associated with distance learning is the use of online synchronous classes, supported by social software. In my role of developer I have the opportunity to work with lecturers at my university to explore the best ways to integrate new technologies and principles of connectivism and online community into their teaching and learning.

Add me to your network

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