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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?

1 comment:

George Siemens said...

Hi Steve,

Pulling back from the discourse and reflecting is one of the most valuable learning activities. Most of us don't do it often enough.

A few reactions: I posit that connectivism has always existed. we've always connected with others in networks/small groups. What is different today, however, is that the network is made increasingly explicit due to technology and due to the need for an approach to make sense of information abundance. Connectivism is revealed, not created by technology.

In your first point - connectivism is about people. But it can be more. It can be about concepts (i.e. we connect concepts and that shapes and influences our overall learning).

Your point about abundance requiring a networks is in tune with my own thinking. The networks we form help us to manage the complexity of knowledge by distributing it. Any complex task requires distribution of knowledge between people and technology.

Your final two questions will be answered (or, I should say, we'll be providing an may not agree with it!) as we go forward. I have started an argument catalogue and would welcome participation...


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