This is my response on our Community Network on Connectivismeducationlearning
Saroj, Frances and Roy,
Thanks for your comments.
Saroj, I understand your concern about the digestive system metaphor – which may relate only to constructivism or connectionism, and not connectivism. I will explain it below.
Frances, I resonate with your struggling with the biological metaphors, as it is only part of the learning solution.
Roy, It’s great to learn your enriched model of learning. I will reflect on it more fully and would like to discuss it further here.
The metaphor of learning that I raised refer specifically to human learning. We may have different types of knowledge and learning
Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes: perception, learning, communication, association and reasoning.
Learning is acquiring new knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, preferences or understanding, and may involve synthesizing different types of information. The ability to learn is possessed by humans, animals and some machines.
Basing on such “definitions” of knowledge and learning, would it be important to relate knowledge and learning to our own biological system(s) – such as digestive system, neuroscience when it comes to Human Learning – and individual learning in particular?
The primacy of learning is on the connections. In the digestive system metaphor, the blood streams are the connections. Emergent knowledge (the nutrients) need to be transported through such blood streams (connections) and eventually be absorbed into the body through the various organs. And so when viewed as an ecological metaphor, it could explain how the various components (organs, hormones, enzymes, nerves etc.) interacted to process the food. As digestion is a complex process which is controlled by several factors…, so is human learning as a complex process within and amongst human (if viewed as an adaptive human system).
Such biological and ecological metaphor also takes into account the age, sex, genes, chemicals, hormones, organs, brain, the emotions, the senses, and its environment – the net, the food chains, the other humans, the nature etc. So, this metaphor could help us in understanding why we have difficulties in learning (indigestion due to taking too much food – information overload, stomach problems due to poor secretion of enzymes (not able to access technology), poor eating habits (dis-organised learning habits) and ageing of organs – old age etc.) and how we could improve our learning (by taking a variety of foods, having adequate exercises based on our age, physical fitness, and maintaining a healthy body and open mind etc.)
I think this could help to complement and supplement some of the principles in connectivism which might not have addressed knowledge and learning under different situations or contexts- such as the learning issues that relate to individual human learning – the age, time, situation and context upon that learning is based upon and the access and skills levels that may be associated with technology and tools.
So is connection a Sufficient and Necessary condition of Learning?
Is Knowledge a Sufficient and Necessary condition of Learning?
Based on my suggested metaphor on digestive system, connection is necessary but not sufficient for learning. We need to absorb the nutrients (emergent knowledge) through the blood stream into body (that is learning as a process) to complete that part of the digestion. Further chemical reactions inside the body and the brain (connections, interactions and metabolism etc.) is required to ensure a complete “digestion” (or a complete learning cycle).
Do we need to re-visit the statement of primacy of learning is on the connections? Do we need to include the interactions, the time and ageing factors of human (life cycle concept – growth, development, maturity, decay etc) in such connections?
Based on the digestive system metaphor, connection and interaction is necessary but not sufficient for the building up of emergent knowledge. We need to consider other factors (like the enzymes, catalysts, hormones – or the technology and tools, language, social and cultural cues and dimensions, psychological implications and emotions out of the interactions, and the embedded “beliefs and perceptions” etc.) to ensure such connections and interactions are meaningful and fruitful for the learning to occur – at least at a human level. In summary, connections, interactions and adaptation with the inclusion of emergent knowledge would be necessary and sufficient condition for learning.
It may be necessary to re-visit the statement: Learning occurs in non-human appliances.
You could expand this metaphor to other biological systems in our human body, and surely the one relating to the brain falls under connectionism and neuroscience. However, until we have a complete understanding of the interaction and mapping of how the various biological sub-systems works, we are far from constructing a “learning theory” that explains how each of us learn.