#PLENK2010 Connectivism, MOOC and PLENK

George in his post about connectivism asks for comments.  He says:

In some areas – such as when people ask “how is this different from social constructivism”- it appears that some view differences as trivial. In other areas – such as when people begin to contrast distributed knowledge and social learning networks in relation to the existing education system – it appears that differences are enormous.

George concludes:

….we break from our insistence of complicated explanations to complex phenomenon and collapse down to connections as the basic unit for understanding knowledge and the process of learning. The elements that impact connection-forming in the process of learning – such as emotions, pervious experience, and motivation – are not nodes within the connection clouds. Instead, they are enablers or influencing elements that impact whether or not a connection will form or the way in which that connection will resonate with the rest of the network.

I think George has conceptualized Connectivism based on the Cloud concept, and he has tried to detach the “emotional” and “cognitive” components from the nodes in order to understand if connections could be the basic framework upon learning and knowledge is built.  I applaud George’s imagination with such a great metaphor of connecting with the clouds in a foreign planet.

I think emotions, previous experience and motivations are all associated with the nodes (the people), and in many instances could be the result emerging from the interactions amongst the nodes.

My questions are: What would learning be like if the connections are deprived of emotions and affective components, in the creation or “construction” of knowledge amongst “human” and agents?  Connections could provide the conduit towards learning, but connections amongst nodes wouldn’t necessarily generate “new” knowledge. Isn’t it?  It’s the interpretation and perception amongst nodes (networkers) that could give rise to understanding of “distributed knowledge” under Connectivism.  Newly created knowledge is an emergent phenomena arising out of connective learning.

Is this sort of connective learning (with distributed knowledge) mediated principally by tools (based on technology affordance) or by people, or a combination of them in MOOC?

When I compare such views of learning under a Connectivism experiment with the concept of social constructivism as a learning theory here, I could identify some common themes: with lots of situations where learning by doing is what makes networked learning so attractive, especially via the web and social networks, and that to a certain extent, it has embraced the spirit of Constructivism (social networked learning).

Kirschner et al. (2006) describe why they group a series of seemingly disparate learning theories (Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based learning). The reasoning for this grouping is because each learning theory promotes the same constructivist teaching technique — “learning by doing.” While they argue “learning by doing” is useful for more knowledgeable learners, they argue this constructivist teaching technique is not useful for novices. Mayer states that it promotes behavioral activity too early in the learning process, when learners should be cognitively active (Mayer, 2004).[16]

Today’s proponents of discovery methods, who claim to draw their support from constructivist philosophy, are making inroads into educational practice. Yet a dispassionate review of the relevant research literature shows that discovery-based practice is not as effective as guided discovery.” (Mayer, 2004, p. 18)

Mayer’s point is that people often misuse constructivism to promote pure discovery-based teaching techniques. He proposes that the instructional design recommendations of constructivism are too often aimed at discovery-based practice (Mayer, 2004). Sweller (1988) found evidence that practice by novices during early schema acquisition, distracts these learners with unnecessary search-based activity, when the learner’s attention should be focused on understanding (acquiring schemas).

What is active participation in a MOOC under Connectivism?  Rita shares her views here.

If the majority of PLENKers think that their active participation, without the producing stage, is legitimate (and the empirical evidence that we collected so far clearly points in that direction) it might be that George has to eat his hat ;-), and reconsider his ideas, beliefs and feelings regarding what type of activity is required for learning on a course of this nature.  Current theories of learning show that activity is conductive to learning, but luckily they do not prescribe what type of activity this would have to be!

Isn’t that a matter of interpretation and “definition”? I think a lot of learning makes sense from the learners’ perspective, and that may not necessarily align with educators’ views or perspective.  Take for example, how people’s interpretation of the MOOC activities: conduction of researches, or the way how MOOC has been structured as mentioned by Rita:

The basis of MOOCs has always been four activities: 1. Actively aggregating, 2. Actively relating these aggregated resources to earlier experiences and knowledge, what Stephen Downes calls remixing,  3. Actively repurposing; producing a digital artifact with this mix of thoughts, and 4. An actively sharing stage.

What are the basis of these activities?  I have reflected on these activities and they could be classified under the lens of Constructivism, Social Constructivism, and Situation Learning. These activities are now blended with Connectivism, in order to reinforce the importance of connections that would link up all activities.  In some ways, these also relate to the Activity Theory Approach towards learning, in a normative and prescriptive approach in instructional design.

Activity theory theorizes that when individuals engage and interact with their environment, production of tools results. These tools are “exteriorized” forms of mental processes, and as these mental processes are manifested in tools, they become more readily accessible and communicable to other people, thereafter becoming useful for social interaction.[2]

About connectivism and PLENK, here is my metaphorical view.

Each of us could interpret connectivism differently, depending on your angles, your emotions, your context, and your attitudes towards connections, and networks, people.

Similarly, under a networked learning approach, where diversity of opinions are welcome in a MOOC, then tensions amongst different “voices” seem to be a natural emergence from the networks.  It is both healthy and necessary for the network, as this would allow for network growth, as suggested by Stephen.  This seems to be a natural opposite from the traditional “group” or “team”, or even the Community’s views where consensus and agreed goals are the norms rather than exception.

How do we know if diversity of opinions is the best way to learn under a networked learning ecology (or with internet)?

So, would that explain why research is important in MOOC?  Previous researches as shown above on Constructivism has hinted that novices might benefit more from guided discovery rather than self discovery, from an educational perspective, or the pedagogy.  Would Connectivism as revealed under MOOC tell a different story?

I am still working on the research, and so am still searching for a connective response to this basic question – what is learning from the learners’ perspective under Connectivism?

5 thoughts on “#PLENK2010 Connectivism, MOOC and PLENK

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention #PLENK2010 Connectivism, MOOC and PLENK | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog -- Topsy.com

  2. Pingback: #PLENK2010 MOOC Reflection Part I | Suifaijohnmak's Weblog

  3. Pingback: My position on Connectivism « Damo’s World

  4. Pingback: Which Learning Theory would be most appropriate for our Education System? Instructivism, Constructivism, or Connectivism | Learner Weblog

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