This is my response to questions posted by Thomas here. Thanks again for his great questions.
1. Is connectivism only for the benefit of an autonomous, self-directed learner, like you and me?
Connectivism could benefit not only autonomous, self-directed learners, but also all other learners who would like to develop higher order learning skills in their life-long learning journeys. There are lots of assumptions here, and so I don’t think we could easily identify the learners who would benefit most with connectivism. This depends on learners’ prior experience, their learning habits, their perceptions of learning with technology and media, and their motivation. As most adult learners could be confused by the complexity of learning whilst immersed in learning networks (internet and webs), especially if they are exposed to such learning environment as “novice”, some would doubt about their perceived “digital migrant” status, and may withdraw from learning. There may be more “unlearning” required for such learners before they could overcome the lack of confidence in learning. Besides, a feeling of lack of security, language barriers, and insufficient information, technology and social skills, and a lack of or poor access to technology could deter learners from learning under such a digital learning environment. So, connectivism may be more suitable for (technology) innovators and early adopters at this stage.
2. How could a teacher get students, who learn because they have to, because they are going to be tested and thus have to know certain information, and thus, understandably, lack intrinsic motivation to learn?
It is very difficult for teachers to motivate students to learn, especially if the students are lacking the “intrinsic motivation”. However, teachers could create a learning environment that is conducive to learning, as I have shared here, through interaction with students, or encouraging and supporting students in their learning journey. Could we do away the testing and still be able to assess if students are able to demonstrate their capability or capacity in “knowing certain information”? How about negotiating with students so they could develop their skills – with learning by doing? How about assessment projects (like eportfolios, or problem based learning) which could cater for their needs? Other methods could include the development of artifacts (videos, podcasts, slideshows, blog posts, wikis, games) which may help them to consolidate their learning in a progressive manner (the formative assessment). The use of interviews with experts, knowledgeable others, or professionals of a domain would enable the learners to reach out to the outside world, so they could understand the knowledge, skills and attitudes required for certain jobs or careers. The adoption of PLE (Personal Learning Environment) would stimulate the learners to take responsibility of their own learning. So, what could a teacher do? A lot? Would this depend on the learners’ needs, and support required? As a teacher, it is important to realize when intervention is required, and when it is not necessary. There is a saying: “If we try to teach the students too much without understanding their needs, we are “taking” away their learning opportunities” Would it be better to allow the students to make their choices in their learning journey, so they could be “motivated to learn”? Would it depend on what they need and what support and advice would benefit the student most?
3. Would you say that connectivistic learning is powerful enough to overcome the inertia and lethargy common to most students in our schools and universities?
Connectivist learning is one of the learning strategies (and philosophy) and as shared in (2) above, it depends on the students and learning environment and system. My experience is that if we are just to add those PLE/N into the current system (i.e. still relying on lecturing, testing of students using the traditional means), then most students would only sense such connectivist learning as an additional “component” to their often “congested” learning curriculum. Besides, for those students who have been so adapted to the traditional lecturing approach, they would hesitate if such learning would benefit them that much, as the development of PLE/N could involve a lot of hard work, as well as the perception that it’s the duty and responsibility of the teacher as the principal source of information (i.e. to teach), or that the teacher as the only curator, to provide them with all the necessary resources required to learn. How would we be able to convince students to take the initiative in developing their own learning? This could be a huge challenge for any educator. Also, good teaching is good teaching (which could include all those elements that I shared in (2) above), rather than the delivering of a fixed time lesson or lecture followed by a test or examination only.
I don’t think I could conclude that connectivist learning is powerful enough to overcome the inertia and lethargy as you mentioned, but surely it provides an option to both educator and learner to consider in schools and universities. We are still at an experimental stage in the adoption of such networked learning strategy in formal education, and more evidences (case studies on the adoption of PLE/N and Connectivism) are required to justify the claims of its added value to learning, education and the education system.
What are your perspective on the above questions?