CCK11 What goes beyond Connectivism?

Glad to be connected with Matthias on this fascinating topic via his blog post on What makes Connectivism unique.  Ken has also shared his views about the uniqueness of Connectivism here.

He quoted Stephen’s comment here:

I think it must be linked to Downes’ articulation of the connectivist attitude towards the learner as expressed here (in about comment 11 in this thread):

I agree, it “does not address the learner’s stated needs/wants.” And when you ask “How is this new?” the answer is that it rejects the implied contract to “address the learner’s stated needs/wants” that other approaches endorse.

Is connectivism addressing the learner’s stated needs/wants?  Based on a learning theory approach, Connectivism aims to explain how and why learning occurs in a networked learning environment, within oneself and at the social level.  Are there any implied contracts here?  May be that’s why I mentioned that learning is relating back to the learner, in how and what he/she perceive learning whilst making learning decision.  Would educators be involved in the learning?  As shared in my previous post here, there may or may not be the presence of “educators” in the learning process, whether learning in a formal or informal learning manner, as there are situations where learners would need to learn through their own media or space, basing on their own needs and wants, and these may or may not be addressed through the “contracts” or education provision.

Thomas is pretty convinced on the merits of Connectivism and he elaborated here on How did we get here:

I know that Connectivism, for example, works for me personally. I am a member of several networks which follow a rich practice of Aggregate-Remix-Repurpose-Feed It Forward.

Many of my colleagues are also successfully engaged in the practice of connectivism with their colleagues and students, in various settings. Yet, I have not come across any serious scholarly research that is being done.

We have conducted researches in this area: our research papers on Blogs and Forums as Communication and Learning Tools in a MOOC and The Ideals and Reality of Participating in a MOOC.  There are also numerous researches done by Rita Kop and Adrian Hill here on Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? and Wendy Drexler here on Networked Student Model. The Connectivism page on wikipedia also relates to some references here.

Lindsay Jordan shared her views here:

I agree with Neil that, whether someone is, or is being, good at learning – or not – there is still value in – sometimes – being told what to read and what to listen to (provided your audio is working). The danger of entirely discovery-based learning – as Neil said – is that “people don’t know what they don’t know”.

Is discovery learning without others’ guidance “dangerous” ?  May be people don’t know what they don’t know would lead them to explore what they know and what they don’t know after all.  So there are risks involved in any sort of discovery learning, though it would be worthwhile to consider the impact and value of such learning on the learners.   I have shared some aspects of discovery learning in my previous posts.  Would that be a big question under connectivism?

If I have read Lindsay’s message correctly, then it seems that she has reservations in the use of social media in formal higher education.

She continues:

My own interim conclusion on the social media front is to carry on going with what my students want to do. I’m not going to start making them use social media, or even recommending it, but I’ll continue to encourage open debate on the benefits and challenges, and if they are interested in giving it a go I’ll give them all the help and advice they need.

No one could compel anyone to use social media, I suppose, especially under the formal education and learning environment.  However, would the use of social media add value to education and learning in this 21 st century?  There are lots of issues as discussed in the presentation: (1) acknowledging the ideological nature of social media and education, (2) the over-valorisation of the informal and the institutionalised, (3) social media are not necessarily fair media, and (4) social media and the commodification of learning.

I could see the implications (the fear) associated with social media and education as presented by Neil Selwyn.

Whether one is to base the practice of networked learning on Connectivism (as a theory) or not however, is one matter, though this could be very important.  In fact, what we are more interested in would be how the actual practice could inform us how and why we learn (better) through such connections, media and technology, which is also why George and Stephen are interested in experimenting with this under the Connectivism course.  This is also my quest to research MOOC and PLENK in practice.

As I am still exploring about Connectivism (since 2008, or even before that) I would like to hear about Matthias view that: “it is not very important whether Connectivism is already a theory or not, because it is much more: I guess it is a fertile soil for multiple future theories.”

What sort of theories would you anticipate?I have been thinking about what goes beyond connections, since when I ask the basic question: “What makes the connections?” It goes back to neuroscience and then all those questions on why and how connections happened and how they relate to learning seems to “stop” there. You mentioned that:”Currently, discussions often diverge into the more spectacular #3, or into philosophical issues and connectionism and #1.”

I am curious in how the connection of “connections” make it through.  Have been thinking a similar analogy towards the unified theory – that explains learning at a micro and macro level (similar to the 3 levels) as described under Connectivism but would like to go beyond that to “integrate” learning through the cognitive and social level, with a complexity approach – i.e. considering emergent learning and the “energy particles” that spark the learning connections.  Would an understanding of String Theory (as a metaphor) of how knowledge and learning is integrated help?

As I have shared also in my previous posts:

Do you think we could gain more insights through the discourse, reflection of these  theories? Community of PracticeActor Network TheoryComplexity Theory Connectivism by George and Connectivism and transculturality by Stephen

Would a hybrid model of learning provide us with better alternative perspectives on networked learning?  I wonder!

May be we are all looking at learning from different angles, perspectives, just that we don’t see them with the same lenses only!


And learning is about action – that explains why I have been researching into this area for some time since CCK08.

I have to focus on research findings, analysis and reporting this coming weeks and months.


#CCK11 What makes the difference? Teaching and Learning

Interesting to learn about the difference between teaching and learning post by Verónica Vázquez Zentella. Is learning like eating?  Here is my learning as digestive system metaphor

My philosophy of learning is like the digestive system of our human body.
I digest and assimilate the food (ideas, resources – books, articles, on the net, artifacts, knowledge and information) and absorb those nutrients (which become emergent knowledge) out of it into my body through the blood stream (through plan-do-check-act learning reflection cycle in my connections – nodes and networks).
I will ensure that I take a variety of foods (learning network at neural, conceptual, external – communities, social levels and information sources) to maintain a healthy body and mind.
I will egest any by-products of learning (those obsolete knowledge, SPAMS, distractions, overloading of knowledge and time wasters) to keep my body clear of toxins and wastes.
The ICT and Web 2.0, PLE etc. could act as catalysts (or enzymes) for the digestion.
I would also take extra physical, spiritual and mental exercises (external support, experts’ advice, courses, community or network participation and involvement, action research and learning projects) to ensure a proper balance of my health.

Photos: credit from wikipedia on digestive system

Is teaching different from learning?

Stephen explains that: The word ‘learning’ is a success-term. It refers to the result. Although we say “I am learning to drive” we really mean “I am practicing how to drive.” If we keep practicing but get no better, it becomes foolish to say “I am ‘learning’ to drive.”  That was followed by an interesting debate on what is and what is not learning by Stephen, Ken and Verónica.  I like to dig deep into it, but don’t seem to have got the right words for what those definitions really mean in “theory”.  May be I could join in the discussion once I have shared a few stories of learning.

To me, there are semantics involved – how the meaning of learning is interpreted especially in online learning?  And how it differs from one person to another.

Learning to drive is practising how to drive.  If we keep practising but get no better, could we still call this: “I am learning to drive”?  That is quite difficult to conclude.  Why?  If I am learning how to learn, and that I keep practising but get no better, am I still learning how to learn? May be there are some hindrance to the learning itself.  May be I need some help, or I want some intervention by the educators or knowledgeable others to help me to learn.  So if we say learning is about practising, then practising in doing something may involve some learning, with or without the help of others, but not necessarily could lead to “learning” as defined as a success-term.  So, what is success then?  This would again be interpreted somewhat differently by different persons at different stages of development in learning.

May I share my story of learning?

I played harmonica when I was young.  How did I learn playing harmonica? When I was around 14, I decided to play with musical instrument, and after hearing many others playing harmonica beautifully well, I thought, wouldn’t it be great to play out some musical pieces.  My passion drove me to do four things:

(a) Buy a harmonica and a book on how to play harmonica

(b) Learn how to play by reading the book and joining a harmonica band

(c) Learn with others in how to play well with harmonica in a harmonica band

(d) Refine my learning through practice, reflection, comments and feedback, and corrective action cycle

So, once I had bought a harmonic and started reading the book in how to play harmonica, I started to play harmonica.  Within two weeks, I could play some basic musical pieces, and to my surprise, I could play many pieces without referring to the musical books.  I didn’t know how to read the “dots or notes” at the time, and so I was still a “novice in music”.  However, during the first week when I joined the harmonica band, I was able to follow all instructions by the expert instructor (who was the expert master at the time in Hong Kong – Mr Leung Yat Chiu, who was so generous in devoting his time in teaching us how to play harmonica without being paid).  So, on one hand I have “learnt” how to play harmonica even before I joined the harmonica band (class), but then on the other hand, I was still not yet perfected in learning how to play.  In the following weeks and months I kept on practised playing harmonica (which was really annoying sometimes to our neighbours, especially when there were no acoustic insulation in our house :)).  I also learnt a lot in refining my skills by learning through the harmonica band, and practising there. I did participate in the band for two to three years and our harmonica band won a consecutive Runner Up in an Inter-school Competition where I was proud of.

Learning to play a musical instrument is an act of learning.  Whether learning has occurred would depend on how I have practised it (my harmonica playing) and how I have refined the skills in playing it better each time.  Could I learn how to play well just with the books?  May be if I were a genius!  I found that I could play any pieces of music by just listening to the notes, even without knowing how to read the standard music book, but then I would need to rely on my musical memory of the notes in order to play out the piece accurately.

In the process of learning how to play harmonica, I started off with self-learning, and then I  was both taught by the instructor and my other harmonica team members through their sharing, comments, feedback and practice with me.  I can’t claim that I know how to teach others how to play harmonica, as I learnt that in the first place through self-teaching and learning, followed by instructions by instructors.  However, I must admit that the first 2 weeks of self-paced teaching and learning had made a big difference in molding my thoughts about self-directed learning, in that learning how to learn is as important as learning how to play a certain musical instrument, as there are so many similarities between the two: they require thinking, learning through practice and action, that are most often driven by intrinsic motivation, though extrinsic motivation could help, and most importantly, practice could make “things” perfect, through internal reflection, evaluation, and critique, and then action again.

The above account is my personal anecdote about teaching and learning.  Does it sound familiar to you, when you were learning at a young age?

Here are some images of model on experiential learning.  Which of them could explain what I have learnt through the harmonica learning experience?

If I were to “teach” someone how to play harmonica, what would I suggest? Would I be recommending to other how to learn with what I have experienced before?  May be through the above story.  But whether this works for others is totally unknown to me and us.  Why?  Each of us learns differently.  If you want a successful learning, you would need to think about what you need to do to achieve your passion or goals.  You might seek advice from others if you wish to, but eventually you are the one to decide what is in your best interests.

So, what are the assumptions here in learning?  Have we assumed that what works for me works for you?  No?  If we were to teach others how to play a musical instrument, have we assumed that others really want to learn how to play first?  Should we teach by giving instruction first? Would this depend on what the “learner” actually want?  However, “I don’t know what I don’t know” if I haven’t experienced it before is a typical “schema” or mindset written in the minds of learners (or just a white piece of paper without any writing there).  So, if we bear this in mind, then learning about something entirely new could be coined by the novice learner as: “Tell me what I have to learn, then tell me what I could learn, then tell me what I should have learnt” so I know at least what I am expected to know in this learning.  Otherwise, may be just like what I have experienced, let me (as a learner) figure it out, and I will learn it in a way that suits me.

But is that learning effective?  That had been shared in another post on Teaching and Learning. From which perspective are we referring to this teaching and learning?  Teacher or learner.

I think “we” need to consider learning from a “micro-learning” and “macro-learning” perspective too.  I will elaborate the differences between micro and macro learning theories in the coming posts.

So What is learning and teaching to you? What is the difference?  Your story…..