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.


20 thoughts on “CCK11 What goes beyond Connectivism?

  1. Hi John,

    Great synthesis here. I will return, again and again I’m sure, to follow the lines of research you have thoughtfully left for me to follow. And follow them I shall, as I hope to add my own research to what I find, in due time, after I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.

    Eventually, to be of any use to anyone, we will have to leave the blog behind, and play the game in the peer-reviewed journals and magazines, or never be considered as doing serious scholarship, however misguided that might be.

    When i see you have had 46,00 page views here, that fact alone speaks for the high esteem your writing is held in by those who know you well. But, Morpheus calls me to dream my dreams this night. I am reading, reading, reading, and my writing helps me to place myself as first the practitioner, and then, hopefully, the researcher and theoretician, if within me, will emerge. But first, practice. I owe that much to my students, to get that part right..

    Good night, pleasant dreams…


  2. Hi Thomas,
    So glad to hear from you. “We” are all exploring here, based on our own passion, and may be some connective and collaborative desires to learn. Let the dream comes true, as you have written so vividly in your blog posts, that acts as an inspiration to whoever are interested in sharing and learning through their blogs and various social media. Your students surely must have been quite excited to learn with you – your enthusiasm shines.

    Thanks again for your visit and kind words.

  3. Pingback: What Makes Connectivism Unique? (updated) #cck11 « connectiv

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  6. John is a good teacher; he provides a welcoming environment where all comers are greeted with hospitality, warmth and encouragement. He models good teaching.

    I think it is weird that so many different facets of learning/activity have been claimed by connectivism. e.g. subscribing to social media – is that connectivism?

    The theory itself is expressed by Downes to be a theory that learning is active and not passive, learning is achieved in movement and not stasis, learning exists in the connections and not in the nodes. Very much a binary (and thus narrow) system of thought. In claiming that learning is not passive, the theory denies that the word ‘learning’ is used in noun form: “I am learning”. “E-Learning”. “Learning and teaching”. “Learning and technology”.

    Connectivism for me is a very narrow description of a process that is much more than the sum of the ‘connections’ made by nodes.

  7. Hi Ken,
    I feel humbled with your kind praises. I don’t claim my “goodness” as I am always learning together with others, and you are always welcome to share here.
    I think there are different schools of thoughts, as espoused with the different “teaching and learning” theories, pedagogy etc. In the previous schools of learning, knowledge are transmitted from one person (the expert, the educator, knowledgeable others) to another person. This is especially important when knowledge is viewed as something that stays in the mind (in the form of schema), as concepts (based on some concrete ideas that could be explained in words, pictures, and abstract ideas that could be represented by metaphors etc.) and skills (based on actual performance, such as communication of ideas or practical actions to complete tasks, information processing and computer operations) etc. So, cognitive strategies are usually employed to organise such “key competencies” in the form of Taxonomy – such as Bloom’s Taxonomy. Under Connectivism, some of the above explanation don’t seem to fully address the complexity of ideas and practice behind, as conceived by George and Stephen (that is my interpretation), and so networks and network formation and development have been used as a metaphor to cover the gaps. Please see my post here about an elaboration of the above .
    I think Connectivism could cover a richer account of what it embraces, rather than staying along with the discourse on whether knowledge is acquired (as a thing) or it is distributed knowledge and be grown etc. We all rely on both acquisition and growth to become a full human, isn’t it? Without the basic knowledge acquisition, such as speaking, reading, writing, and comprehension, how could we communicate? However, when it comes to complex knowledge growth, such as those in chess playing, or in learning about philosophy, and the quest for epistemological cognition – personal epistemology (after cognition, metacognition), then Connectivism based on network growth and development concepts would be beneficial, especially when there is no one single right answer towards the truth. The notion of the earth is flat, or round doesn’t come along through observation, but through scientific and logical reasoning. With this in mind, I would think each school of thoughts would serve its own purpose, and if we could integrate such schools in a holistic and valuable manner, then that is true “Connectivism” in its hearts, as it is not based on people’s thoughts only, but a system way of thinking, that would incorporate both the emotional elements of human, but taking all those technology affordance and social media, cultures into consideration, and that is the way I see it.

  8. Hi John. Well said. I agree, connectivism could broaden its horizons and be hospitable to more holistic thinking, instead of denying and dividing.

    However, the paradox of hospitality, according to Derrida, is that one can’t really be hospitable unless one is a host, and hosts have rules for hospitality (eg. put your coat in the coat-closet), therefore there is no true sense of a wide-open welcome. By this line of thinking, then, connectivism, claiming itself to be the host, will not ever welcome other views, without imposing its rules on them. So connectivism cannot welcome other views.

    >but a system way of thinking, that would incorporate both the emotional elements of human, but taking all those technology affordance and social media, cultures into consideration

    An integration of the various schools of thought, to encompass the qualities you have noted above, may not be possible. Each school basks in its own self-image, and can only have an image of its-self, when it can distinguish its-self from the other schools. And no school openly welcomes another, they all compete for the most admirers and apply their individual hosting rules to new-comers and guests. Example: theories must follow an analytical, logical positivist philosophical approach.

    However, there may be a way through this conundrum. I’m still thinking about what it might be, and hope to write a little bit later about it.

  9. Hi Ken,
    Thanks for your valuable comments, well said too. I could see your point about the paradox of hospitality. Would connectivism welcome other views? I think we (Roy, Jenny and I ) and many others (Rita, Wendy) have tried addressing that based on our researches, that relate to the conversation in the networks, reflecting the views of the respondents, and now these are reflected in the debates about what and how it could be applied via various media and spaces – blog postings and comments (like what we are doing now).

    If you (or we) don’t find enough “hospitality”, could we create them? I understand that you are referring back to the hosts as being George and Stephen, right? But haven’t they also suggested us to create our own spaces, hosts? How you and others sense and feel about these sorts of interaction, could best be reflected back to the host(s) – George and Stephen then. I have also shared many of those views in my blog of PLENK, when Chris and many others were concerned about the ethics of research and experimentation. I carried out the research into the Design and Delivery of MOOC – PLENK. I also welcome anyone interested in sharing their views and learned together. Isn’t it all about learning?

    George and Stephen: what are your views?

    Is Connectivism about personal possession of a theory with principles, beliefs, values, and rules (the normative practice) only? Isn’t it about participation, interaction, communication (of values, beliefs) based on openness and mutual respect when applied in practice? Stephen has emphasised openness, diversity, autonomy and interactivity throughout the course and he also stressed the importance of modelling with networks. Networking (in particular social networking) cannot operate in a vacuum, or merely with technology, though mediation via technology and the web is often required if it is about virtual or online networking. It is the human elements which make it happen – and that’s why we have the Community of Practice, the Social Networks, etc.

    Theories must follow an analytical, logical positivist philosophical approach. So true. Theory is neutral in itself, though, as we could all sense it through the lens of scientific theories – as some of them are based on laws of nature. However, the application of education and learning theory requires a more humanistic approach towards how such theory would impact on human activities (especially education, teaching and learning) and its ecology. We are dealing with people, and so any impact due to technology could have significant implications on the quality and value of our life, as part of the human evolution. That also explains why there were always critics about learning theories – Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, Social Constructivism and now Connectivism, where a more extensive inquiry is required to understand how they could add value to the education system and personal learning.

    Education and learning is two sides of the coin, without which the society would lose its balance. As you shared “An integration of the various schools of thought, to encompass the qualities you have noted above, may not be possible. Each school basks in its own self-image, and can only have an image of its-self, when it can distinguish its-self from the other schools. And no school openly welcomes another, they all compete for the most admirers and apply their individual hosting rules to new-comers and guests.” That is likely due to the economic rationalism and the competitive nature of the education system, where each school, community and country is trying to adopt a “knowledge economy”, based on the creation and development of “knowledge workers” to excel in the global market. This also explains why social media is having its share in education (formal and informal learning) – and the issue raised (#4) about social media and the commodification of learning in Neil Selwyn’s Elluminate Session.

    What might all these be? Looking forward to your writing about it.


  10. >Theories must follow an analytical, logical positivist philosophical approach. So true. Theory is neutral in itself, though, as we could all sense it through the lens of scientific theories – as some of them are based on laws of nature.

    Hi John. The first sentence would explain (one of) your particular ‘hosting’ rules. I think there are other ways of thinking about theory, and I would suspect that your ‘hosting’ rule might influence your entertaining other perspectives. In your third sentence, you suggest theories are neutral and I would disagree -my ‘hosting’ rule 🙂

    To quote Derrida: “there is no neutral or natural place in teaching”. I think this applies to theory as well.

  11. Thanks Ken for your feedback.
    Yes, those hosting rule might influence our entertaining other perspectives. I suggest theories are neutral, and I particularly referred that to the scientific theories, as those are based on science, and thus, should not be biased if it is based on laws of nature. In case of theories on learning, then shouldn’t they be subject to the similar lenses, if learning is based on a scientific approach? You would disagree as that hosting rule, as there is no neutral or natural place in teaching, as this apply to theory… that is equally relevant when applying theory into practice. That’s why it is challenging to adopt theory in a “static” manner, without consideration of the dynamic and adaptive nature of teaching and learning, the context and the heuristics involved. Is teaching and education neutral by itself? No, as I have also argued in my other post. The neutral nature of education with absolute values is just an utopian state of mind (and education). There are always “values” laden in the education (system) which are promoted as important in the citizenship of each country, which may also explain why it is difficult to achieve the “global” education that once was conceived. Teaching is also blended with politics and power, as it always involves an “influence” on others and oneself (both learners and educators, administrators). I would try to elaborate these in my research, based on a Complex Adaptive System approach. This would need some time for me to work on…

    Renewed thanks for this insightful sharing. How about your hosting rule? I like your approach to the theories, still fresh in mind, on the various remixing of theories. I think it’s worthy to give it a try too, without too much worry about the rules. That’s where creativity, imagination and innovation intersects, and give rise to new ways of thinking, theories etc. Einstein conceived his Theory of Relativity based on imagination and creativity, though I couldn’t explain how he had come up with the Theory. But would the rules of hosting (or without the rules) lead Einstein to new discovery?

    Good food for thoughts 🙂


  12. Hi John, yes, excellent food for thought.

    If we are going to work without rules, then, I will toss out the rule that says “Ken is not Einstein, Ken cannot be Einstein”. Instead, I will be Einstein for a few minutes, have a little fun with it, and tell you how I came up with the theory of relativity.

    “You see, at the time I was thinking this theory, I did not host any other theory. Other people hosted their various theories, and I did not feel welcome in them. Sometimes their hosting rules prohibited my inclusion, sometimes their hosting rules seemed silly, and I couldn’t help but think that if their rules were silly, then maybe their theory was also silly. I felt pushed to make my own home, construct my own world, where I would feel welcome and could have my own hosting rules too. So I created the theory of relativity. Unfortunately for you and Ken and others, if you wish to co-host my theory, there are a few rules you must follow….”

  13. That sounds excellent to me. See the world in a different new way? How about this? and this Part 2 about the beauty of simplicity in Theory. I wouldn’t be too bothered with all the rules if they limit our push or pull for knowledge, so far if it doesn’t create so much conflicts then. May be that’s why Einstein was an independent thinker, where only 5 persons understood his theory of his time. Times have changed, and so is our own Theory of Learning. I once thought those cognitivist strategies were the golden rules, and Gagne’s steps in instructions a binding one in any lesson. Have a check on all our Elluminate Sessions, they followed little, and at times, none at all. When I first learned about the Theory of Instruction, all those steps must be followed in our lesson plan, pre-determined and written and in theory reviewed before they are authorised to be used. Even when “we” were assessed in our final assessment, our lesson plan and actual delivery of the lesson will be “checked”, to see how many questions have been asked, how many students participated and engaged in the lesson, and how the whole lesson was evaluated, both by the assessor and the learners. So, does it sound great? Teaching and learning strategies ring supreme, and the achievement of learning outcomes are important yardstick in determining whether education and learning is successful or not. This is further validated through learners’ feedback, in terms of learners’ satisfaction and their degree of competency and capability via assessment (assignment, tests, and examinations).

    A pedagogical approach with exposition, feedback and evaluation of learning, all incorporated in the lesson. Nothing counts unless the learners are going to value and apply these theories, concepts learnt through the lessons though, and transfer these skills into other areas, at a personal level or that at work in present or future. And here I am, sharing with you and vice versa through a conversation.

    This is not a lesson, this is the lesson of conversation, not following a didactic approach, but an emergent interactive approach, based on our mutual interests, one-on-one sort of sharing and learning. It is not bound by one particular learning theory, I suppose. It is based on a multi-faceted approach towards learning, and thus a blending of those learning theories that would likely explain what learning is. Only such theory would be able to fully explain how and why we are using this means in learning. So, does it make sense to use technology, to use various means to cultivate such conversation on a “faceless” manner. May be there are both merits and demerits when combined with the face-to-face teaching or structured lesson approach in formal learning. Finally, as shared on various occasions, it is a matter of choice when it comes to learning theory and its application.

    Back to you for the conversation, as I often realised that it is always a one-way “teacher” talk dominating the conversation that lessened the interaction. Or that the learner (may be I am also guilty of this) also presenting more when asked for an explanation.

    Enjoy this and and like to hear what you think.

  14. I loved those videos, thanks. I identified with the student that got in trouble with the teacher all the time. And yes, the danger of pontification in teacher talk. Back to channelling Einstein for a minute:

    “My theory creation began with observations that seemingly at first had little to do with physics. When I was contemplating the variety of theories hosted by other people, I noticed that each of those theories could be thought of as emanating from within a specific frame of reference, i.e. the theory spoke as much about its object as it did about the subject from whom it was spoken by. When I thought about physics, I started to wonder if a similar observation prevailed – did the frame of reference, the position of the observer matter? And I concluded that it did, and then, working from this assumption, I was able to develop my theories of relativity as applied to physics”.

  15. Pingback: CCK11 Einstein Speaks on Theory! « Ken's World

  16. Hi Ken,
    May I :)? We have finally got into relativity. That perfectly explains why a frame of reference (learning model), and position of observer (learner) does matter! Let’s call it a theory of relativity in learning 🙂

  17. If this account is “true”:Einstein’s solution
    These objections were rendered moot by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, in which gravitation is an attribute of curved spacetime instead of being due to a force propagated between bodies. In Einstein’s theory, masses distort spacetime in their vicinity, and other particles move in trajectories determined by the geometry of spacetime. This allowed a description of the motions of light and mass that was consistent with all available observations. In general relativity, the gravitational force is a fictitious force due to the curvature of spacetime, because the gravitational acceleration of a body in free fall is due to its world line being a geodesic of spacetime.

    Then I am wondering if the connections we all conceived within networks (at neuronal level, social level) are also subject to an attribute of curved spacetime instead of being due to a connection due to a “force” propagated between nodes. Would nodes in a network be immersed in such a way that they appear to be “attracted” to each others based on “resonance” and ” force”, where the network(s) – the brain exhibits such an attribute of curved spacetime (with the instantiation of ideas, thoughts) and so is the social networks and media which artificially “amplify” or “dampen” the connections with force – the positive or negative feedback. Still pondering….


  18. Hi John. Yes, there is lots of room for in this theory you have named “The Theory of Relativity in Learning” for discovery. I think it is time natural science lent a little more understanding to the social sciences, and maybe this relativity will do so.

    ps. Einstein is writing you a letter, will post it when he is done 🙂

  19. Einstein says:

    “Congratulations, John, on naming your learning theory. Of course, I am very happy that it includes the term relativity, certainly one of my favourite concepts! I ask that you consider a couple of things, when you expand upon your theory. Would you be so kind as to include both cognitive and affective domains within it? I feel strongly that both domains are connected, I think that each would benefit from seeing the other within your theory. Here is an equation (excuse my awkwardness – math was not my speciality) that sums up some of my thinking on this:

    R = f(C+A)

    The relativity of learning is a function of the sum of cognitive and affective processes.

    Best Wishes

  20. Hi Albert,
    Nice ideas, I think it fits into the learning equation. My intuition is that in any learning, just like what the Actor Learning Theory, the actors could be the nodes (human and non-human) interacting within network that evolves with a complicated cycle. But what interests me would be how the cognitive and affective domains between human interact with the technology and environment, from a macroscopic point of view. Learning that are based on observable and measurable instrument would likely be different from those learning based on intrinsic subtle changes in ideas that are relatively difficult to detect and measure (may be part of the emergent learning equation). But the propagation of ideas would likely be described by the fractals development which multiply with the function of f(z) = z*2 + C, and such learning would depend on the initial learning condition (i.e. the C). z is a complex number where a+bi could be represented with a and b as real number and i as imaginary number. My maths is still with me, though, it would be difficult for these to be explained with the abstract mathematical terms.

    Good to have a start on this “The relativity of learning is a function of the sum of cognitive and affective processes.”. I suppose there are real and imaginary parts of these in the learning equation, though under The Complexity Theory, we could not accurately predict what would happen, as revealed in these MOOC experiments, where certain parts of the learning seem to be amplified (positive feedback) and other parts of the learning dampened (with negative feedback), but then are these aggregation and amplification and dampening of (ideas, concepts, theories, beliefs, perceptions) a function of learning (mechanistic (institutional), organic, adaptive (emergent) etc.) and how these different variables “behave” in such a social media ecology is still unknown, though some might be revealed with the use of learning analytics, and qualitative research like narratives and story telling.


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