#Change11 Is Connectivism a New and Emerging Learning Theory?

As a disclosure, I am a believer in Connectivism as a New Learning Theory. My stance has remained, since I attended CCK08, and then all other MOOCs. I also trust that Connectivism could make a difference, in education and learning, by truly embracing the human nature of learning as a network phenomena, with a distributed learning and knowledge based on network personally and socially. I understand that this is also a critical moment and a transitional period where huge changes (like transformation) in education are imminent, due to the economic, social and ecological pressures, and cries for innovation and improvement in education, research and learning in communities and society. The theory of Connectivism, however, is not subject without critics, as mentioned in my past post. As an educator and researcher who has a belief in its potential in transforming education and learning practice, it is equally important to reveal the findings, the observations, and critics of others, so as to ensure that Connectivism is critically assessed, reviewed, and put into test, with the theory and principles proposed. This accounts for my postings of both the merits and demerits of Connectivism in theory and practice, as shared by our colleagues in the network. This would also allow us to sense through the learning theory with a critical lens, and not just believe in whatever the principles are postulated. In other words, we need to be critical about assumptions behind each learning theory postulated, including Social Constructivism, Connectivism, or COPs and need to raise questions about the theory, application, implications, and limitations. I reckon this is based on emerging learning and research practice, and is part of digital scholarship too.

I will continue to share and report on the findings relating to Connectivism in future posts and papers.

Is Connectivism a New and Emerging Learning Theory.  It’s your call now in this Change11.

If someone asked me about my education and learning, I would sing:

How about You?

#Change11 Connectivism re-visited

I am still reflecting on this part of Connectivism, when Jenny writes:

I think it would help to say what it is not – and that might help to distinguish it from communities of practice (although Wenger et al have already published about this) and connectivism. I think Stephen Downes and George Siemens are clearer about what connectivism is and is not.

Here are more presentations by Stephen Downes relating to Connectivism, that provide a broad view on Connectivism and its impact on open education and learning.

Here Frances argues below that Connectivism is not a New Theory of Learning, but is a phenomenon of social learning (basically similar to ANT as I interpreted it) instead as revealed in CCK08.

I have reflected on a number of occasions on how I see Connectivism, here and here.

In Supporting distance education with theory:

“Connectivism is a cycle of knowledge development that begins with the individual, feeds the personal knowledge network, which feeds organization, which feeds back to the network and provides learning back to the individual. Thus, the task of Internet research and filtering valid, reliable sources, demonstrates the characteristics of connectivism. This process of learning, knowledge, and understanding through this personal network is connectivism.”

In reflection on the cycle of knowledge development that begins with the individual, feeds the personal knowledge network.  However, will it feed the organisation?  There were many participants who shared their doubts when feeding “knowledge” back to the organization.  Why?  As shared by Gordon here in his post:

The application of the MOOC model in many other learning situations (apart, perhaps, from the ‘orientation’ type of activity I’ve previously discussed) may be much less straightforward due to a lack of human or other resources or, perhaps more likely, fundamental conflicts between the MOOC ethos and institutional aims and objectives. Innovation such as networked learning certainly has a potential for disruption, good and bad, but in Higher Education with the careers and life prospects of individual students at stake, changes need to be carefully rolled out over a period of time as reliable evidence of the benefits grow.

It seems that there are still fundamental conflicts in applying some of the principles of Connectivism within an institutional environment, in particular when the technology and curriculum are still based on (a) a learning management system (LMS) and (b) a fixed curriculum with prescriptive learning outcomes, objectives and performance criteria.

This also presents challenges for educators and learners to apply Connectivism in learning, when in theory such constraints as determined by LMS could be overcome by being active learners, creating Personal Learning Networks and Personal Learning Environment for their “collective learning“.

In practice, both educators and learners are expected to comply with the controls often determined within institutional vision and mission, that is governed by quality assurance, in order for the courses and curriculum to be accredited, and the learning to be validated and recognized through qualification awards.

Wouldn’t it become a paradox when education and learning under Connectivism is claimed to be feeding to organization?  What would actually trigger the learning?  Organisation? The Individual?

It should be the individual setting off the learning, under Connectivism, then. Right?  But who sets the learning agenda?  Organization?  Educators?

Peter in this paper highlights that getting to know what makes our students tick will ultimately help education to work towards a Network Society focusing not on bits and bytes but on interpersonal information and communication, with the potential of further development of all young adults in society.

This fits perfectly well when it comes to changes necessary in education.  Tony Bates highlights in this coming week’s topic: Managing Technology to Transform Teaching:

New technologies will transform and are transforming post-secondary education in many different ways. Some argue that they will lead to the dismantling of universities and colleges as we know them.

However, it is my view that universities and colleges will be with us for some time into the future. There is always likely to be a need for guidance, structure and assessment of learning, and many learners will look to established institutions for such support, and for ways to validate what they have learned.

At the same time, it is also my view that universities and colleges need to change dramatically if they are to meet the future needs of learners, and in particular if they are to fully reap the benefits of technology for teaching and learning.

The issue

The issue then becomes: what changes are needed and why? And how best can these changes be facilitated and by whom? This is the topic I wish to facilitate in this MOOC.”

Many university and college leaders recognize the growing importance of learning technologies, yet institutions are still extremely conservative in their actual use.

So, when I re-visit the learning which feeds organization, under Connectivism, this sounds like a bottom-up feeding mechanism, where the “grass-roots” level educators and learners would create and share the learning with those in the organization, in order to initiate changes in teaching and learning practice.

However, as Tony mentioned in his post, it is more likely that changes are needed from the top for systemic changes, rather than the bottom, in order to be sustainable, and economically viable.

Such changes in learning must also come from leadership, from the institutions, instead of merely from the educators and learners, in order to embrace a fully Network Society spirit shared in  Peter’ paper and be sustainable.

Picture: from post/Flickr

So, is Connectivism a New and Emerging Learning Theory?

More reflection on Connectivism and Education in another following post.


Photo: Flickr