#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

24 thoughts on “#Change11 Connectivism re-visited

  1. These are interesting thoughts, Sui Fai John.
    I wonder if we need to consider the definition of ‘feed the organization’. I interpret that to mean the flow of learning/knowledge, which is quite different from ‘changing’ the organization.
    If I am enrolled in an online HEI course, then I learn through the connections online, then I return to the course discussions with my new knowledge, along with all other students. Through numerous connections, my knowledge base grows, as does the learning of my peers, and in turn, would not the facilitator/teacher’s knowledge base grow as well? This is my understanding of Connectivism.
    As this process is repeated, the knowledge base of many professors increases. Is this not ‘feeding the organization’?

  2. Pingback: #Change11 Connectivism re-visited | Connectivism and Networked Learning | Scoop.it

  3. Well said. May I re-quote what was written in George’s paper:
    “The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into
    organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to
    individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain
    current in their field through the connections they have formed.” Sure, that is how learning/knowledge flows in organization too. My question is:Is this way of knowledge/learning already happening in organization? If yes, then is that Connectivism? I think the critical point here is:”The starting point of connectivism is the individual”. Is this always the case in formal education and learning? The assumption here is that one’s personal knowledge will feed into organizations and institutions. In theory, this would be the ideal learning scenario. However, as I have shared in my posts with examples, there are still practical limitations as to how this knowledge/learning would or could be fed into organization from individuals. This requires significant changes in institutional strategies and practices as mentioned in Tony Bates’ book and his past posts. Our experiences in CCKs and PLENK2010 well illustrated the challenges educators and learners have to face when transferring the learning based on Connectivism back into institutional practice. What is most important from an institutional perspective is vision and mission alignment, quality assurance and compliance with accreditation in education. As an educator, what do you see as most important in education?

  4. Pingback: #Change11 Connectivism re-visited | Connectivism | Scoop.it

  5. “As an educator, what do you see as most important in education?”
    My answer to this question has been evolving in the past few years.
    I would have said “Facilitating and motivating” until the arrival of the Web 2.0.
    Those roles are still extremely important, but I suspect HEI and educators in general, are going to have to place more emphasis on new assessment strategies. It is the root of the current dilemma in education.
    As you mentioned “most important from an institutional perspective is vision and mission alignment, quality assurance and compliance with accreditation in education”; so how do we assess this transformation in learning and knowledge? If we are to survive through this difficult period of transition and move into a truly new renaissance era, we must learn how to access students and validate their learning.
    There is a lot of talk recently about teaching children to be creative and prepare them for careers that do not exist today. Did we not do that 40 years ago? Afterall, my ‘mature’ generation created all these marvels and are in roles that did not exist when we were teenagers!
    I think we need to talk less about child-centred learning (It is not a new idea and good educators have always promoted it. The difference is, today we have the tools to make child-centred learning more successful.), and speak more about new assessment strategies to make the smooth transition into this new era of educational technology and connectivism.

  6. Many thanks Susan for your wonderful insights.
    Glad to learn from your perspective, and couldn’t agree more, on the need of new assessment strategies to make the smooth transition into this new era of educational technology and connectivism. Relating to assessment, there has been a trend in last decade (since 2000) with the use of e-portfolio and PLE/PLN in the collection of evidences of assessment. This together with on-the-job training and assessment, and mentoring in the workplace could be cost effective means of education and learning in the 21st century. This will allow people to gain accreditation and qualification without taking the traditional face-to-face classroom teaching. However, this may be more successful for use in vocational education and training (where practical skills could be assessed) than higher education, though the recent emerging concepts of learning contract based on the needs of organisation (refer to my previous post) could be another innovative way of approaching education and learning in HE, with an organization focus.

    What are some of the new assessment strategies that will make learners (children and adult learners) more successful?

    As a disclosure, I am a believer on 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.

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  12. Thanks for the quote! Yes, “It seems that there are still fundamental conflicts in applying some of the principles of Connectivism within an institutional environment . . . . .” but with some of these principles and viewpoints remaining a matter of controversy even among seasoned MOOCers they are unlikely to be accepted by many academics pre-occupied with the day-to-day business of teaching, administration and research in their own fields. No doubt networked learning in general has much to offer Higher Education but the ‘devil is in the detail’ and change seems more likely if academics, top and bottom, can be persuaded by example. I hope that current and past open courses of all varieties and the ensuing research will identify far more accurately what the benefits are and in what circumstances and fields of activity they can be achieved.
    BTW – love the animal cartoon!

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  15. Hi Gordon, Many thanks for your great insights. I share your thoughts in the importance of persuasion by example, and that more researches are necessary in networked learning. Your pictures of MOOCs are shining, and well illustrate pictures worth thousand words. How do you find Change11 so far? Any further “revelation” you have found from such networked interaction in MOOC?

  16. Thanks for your kind words John. I’m afraid I’ve not been doing much more than lurking in Change11. As for revelations, I guess I remain puzzled as to exactly what a MOOC is, or should be – I await inspiration!

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