#Change11 #CCK12, #LAK12 My Quest and Reflection on Connectivism – A New Learning Theory of Digital Age

Here is my quest and reflection on Connectivism – from the comment of my previous post – Why am I interested in Networked Learning – Connectivism created in 2010.

Refer to this by George Siemens.

What interests me is the re-examination of the 5 points suggested by George in light of empirical evidence from the survey and my experience. John 10/05/09

1. Did the existing theories of learning fail to account for the expansion and creation of knowledge? Yes, to some degree.

“Connectivism and networked learning suggest a continual expansion of knowledge. New and novel connections open new worlds and create new knowledge.”

How is knowledge defined in this continual expansion? Is it ontology? How is knowledge defined under connectivism? How is knowledge defined by an educator? Is knowledge clearly defined in the mind of a learner? Is knowledge defined in the same way by the educator AND the learner? Would knowledge need to be defined on a wider basis – ie. more widely accepted by both educators and learners (& clearly understood and agreed by both educators and learners) This would avoid confusion in the learning process – as learners may interpret their intention of learning in a totally different way.

This may lead to: (please note that I quote this general example, and has no intention to refer to any courses or networks), though you may choose to use it to reflect

(1) We are expecting our learners to learn X BUT our learners are looking for the learning of Y (educators), (arising out of mismatch of setup, expectations)

(2) We don’t know what we are learning as we don’t know what the teachers are teaching (because we don’t understand or don’t agree on the principles or process) (learners)

(3) We don’t understand the principles but aren’t able to ask (because we don’t know what we don’t know) (learners).

(4) We know all these based on other learning theories (may be some educators and professors educated under cognitivism, constructivism, social constructivism, positive empiricalism or positivist approach etc.) and our definition of knowledge is fine, and we don’t agree with this definition of knowledge (not learners, they may be just lurkers ).

(5) We know how to use Web 2.0 and all other tools and social networking, but don’t think Connectivism is a new learning theory (this is already highlighted in the papers, and also various articles in Steve’s posting)

Please note that I have made many assumptions above, just for the sake of analysis.

These are crucial to our further exploration/ research as we are employing a connectivist approach here in our conversation, to understand how we might be able to better understand a pattern in learning (based on connectivism and connective knowledge)

2. The primacy of the connection – all other forms of learning flow from an initial connection to something – a person, a concept, and idea.  What are the relationship between a person, a concept and idea in the learning or initial connection? “Connectivism emphasizes the primacy of the connection and suggests understanding learning is found in understanding how and why connections form.” How to understand in how and why connections are formed? A fundamental question is: if people are merely connected to a concept or an idea and are not interested in connecting to a person, there seems to be little difference from the traditional learning mode by reading and interpreting individually a text, an article, a report, watching TV, videos, movies, etc. These sort of learning requires cognitive skills (may or may not include metacognitive skills) that would be under cognitivism. And if the learner were to extend the learning by connecting with others, and construct meaning out of the interaction or learning, then that would be constructivism. If the learner were to connect and participate in social networks, then that would be social constructivism.

If the learner would involve going through a cycle of connections, practice, reflection on the pattern recognition and identification – This implies learner immersed in the learning network and navigate through the network to explore the 5 W and 1 H with patterning (knowledge – what and how to learn), sensemaking (metacognition – thinking how to think – how and why to learn) and way finding (identifying the up to date accurate sources of information – who, where, how, when to learn) and learning how to learn more effectively with systems – information and technology tools, education systems, people (educators, learners, administrators, parents and mentors, etc) and environment – the infrastructure of society

3. Growth in abundance and complexity of knowledge. “The sheer quantity of information available to most people today is overwhelming. How can we cope? How can existing theories of learning assist us in embracing information as a continual process, rather than an event (constructivism comes closest in this regard)? How do we account for self-organization? For complexity? Clearly, a learning theory is one that should provide a conduit for considering more than the act of learning itself and inform us as to how multiple aspects of information creation interact and evolve. How would the learning theory provide the conduit of considering the act of learning itself and inform us as to how multiple aspects of information creation interact and evolve?” This pattern might be revealed through further research (or results by CMaps with how information interact and evolve). Social Network Analysis may be used to reveal how people are connected. It would be difficult to explain how the information evolved – other than the mixing and matching, re-purposing, and re-creating and sharing of information in different forms, styles, context or complexities,- i.e. use of multi-media to present the information, or to share information with different agents (human & media)

4. Technology. “I hesitate to emphasize technology as it suggests an embrace of web 2.0 utopian hype. But it’s difficult to ignore technology. Looking to our history reveals the prominence of technology in opening new doors – form writing to air travel. Technology is an enabler of new opportunities. While we’ve encountered years of hype, the internet is truly a unique invention that ties together the globe.” Our research is based on the technology as an enabler in the learning process. If connectivism (the theory of learning) is based on the network theory alone (without any significant reference or relevance to technology), then would there be much difference from the cognitivism and constructivism PLUS psychology in the learning process? Would Web 2.0 tools be a major factor in determining the effectiveness of connectivism? Would the focus be on a learning pedagogy which would be determined by the learner – ie. learner centered learning in entirety? Would this pedagogy be based on a number of principles? Demonstration, Modelling, Practice and Reflection that have been proposed by Stephen – but how far have these been adopted by the learners in the course or networks? Openness, Autonomy, Diversity and Connectedness are properties of networks. Would these be the necessary conditions for networks to be effective? (or learning to be effective, though not sufficient). Would the sufficient conditions of effective learning be something more? How about active participation and learning (autonomy & connectedness), collaboration and cooperation (connectedness & degree of interaction), communication (openness, autonomy, diversity and connectedness), motivation and intelligence (social and emotional intelligences) (especially in an on-line environment) (all of the above)?

5. Connectivism brings together concepts from different domains in a novel way. It is rare to have a singularly unique idea. “Even existing theories – behaviourism, constructivism, and cognitivism, do not stand as fully complete and original ideas. What makes each of these theories unique is the manner in which they bring together research and concepts prominent during their particular age. Constructivism is an aggregation of thoughts that span from Dewey to von Glaserfeld to Papert. In a similar sense, connectivism is unique in bringing together ideas of neuroscience, cognitive science, network theory, complex systems, and related disciplines. While it is still a somewhat uneasy mix (we can’t simply throw buzzwords into a pot and call it a theory), as much (perhaps more) evidence exists for the key assertions in connectivism as does in any other theory of learning. The very intent of this course is to expand the base of connectivism and explore which principles are involved in the theory.” How could we bring together ideas of neuroscience, cognitive science, network theory, complex systems and related disciplines together? How would it be possible to extract and mix the salient principles, concepts and ideas from such diverse areas?

After reflection, I still find some important missing links – on the origin of connections. Theory should reflect practice to qualify that learning HAS happened

Example 1: If a person (learner) wants to be connected to someone (another person – teacher or learner), but that other person (teacher or learner) doesn’t want to be connected to the person (the learner), then learning under connectivism would not happen (or a failure in learning). Is it happening in social networks? Yes!

Example 2: If there is no openness in the network, then a person (the learner) couldn’t be connected to the ideas or source of information, then again learning won’t happen. What is missing here? Lack of support from the network, from the community, from the institution, from the educators, from the administrators?

Example 3: If there is problem in the access to the connection (ideas, thoughts, information source) (access problem to internet, or system is down, or no such system is available), learning will not occur. What is missing here? System failure?

We could argue that there is nothing to deal with the theory itself, but as mentioned, we are talking about real life authentic learning, so it would be imperative to consider all those factors when applying the learning theory. If there are so many limitations and contexts that may constraint or limit its usefulness, then this must be overcome before we could apply it throughout the system.

Are there any more missing links? How about the people who are learning? What are their perceptions on the concepts from different domains? What are the understanding of learners of different domains and levels?

I raised these for the sake of further discussion, as I am convinced that Connectivism is a new learning theory, though I would like to see how we could better explain some of the unknowns and complexities involved through research and discussion amongst us and the community.

Please refer to a summary of research articles on Connectivism and MOOC here.

Pictures: George Siemens’ blog

Picture: Google


This could be an interesting read. http://www.scribd.com/doc/33459795/Rita-Kop-Thesis-May10


6 thoughts on “#Change11 #CCK12, #LAK12 My Quest and Reflection on Connectivism – A New Learning Theory of Digital Age

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