#PLENK2010 Connectivism, MOOC and PLENK

George in his post about connectivism asks for comments.  He says:

In some areas – such as when people ask “how is this different from social constructivism”- it appears that some view differences as trivial. In other areas – such as when people begin to contrast distributed knowledge and social learning networks in relation to the existing education system – it appears that differences are enormous.

George concludes:

….we break from our insistence of complicated explanations to complex phenomenon and collapse down to connections as the basic unit for understanding knowledge and the process of learning. The elements that impact connection-forming in the process of learning – such as emotions, pervious experience, and motivation – are not nodes within the connection clouds. Instead, they are enablers or influencing elements that impact whether or not a connection will form or the way in which that connection will resonate with the rest of the network.

I think George has conceptualized Connectivism based on the Cloud concept, and he has tried to detach the “emotional” and “cognitive” components from the nodes in order to understand if connections could be the basic framework upon learning and knowledge is built.  I applaud George’s imagination with such a great metaphor of connecting with the clouds in a foreign planet.

I think emotions, previous experience and motivations are all associated with the nodes (the people), and in many instances could be the result emerging from the interactions amongst the nodes.

My questions are: What would learning be like if the connections are deprived of emotions and affective components, in the creation or “construction” of knowledge amongst “human” and agents?  Connections could provide the conduit towards learning, but connections amongst nodes wouldn’t necessarily generate “new” knowledge. Isn’t it?  It’s the interpretation and perception amongst nodes (networkers) that could give rise to understanding of “distributed knowledge” under Connectivism.  Newly created knowledge is an emergent phenomena arising out of connective learning.

Is this sort of connective learning (with distributed knowledge) mediated principally by tools (based on technology affordance) or by people, or a combination of them in MOOC?

When I compare such views of learning under a Connectivism experiment with the concept of social constructivism as a learning theory here, I could identify some common themes: with lots of situations where learning by doing is what makes networked learning so attractive, especially via the web and social networks, and that to a certain extent, it has embraced the spirit of Constructivism (social networked learning).

Kirschner et al. (2006) describe why they group a series of seemingly disparate learning theories (Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential, and Inquiry-Based learning). The reasoning for this grouping is because each learning theory promotes the same constructivist teaching technique — “learning by doing.” While they argue “learning by doing” is useful for more knowledgeable learners, they argue this constructivist teaching technique is not useful for novices. Mayer states that it promotes behavioral activity too early in the learning process, when learners should be cognitively active (Mayer, 2004).[16]

Today’s proponents of discovery methods, who claim to draw their support from constructivist philosophy, are making inroads into educational practice. Yet a dispassionate review of the relevant research literature shows that discovery-based practice is not as effective as guided discovery.” (Mayer, 2004, p. 18)

Mayer’s point is that people often misuse constructivism to promote pure discovery-based teaching techniques. He proposes that the instructional design recommendations of constructivism are too often aimed at discovery-based practice (Mayer, 2004). Sweller (1988) found evidence that practice by novices during early schema acquisition, distracts these learners with unnecessary search-based activity, when the learner’s attention should be focused on understanding (acquiring schemas).

What is active participation in a MOOC under Connectivism?  Rita shares her views here.

If the majority of PLENKers think that their active participation, without the producing stage, is legitimate (and the empirical evidence that we collected so far clearly points in that direction) it might be that George has to eat his hat ;-), and reconsider his ideas, beliefs and feelings regarding what type of activity is required for learning on a course of this nature.  Current theories of learning show that activity is conductive to learning, but luckily they do not prescribe what type of activity this would have to be!

Isn’t that a matter of interpretation and “definition”? I think a lot of learning makes sense from the learners’ perspective, and that may not necessarily align with educators’ views or perspective.  Take for example, how people’s interpretation of the MOOC activities: conduction of researches, or the way how MOOC has been structured as mentioned by Rita:

The basis of MOOCs has always been four activities: 1. Actively aggregating, 2. Actively relating these aggregated resources to earlier experiences and knowledge, what Stephen Downes calls remixing,  3. Actively repurposing; producing a digital artifact with this mix of thoughts, and 4. An actively sharing stage.

What are the basis of these activities?  I have reflected on these activities and they could be classified under the lens of Constructivism, Social Constructivism, and Situation Learning. These activities are now blended with Connectivism, in order to reinforce the importance of connections that would link up all activities.  In some ways, these also relate to the Activity Theory Approach towards learning, in a normative and prescriptive approach in instructional design.

Activity theory theorizes that when individuals engage and interact with their environment, production of tools results. These tools are “exteriorized” forms of mental processes, and as these mental processes are manifested in tools, they become more readily accessible and communicable to other people, thereafter becoming useful for social interaction.[2]

About connectivism and PLENK, here is my metaphorical view.

Each of us could interpret connectivism differently, depending on your angles, your emotions, your context, and your attitudes towards connections, and networks, people.

Similarly, under a networked learning approach, where diversity of opinions are welcome in a MOOC, then tensions amongst different “voices” seem to be a natural emergence from the networks.  It is both healthy and necessary for the network, as this would allow for network growth, as suggested by Stephen.  This seems to be a natural opposite from the traditional “group” or “team”, or even the Community’s views where consensus and agreed goals are the norms rather than exception.

How do we know if diversity of opinions is the best way to learn under a networked learning ecology (or with internet)?

So, would that explain why research is important in MOOC?  Previous researches as shown above on Constructivism has hinted that novices might benefit more from guided discovery rather than self discovery, from an educational perspective, or the pedagogy.  Would Connectivism as revealed under MOOC tell a different story?

I am still working on the research, and so am still searching for a connective response to this basic question – what is learning from the learners’ perspective under Connectivism?

#PLENK2010 PLENK and Personal Learning

I greatly appreciate Rodd’s insights into this collective learning networks and PLE/N and Dave points out the differences between PLE and PLN.

Is the term Personal Learning Network as slightly ‘oxymoronic’?  Are we being changed by the networks and also trying to change the networks in the process of learning in social networks?  What I mean is learning as a result of changing with oneself and the networks that one is interacting with through technology, tools or social media – the learning in action, and learning to be in an online and face to face learning world.  I do see PLN and collaborative learning network as two sides of the same coin, especially if it is under the lens of Connectivism.

Under Connectivism, learning occurs at the neuro, conceptual and social/external level.  So as learning refers to the navigation and traverse of networks (both personal and social networks), at a cognitive and social level, then it’s the continuous connections, engagements and interaction with those networks by individuals which would enable the growth of knowledge and learning on a personal and network level within us.

How about?

#PLENK2010 Connectivism & PLENK- my interpretation

This is a response to Mary on my previous post on transformative learning.  I think I would like to share it here, where I would elaborate on my interpretation of the theory of connectivism and how it relates to PLENK.

Thanks for your wonderful sharing.
We all learn differently, due to many factors, as you mentioned. So when it comes to learning on the web & internet, we may have used different strategies that are based on our capacity, skills and experience – critical literacies etc.
1. Do a full understanding of PLENK theory and practice necessary?
2. Does a full understanding of PLENK in theory and practice require “transformative learning” (as asked by Carmen)

There are two questions here: For Q1, what is involved in PLENK theory and practice? I don’t think we have come up with an agreed PLENK theory as yet. There are PLENK practice which are all based on idiosyncrasy and again there are only general principles which are found to be useful if followed. I think we have been discussing and critiquing on the constructivist (VLE) and connectivist approaches (PLE) and it would take another post for further sharing.

Q2. Relating to transformational learning theory:
This theory has two kinds of learning that is involved with it. Those learning theories are instrumental learning and communicative learning. With instrumental learning is focuses on “learning through task-oriented problem solving and determination of cause and effect relationships” (Taylor, E. W., 1998, 5). With communicative learning it is involved with how others communicate their feelings, needs and desires with another person.

So, I think it pretty covers part of the learning of tools (PLE/N or the Web 2.0) with instrumental learning. Also, it addresses the communicative learning that are often associated with how we learn through understanding of our own feelings (internal reflection) and others (reflection with others via sharing, participation and engagement in activities or conversation)
I could argue that we don’t necessarily need too much theory to formulate such learning, but it may be good to reflect on the significance of these learning on our growth. Similarly, when we adopt a connectivist approach, what we might have done is to use a new and emergent kind of vocabulary, a more complex system (i.e. Complex Adaptive System) approach in understanding our learning more holistically.
I would think we need an ontological learning with some details extracted from excerpts:

“An ontology provide a shared vocabulary, which can be used to model a domain, that is, the type of objects and/or concepts that exist, and their properties and relations.
While a conceptual schema defines relations on Data, an ontology defines terms which with to represent Knowledge. For present purposes, one can think of Data as that expressible in ground atomic facts and Knowledge as that expressible in logical sentences with existentially and universally quantified variables. An ontology defines the vocabulary used to compose complex expressions such as those used to describe resource constraints in a planning problem. From a finite, well-defined vocabulary one can compose a large number of coherent sentences. That is one reason why vocabulary, rather than form, is the focus of specifications of ontological commitments.”

I think what we may need is a totally new and novel way to understand knowledge (the tacit knowledge) in particular when we are immersed in the networks using PLE/N.
From the research we (Jenny, Roy and I) have conducted, we found that people do have a preference in learning style, and it could be quite complicated. The learning style pattern for the CCK08 in order of preference is: 1. reflector, 2. pragmatist, 3. theorist, & 4. activist. The implication is that people may be employing various combination of the preferred style of learning under different circumstances, with different strategies. As learners go through their learning journey, some may prefer to try the tools first, before coming to understanding the underpinning theory behind, whilst others may prefer to study the principles behind those use of tools, before trying them.
So, there is no one golden rule for doing the PLE/N, as it is all based on personal preference, and situation.
This also lead me to ask: if we wish to learn the advanced theories relating to education and learning, could we do so with open, online learning? My question was based on that we have all assumed that people have gone through the various stages of learning, and that they have good mastery of the instrumental learning (use of tools) and communicative learning (how to communicate effectively using those tools), and thus could move on to ontological learning. But is this assumption right?
So the challenge could be: For academic discourse, to what extent would people be able to engage at a “deep learning” level with the use of blogs and forums? Also, what motivates people to engage at such levels? What are the conditions upon which such discourse would happen? What levels of critical reflection will occur in blog/forum?

In a post by Elmine Wijnia (Communigations) (http://elmine.wijnia.com/weblog/archives/001298.html) she posted: Weblog serves as a communication hub
“I’ve been thinking about whether weblogs can be a medium for discourse. .. Habermas makes a distinction within communicative action, between conversation and discourse. I figured that no single medium can offer a platform for discourse, so weblogs as a sole medium can’t be seen as discourse. Rather, weblogs are a very good starting point for discourse. The weblog can serve as a filter for getting to know people who are interested in the same things. Through weblogs one can have conversations with ‘self’ and (preferably) others. These conversations can transcend into discourse when people start using multiple communication tools simultaneously (VoIP, chat, forum, e-mail, wiki, webcam etc.) ” “Combining different media is the strength and the weblog serves as a communication hub”
To me, that sounds like the communicative and instrumental learning based on the PLE/N, and if there are further ontological learning happening, based on the connectivist approach, then that would be the connectivist approach towards learning and knowledge in action.
Also, the reason why it is so difficult to fully understand connectivism might be based on the fact it addresses the three levels in an integrative manner – neuro (neuroscience approach), conceptual (cognitive approach) and social and external (social learning approach with complexity theory and various social learning theories integrated). This is similar to viewing 3 D pictures where the images of 3D are all overlapping, and you need to put on 3D glasses (technology, agents, TV, tools) in order to view them properly. Besides, you need to interpret the 3D movies based on the emergent properties, as each 3D patterns may be different when shown, due to the complexity nature of the environment and 3D glasses one puts on.
For your question “What is the difference between a truism and a maxim?”
I will try to address that in another comment.
John