On Connectivism – The Course



I have signed up to be part of the mass participation in the learning theory course being offered by Stephen Downes and George Seimans on Connectivism.  The following are my thoughts on an initial reading post.


 Is there a need for a new theory?  Although I’ve voice this question before myself, after lots of thought, I will answer yes, for at least 2 reasons.  

Learning theory continues to evolve rapidly.  It was only 50 years ago that behaviorism completely dominated the field.  It eventually gave way to cognitivism and constructivism and, although constructivism generally dominates today, there are many different forms, not to mention that there are areas where behaviorism and cognitivism are still very important.  It cannot be considered a stable theory or discipline where there is a strong consensus.

I generally follow an idea attributed to Vygotsky  that tools and ideas reflect back on and change the person who uses them.  So the “web 2.0” network does not just enable us to learn as a neutral tool for learning.  It changes not only how we learning, it changes what learning means and it changes who we are as learner and as human beings.  Vygotsky was looking at how our use of language changed  what it meant to be human, but technology has the potential to do the same.  In a sense we are already becoming cyborgs.  The use of technology will defiantly require substantial change in learning theory.

Concerning the listed criticism of:

Pløn Verhagen (2006);  I would agree that connectivism is not yet a mature theory, but that does not mean that it is without merit or unable to be developed further.

Bill Kerr (2007); I mentioned reason above for why existing theory might be considered insufficient, although there is much that might be borrowed.

Curtis Bonk; Most current iterations of learning theory depend on anthropological and sociological thinking.  This is in order to avoid an excessively individualistic account that does not reflect the collective aspects of our lives.  The framework of study in connectivism I would consider educational and psychological, not sociological or anthropological.  

Otherwise, I will list one concern and one development idea:

Concern – there is a reference to neuro-science, but I don’t think we know a lot about learning from a neurological perspective in order to use the knowledge or to use it metaphorically.  There has recently been some talk on the net about the misuse of neuro-science.  It can be used as a rhetorical device rather than reflect a substantive linkage between disciplinary knowledges.

Idea: I like to use the metaphor of propagation as a way to think of (constructivist) learning.  We are given a root stem whether it is some existing knowledge, the results of an experiment, or an innovative thought.  To make it usable or actionable knowledge, however, it must be planted in a garden of practice.  Only then can it grow and fill the garden.  I guess I like organic metaphors.


Oh well; till later