Support for Connectivism, with a Hope and a Small Critique

1. Why I differ from Kerr and support a distinctive theory of connectivism.

I will start by expressing another perspective on my comment that artifacts (like technologically enabled networks) reflect back on and change the practitioners who use them.  Vygotsky’s daughter, Gina, made the following statement regarding the dialectic her father perceived between theory and practice.  

“He made science with his hands.  Vygotsky’s theory was fruitful because it arose from the demands of practice, and practice was fruitful because it was grounded in deeply considered theory” (Remedial and Special Ed Vol 20, p.330-332)

Discussions surrounding the googlization or the dumbing down of people, information overload and the depth of thought in blog entries; all these issues indicate that networks are changing people practices and are asking us to adapt and change as humans.  This reality expresses the demands of practice from which learning theories must lead and to which constructivism must adapt.  I see the possibility of connectivism making this adaption.

My hope for the continued development of connectivism

I believe that connectivism will reflect the demands of practice discussed above, although I have not seen evidence that it is doing this yet, and I think there is room for growth.  My hope is that a sense of mind, a core constructivist principle, will be maintained as history shows this is an important perspective.  Let me start with a historical account of learning theory adapted from Bruner’s Acts of Meaning (1990).  He, like William James, considers psychology to be a science of the mind.  Both William James and Wilhelm Wundt (referring here to Wundts book Volkerpsychologie, not his work in physiological psychology) advocated for a non-reductionist study of mind, but progress in this direction was averted by the behaviorists with their grounding in positivist objectivism.  Jerome Burner participated in the cognitive revolution with the goal of reintroducing mind to psychology.  He recounts how a focus on computation again moved mind to the background, bringing back many of the same limitations that caused behaviorism to wain.  If was this caused a shift to constructivism.

In believe that connectivism can best continue by extending constructivist principles into new challenges, new practices, and new theoretical understandings.  But, there is ample opportunity to focus to much on nodes and information to the neglect of mind once again.  If that happens, history will repeat itself again with a turn from connectivism, back to some form of constructivism.  Some day neurology or philosophical associationism may progress to the point that a science of the mind will no longer be needed.  Some people in Wundt’s day believed that, but I believe that even today, that day is still very far in the future.

A small critique of some graphics

The use of some matrix type graphics is not always meaningful to me.  In many cases a dichotomy is drawn that over simplifies and covers nuanced differences.  In the case of learning theories a concept map may be more informative to show historical development as well as concept breaks and similarities.  This is a small matter with primarily a pedagogical goal for addressing people who are not well grounded in the history of learning theory.