During my last post I realized that I needed to update my view on this theory. Constructivism is a sound theory on human learning except for one thing, it really didn’t change practice all that much. Its central insight (especially in the Vygotskian version) is that learning and knowledge are social, but that insight changed very little in educational practice where it should have turned practice on its head. I have come to believe that this is because there was no adequate model of social learning. Even Vygotskian ideas like the ZPD (zone of proximal development) limits the social model to teacher to student or peer to peer interactions. Connectivism provides an adequate social model as a wide network. This is a true social model that shows how learning is expanded by expanding one’s network.
Reading about e-learning and social media, I get the feeling that people are trying to solve learning issues with technical applications. While I believe that technology is a key enabler, learning is social at its core. That means social innovation should come first. Social media can be a great enabler, if its application is designed to facilitate interaction where social change has already taken place or at least where the ground is fertile for social change.
Here’s an example:
An individualistic idea of schooling led to a university model where people went to school to get knowledge into their heads and then went out into the world to practice and use that knowledge. But not only is learning not anywhere near finished when you leave school, to be successful in practice many people need to learn everyday. In short, the learning is never done!
Yes, we need knowledge from schools, but even more important we need a learning network. This was my take-away from last falls connectivism course (CCK08). Providing students with a network of knowers is more important than providing them with knowledge. While many professors may maintain contact with graduates, what is needed is more. It’s the expectation that graduates will leave school with a strong learning and practice network that includes strong bond to ties graduates back to their original contexts of learning and to ties schools to rich fields of practice and practitioners. It’s a two way street. Now in this type of context, social media can be a real enabler because it is focused on facilitating dynamic social innovation.