Why we need connectionism: A Relevant Metaphor for Practice

In spite of the growing support for the social-cultural, situated, social constructivist, distributed, hermeneutic and dilogical nature of learning and cognition; educational, business and cultural practices remain firmly rooted in a paradigm of individualism.  Why?  I can only infer that the aforementioned perspectives are too abstract to move the paradigmatic barriers in moat people’s thinking, but this is where I think connectivism can contribute by making things more concrete.  Instead of looking at abstract social cultural environments, connectivism highlights that these environments are actually networks of people connecting in concrete ways and situations.

For instance, Hagel Brown & Davison tell us to get ourselves connected into knowledge flows, but what does this mean.  What I think they mean is that we need to be in environments and networks that allow our thinking to sense and be open to the expressions of many other people.  It applies to digital networks as well as in our physical surroundings.  In fact, since we are not digital devices, our digital networks need to be integrated into our physical personal and cognitive spaces.  Instead of thinking only of knowledge flows, think of physical environs, their cognitive predispositions, their diversity, their intellectual richness and their digital connection to people in similar environs.

Metaphors actively shape our thinking.  I don’t think of connectivism as being opposed to the first mentioned perspectives with which I began this post, but I do think of connectivism as a new and important metaphorical perspective.  Connectivism should help these perspectives to be understood in new ways that are directly applicable to our daily practices.  In the end, it is like Wittgenstein suggested: the meaning of connectivism, or any other perspective on thinking and learning for that matter, is not to be found in a philosophical discussion.  Rather, it is found in the way that it relates to and helps us to better our everyday practices and the ways that we go about relating to each other.

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