Tuesday, October 20, 2009

My Position on Connectivism - Assignment 1 CCK09

Out with the old...and in with the new. I still don't feel really comfortable posting an assignment on-line...but here goes!

My position on Connectivism

The idea of connectivism as a new learning theory makes sense to me. I think connectivisim is a natural evolution and extension of other learning theories, because it addresses the emergence of new technology and the new opportunities for growth in knowledge with the increased connectedness the internet affords.

When I first enrolled in this course, I really didn’t have an understanding of Connectivism or why a new learning theory was necessary. The most meaningful phase that helped me begin to understand what Connectivism is all about is from an article written by George Siemens, which defines Connectivism as "a learning theory for the digital age". This statement sums up most concisely what I think is the main strength and need for the development of a new learning theory. “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe” drove home the main idea that knowledge is in the connections, not the connection itself. Within the last ten years access to advanced tools and technology have opened up opportunities to connect to others, establish new networks, and learn in new ways.

Traditional learning theories do have points where they overlap, and I think Connectivism is no exception. I think that connectivism builds on the theory of constructivism – the idea that learners construct knowledge for themselves. Connectivism builds on the theory of constructivism where each learner individually (and socially) constructs meaning as he or she learns, and generates knowledge and meaning from their experiences. I think the difference is that connectivism recognizes the tremendous impact the explosion of technology has had, and how knowledge grows via the new connections and networks.

What continues to resonate with me as I learn more about the impacts of technology on learning and learning theory, is the importance of learning new skills to effectively create new networks or connections, and navigate through a vast network of resources via the web. I continue to be often overwhelmed and frustrated by the sheer volume of information. I have started using new tools to help me organize and aggregate sources of information and connections, to have some sense of organization in such a chaotic environment. I don’t think I’m alone by feeling that teachers and learners will need to acquire new skills to really engage in the creation of new networks and connections. Who will teach them?

Other outstanding questions I have revolve around practical application of this new theory, particularly within organizations where the nature of knowledge is contextual. Also, the old saying “you don’t know what you don’t know” is always in the back of my mind. How will I know if the new networks or the connections I establish are valuable? Using resources created by others make me question if the knowledge within the connections a person establishes are valid or accurate.

Personally, I think that applying these new ideas around connectivism will be interesting and challenging. It’s more than just creating new networks and connections just for the sake of creating connections. You need to know how to “construct and traverse those networks”( Stephen Downs). It’s like having a treadmill in the basement – it’s there, but if you don’t use it, you won’t benefit.

Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Downes, Stephen (2007) What Connectivism Is

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