Thursday, September 11, 2008

Summary of my first thoughts on Connectivism

This has been an interesting first week in the Connectivism and Connected Knowledge course. Here are some of my preliminary conclusions from what has been presented and discussed so far:

Connectivism is a legitimate theory and not a fraud or front for "technocommunism" as some have claimed.

Connectivism seems to be an extension of other theories of knowledge and learning rather than a repudiation of them. It recognises something - the fact that we don't learn or know things in isolation - that has always been there, but was not emphasized until recent changes in technology brought it into dramatic focus.

There is some difficulty in defining connectivism, but definitions of abstract concepts are always problematic. One quote that I thinks applies here is about defining communication: "To define something as communication, something must be 'not communication', but to draw a line is to make a mistake, for reality is seamless." Basically, connectivism is about everything, but it only has practical value to the extent that we can break it down into more manageable (albeit artificial) concepts. Getting everyone to agree on how that breaking down should be done is not an easy task.

One aspect of connectivism that we will be examining later in the course seems to me to be the most significant element in the theory -- the acceptance of learning as a complex, non-linear system. That aspect, for me, has the greatest potential to improve our understanding of learning and how to promote it.

Whether knowledge is connection or connection creates knowledge is a less important distinction than whether learning is understood as linear or non-linear. Behavioral, cognitive and to a lesser extent constructivism, have all been predicated on a linear view of learning. Connectivism challenges that assumption.

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