I recently had the great fortune of bringing together a community of people I respect. We came together for a presentation on connectivism and a guest lecture by George Siemens. First of all, I would like to thank George for coming to my session, and demonstrating what integrity in learning looks like.
While I recognize it is only one aspect of connectivism, the consistency between the words and actions of a teacher is key to establishing trust in a learning connection. As the tenets of connectivism make no judgment in themselves on any type of hierarchy of connections, we can see any new connection as something worthwhile that has the potential to create new or interesting knowledge. In agreeing to come to the session, and for staying much longer than originally anticipated, George gave me hope that I had the potential to create valuable knowledge in interaction with his theory. While I’m not sure I had much interesting to say in the session (I was awfully nervous), I hope that my reflections on the theory from the perspective of some of the people in the room will help me elucidate some of the strong attributes of and questions I have for connectivism.
If we can consider anything consisting of a set of connections to be a learning thing, and if this includes biological systems such as our brain patterns, then could we also consider ecosystems and our planet to be learning things? We certainly establish the first patterns in our pre-reflective mind by interacting with the forces of nature. As we get older we begin to take for granted the physical nature of our being and begin to engage in the constructed reality around us, but as environmental educators and stewards remind us, the natural world is an entity with which it is important to connect. The knowledge we can create with the natural world can be astoundingly beautiful and have dramatic effects on our systems of meaning and our health.
In addition, I see connectivism as a view of learning that could be used in community service-learning (CSL) models. The image of connection between theories (shifting application of thought) and experience (shifting instance of being), is also at the root of CSL. The deepening of a student’s relationship with a professor, theory or an organization that becomes possible when the connection between entities is considered an important aspect of knowledge, has the potential to fundamentally affect change in all entities.
Of course, as in all education, I must question where the power lays in this system. In the online world it seems to hinge on the status as an early adopter, and by the amount that an individual contributes to a community. In the analogue world, a relationship with a professor would seem to follow the same rules. With the seemingly a-ethical stance of the theory, I wonder where grounding principals come from. Connections are where knowledge is created, so any connection has merit. It is the creation of knowledge that lends merit to the existence of connections. What is the point of creating knowledge? Is this a fundamental human need? Or is the fundamental need to create connections and knowledge comes about as a fine side-effect? I suppose I wonder what the underlying motivation is within the theory, as I am a bit skeptical of knowledge for knowledge sake.
Finally, the economics of connectivism continue to perplex me. While there is much sharing and liberation of knowledge happening in the online world, the gift economy must be more sustainable to challenge our present economic model and the economy of privacy complicates our view of what comprises capital. In the meantime I wonder how George encourages himself to make time to connect personally with small groups of people. I hope that he enjoyed the session. I certainly gained a lot in hosting it.
The elluminate recording will be available for about 2 weeks before my temporary account expires. I hope you have a chance to check it out. George begins his discussion at about 6 minutes in.