NOTE: George Siemens will be in an elluminate session on Connectivism on Monday, Nov. 15th at 7 pm. Alberta time. If you’d like to join us for this short session, please follow this link: http://www.elluminate.com/trial/p.go?pk=AQGQgtHvgZta3gfs
This is the basic transcript for my presentation on connectivism for Athabasca’s MDDE611 course.
I followed the pecha kucha format, a style of presentation that attempts to use 20 slides for 20 seconds each. This is also my first attempt at making a video in imovie.
I hope to follow this presentation with a synchronous session with theory architect, George Siemens, later in the week.
Connections – from the sequence that just made up your last train of thought, to the linked flights that transported you to the other side of the world on your last vacation; from the associate that introduced you to your last job, to the grammar holding together the sentences on your resume, the human experience is built on connections.
In a new learning theory called connectivism, George Siemens and Stephen Downes develop the thesis that knowledge is not something externally constructed – reality is not something that exists “out there” – nor is it internally constructed – something that I simply build in my own mind – rather, knowledge is what emerges when two learning entities are connected.
Connection, from Latin connectere, ‘con’ meaning ‘together’ and ‘nectere’ meaning ‘bind’, is the basis of this learning theory. Two learning entities are connected if a signal sent from one entity has the potential to affect the state of the other entity. Without a connection, learning cannot happen.
The learning entities encompassed by connectivism are diverse, and it is only the presence of connections that determines if something is a learning entity. Everything from our physical brain to our individual mind, from our socially constructed families, organizations, cultures, and countries, to our technologies and even our planet can be considered a learning thing.
From the instant one neuron connects with another, our learning brain begins to form. Our existential self connects past, present and future self into a learning individual. As learning individuals we connect with other individuals to create learning societies.
In our technologically mediated world we must also consider the connections in our digital devices as indicative of their status as learning entities. While I sleep, my ipod automatically connects with other entities in order to update expired information, the same way I consult individuals for new developments in my learning society.
The explosion of readily-available information has spurred this revolution in educational philosophy. With so much information available, teaching in Friere’s banking-model is even more problematic. It becomes the equivalent of encouraging students to fill their head with pennies rather than teaching them how to make a living.
In order to avoid walking around with a brain full of useless change, I cache information in a variety of centers. My brain develops pathways in particular neurological patterns, I fuse information to particular memories, people, and places for easy retrieval, and I rely on my digital devices to hold a wide variety of information – from complex theories to my daily planner. In a way all of these things have become a part of my phenomenological mind.
My ability to create, maintain, and traverse the connections between me and my information caches is the most important skill I will develop in my lifetime. While this skill has always been present – the first human societies were formed around survival connections – this has not always been the focus of our education system.
Knowledge since Guttenberg has been conceptualized as a fairly static entity. Accessible in a book and acquired bit by bit through intense prolonged study, and since there was little knowledge to be found, within a lifetime it was possible to know most of what was worth knowing.
Presently our information is increasing exponentially, and knowledge seems elusive in a sea of post-modern relativism. Siemens and Downes posit it is not that knowledge has been submerged under this wash of information, but that we are now able to see the non-propositional nature of knowledge as it really is.
In connectivism, knowledge is emergent from the connections between entities. It is not a static thing that can be pinned down in words for all time, but contextual, process-driven, and constantly shifting. This depiction of knowledge as something of an organic entity is reflected in the language of connectivism: connections and networks are grown and nurtured rather than constructed or formed.
With this view of knowledge, the important role of connection becomes clear, and the focus of teaching and learning presents itself. Siemens and Downes argue that the connections between entities are more important than the information passed between entities. If the connections are pipes and the information is what is in the pipe then the existence of the pipe itself is more important than its contents.
This aspect of the theory appears a-ethical and certainly conjures images of the most damaging forms of propaganda, but after much deliberation, I must agree. By placing the emphasis of education on connections, the role of the professor is to model connectivism, demonstrating to students how conclusions are reached in consultation rather than disseminating the conclusions on their own as doctrine.
In teaching students how to grow their own set of connections, professors liberate their students from a by-rote mentality and invite them into the live, messy, and exhilarating process of knowledge experience. Students become interactive with others, excited to discover the knowledge that can exist in any new connection.
In this dynamic milieu, knowledge ceases being a commodity on offer to those students willing to take on debt-load for access to the piece of paper that grants better jobs. Knowledge, instead, rightfully takes its place as a process of forming relationships and nurturing the depth and meaning of those relationships through the complexity of trust.
Vetted knowledge, once a collection of words on the printed page, has become a shifting hypothesis representing the interaction of information between, across and through learning entities. And this is much in-line with humanist perspectives on how teaching should be conducted, connectivism implies that the source of information, or the nodes to which one is connected is important. It is not enough for my professor to simply pour Nietzche down the pipe and into my brain. My ability to form a connection with my professor determines my ability to accept any information that passes to me from a teacher.
For more information, please watch the following videos:
The connectivism blog outlining its unique ideas:
A chart outlining major learning theories in comparison to connectivism:
And a discussion around the differences between connectivism and constructivism:
If anyone could identify the song in the youtube video, it would be appreciated. 🙂