What is Connectivism?

or “How I Went Searching for Answers and Found Myself–literally.”

The topic for tomorrow night’s MEd class is Connectivism. It’s a topic that really excites me because it confirms a lot of things that think are true about 21st century learning, but my professor presented us with these questions to consider in advance of tomorrow night’s class.

1) Connectivism lives largely in the cloud. True or False?

2) Tweets and blogs seem quite apropos for elucidating connectivism, but what is missing here?

3) How would we know if connectivism was NOT true?

4) Would connectivism work as an explanation of learning in the absence of technology? How? (or why not?)

5) What would you say are the facts in support of connectivism?

I’m finding some of these questions very tricky. Here are my attempts at answering them:

1) Largely? Yes, I suppose it does because connectivism is the view that knowledge and cognition are distributed across networks of people and technology and learning is the process of connecting, growing and navigating these networks (Handbook of Emerging Technologies for Learning). It exists in different ways at neural, conceptual, and external levels. So it’s not all in the cloud.

2) Tweets and blogs would only help elucidate connectivism if people were reading and commenting, making that network clear. You could in theory, tweet and blog and never interact with another person. You would be missing those external connections. When someone responds to one of my tweets like they did when I was looking for ideas for a 2020 math class, they pushed and expanded my thinking. The connections are essential.

3) Uh…. (elevator music playing sofly) … I guess I would know connectivism wasn’t true if you could learn as much in complete isolation as you could with your connections–I hesitate–nay resist the word “node” because it makes me think of those growths singers get on their vocal chords. I admit I find this question really challenging.

4) Does connectivism as a theory work in the absence of technology? I think parts of the theory work without technology, but at this point in my thinking, connectivism without technology kind of looks like social constructivism. Which makes sense because connectivism has evolved from constructivism and cognitivism. I … (okay I’m hearing the elevator music again.) I’m not sure.

5) I think this blog is evidence in support of connectivism. When I compare my professional practice before blogging and Twitter to my professional practice now, I’m astounded. Granted, I think even without my PLN I’d be a better teacher now than I was seven years ago just through experience. But I feel like I’ve got a much better tool box now.

So in trying to prepare for tomorrow’s class (because I’m really interested in this topic and I don’t want to sound stupid) I did some research. I looked at George Siemens’ blog where I looked at a presentation called Connectivism and Changing Times (which was interesting, but looking at statistics and graphs make my eyes bleed) and then I decided to check out his Twitter feed.

I saw this tweet

georgeI follow Alec Couros on Twitter and I always learn from his posts.  I was curious about Alec’s presentation so I clicked on it and I could see how Alec was building on a lot of the ideas in George’s presentation but his examples were easier for me to relate to.

And then I got to slide 56 and figured that if I set out to figure out what connectivism was and it eventually brought be back to myself (in a completely literal sense) was done research for the night.

I’m still having trouble articulating what I’ve learned but I’ve definitely learned something.

10 thoughts on “What is Connectivism?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Had a big ah-ha moment when researching connectivism tonight -- Topsy.com

  2. ” I guess I would know connectivism wasn’t true if you could learn as much in complete isolation as you could with your connections.”

    If technology includes the printing press and television–and even primitive tools and techniques–then I can’t think of many times when we have learned without technology.

  3. I think you have nailed it with your responses, Danika, and in particular number 5. While I think that it’s important to note that you follow Alec and George, you can’t overlook the elements of connectivism that you have spawned yourself.

    It seems to me that you’ve made the connections yourself and that you have a group that you interact with regularly. As an observer, you contribute content and you answer questions with people on a regular basis. Without the media, these conversations might never happen or might happen on a limited basis. Instead, you’re part of a vibrant and highly interactive community. Doesn’t that speak volumes.

    I still smile when I think of one particular thing that you help me with. I tweeted a picture of a structure that was under construction next door to me and you promptly answered with “Yurt”. I’d never heard of the term before and learned so much by followup research. I recently watched a documentary about Genghis Khan and they talked about his portable yurt and how it was his headquarters and moved with him during his battles. None of this learning would have happened without me learning from you.

    Together, we have so much synergy and support.

  4. You should, Danika. Since the last yurt update, it has been taken down and moved to another spot on the properly. It’s still just covered by tarps though…

  5. Hi Danika – I got to your post a bit late (though, after you called me out on Twitter for not following you, I thought I should at least stop by and comment :) ).

    Hope your session/presentation went well. I want to emphasize that the core focus on connectivism is…the connection (duh). What this means is that there are many substrates at which learning is connected: neural, conceptual, and social/external. We generally focus more on the external because we experience it directly – i.e. someone we connect with in person or on Twitter/FB. I think it’s important to also focus on the conceptual aspects – how we bring ideas into relation with one another determines our understanding. Idea relatedness determines our knowledge growth. I’ll ignore neural aspects of learning, but the future of learning will be heavily influenced by advances in understanding how our brains actually work (learning, memory, etc).

    As Doug noted, however, don’t shortchange the value of the connections and the social learning networks that you are forming online…

    (btw, you wore red boots to a mennonite bakery. a travesty. :) . btw, I am from southern manitoba and area of good mennonite stock)

    • Didn’t mean to call you out, George! :) Seriously though I really appreciate you taking the time to respond to my blog post. I was going to tweet you about it but you’re a pretty popular guy in the Twitterverse. I find connectivism fascinating and your comments on my post really helped clarify the questions I had. You’ve also helped me make I point I’ve been trying desperately to make in my masters class about how powerful Twitter can be. This completely made my day.

      (btw, the food at the Mennonite bakery ROCKED).

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