Saturday, August 09, 2008

Educational Models And Learning In The Digital Age: What Is Connectivism And What Makes It So Special

Explaining the concepts of Connectivism vs. Connectivism...

"What is connectivism? If you were to ask Wikipedia without paying too much attention you would discover that this unfamiliar word originates right here in Italy.

"...at the beginning of the 21st century in Italy, where is known as Connettivismo. It originated in Italian science fiction as an initiative of a group of writers, bloggers and artists. The name is derived from the imaginary doctrine that connects the specific knowledge of other disciplines, as introduced by Canadian science fiction author Alfred Elton van Vogt."
(Source: Wikipedia)

But connecitivism is also something else. If you searched just a little bit deeper you would also find out that

""Connectivism, is a learning theory for the digital age," has been developed by George Siemens based on his analysis of the limitations of behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism to explain the effect technology has had on how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn."
(Source: Wikipedia)

Connectivism combines important elements of many different learning theories, social structures, and of new communication technologies while having been designed to give birth to new ways of learning in the digital age.

... Late last week, I threw out a question to Gary Stager on Twitter: "when a constructivist constructs knowledge, where does it reside physically/biologically?".

Gary replied with something along the lines of "we don't know and I don't care. I can teach well without knowing the details of how the mind works". Fair enough.

Different educators adopt different approaches in order to makesense of the teaching and learning process. I'm trying to define it from the perspective of how our mind works.

Gary is - in true constructionist form (and I don't mean that negatively!) - is focused more on the practical results and activities.

Gary then asked a critical question: what is the unique idea in connectivism? The response takes a bit longer than the 140 characters allowed by Twitter, so I'll tackle it here.

First, a new idea is often an old idea in today's context. For example, what is the new idea in constructivism? That people construct their own knowledge? Or the social, situated nature of learning? Or that knowledge is not something that exists outside of a knower? (i.e. there is no "there" out there).

Obviously each of those concepts can easily be traced to numerous philosophers. The ideas have existed in various forms over 2000 years ago.

What is new with constructivism today is that these principles are being (have been) coupled with existing calls for educational reform by individuals such as Spencer, Dewey, and Piaget.

See Kieran Egan's book Getting it Wrong from the Beginning for a more detailed exploration. But it is more than just the shift in policy and calls for increased learner control.

Constructivism made sense in that it rode on the cultural trends and philosophical viewpoints of the day. As authority in society shifted, Truth was questioned, post-modernism flourished, and our understanding of diverse cultures and ways of knowing increased, it only seemed natural that cognitivism and behaviourism took a back seat.

What is new in constructivism, and please provide commentary if you disagree, is that it combined existing ideas into a framework that resonated with the needs and trends of the current era.

In this regard, connectivism also shares in bringing to the forefront ideas of philosophers and theorists from previous generations. Much of what is unique is the particular combination and integration of ideas that reflect the broader societal and information-based trends. But I do think there are unique ideas in connectivism.

Before I get into those, however, I'll address some of the existing theory that serves as the fertile soil of connectivism (and, I think, to a large degree constructivism)."    (Continued via Robin Good)    [Usability Resources]

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