Writing is such a ‘School 1.0’ tool, yet as a vehicle for communicating information from one person to another, it continues to stand the test of time. In providing evidence of my understanding of connectivism, these characters on the page are as much reflective of the idea of connectivism, as they are a coalescent artifact that demonstrates my current understanding.
In order for my thoughts to hit this hypertext page, a vast amount of information has had to move between and within a great number of distinct networks. Documents shared within the course have been in audio, text and video formats. Those bits have been transferred around the world by hyperlinks where they’ve been taken up by course participants. Learners have then attempted to process the connections among these ideas and to reflect their individual understandings back to the others, and in so doing have led others to incorporate this new information into their own processes of understanding. And now, we’re attempting to pause in summarizing what we’ve observed from all of these connectivist transfers. In a very real way, all of these transfers of information are changing the way in which each of us perceives the content of this course. Extrapolating, one can conclude that such interactions have a significant impact upon the ways all types of learners see the world.
As important as the interactions are, the networking within the course has not been always been natural; it has often been a forced relationship. Connecting to the ideas of others, has been an expectation that has led many to seek personal links that they might not otherwise make. Forging networks with people whose only obvious similarities are the inclination to participate in this course; and doing so in what is for some a foreign learning environment, has at times created a ‘disconnect’ from the connectivist potential of this course. In the struggle to make meaning from all that has been shared, many have failed to recognize the importance of those classmate connections.
Nonetheless, a far greater disconnect exists within the school system today. With so many resources in education, set in place measure the learning done by students, isn’t it about time that we reach some consensus on the question “What does it mean, to learn?”?
With so many theories struggling to hold the attention of classroom teachers, I see connectivism as a unifying lens through which to observe the process of learning. Rather than being a new theory or previously unknown phenomenon, connectivism identifies the mechanism by which information moves within any learning system. Whether students are learning from methods and strategies whose roots are in constructivism, or collaborative learning, or project-based learning, or from models of inquiry, said learning is amplified through the network channels harnessed by teacher and student alike. Whether using evolving technologies to enhance and expand networks, or relying on past practices that engage students in individual or group learning, connectivism can be used to explain how ideas and skills are shared among participants.
With most attempts to measure learning, relying on a limited selection of performances, usually by the individual, and usually in writing, the revised recognition of learning as the movement of ideas among nodes in networks, provides opportunities for competing learning strategies, to find common ground in the use of a wider variety of learning exhibitions. As a connector itself, the theory of connectivism can offer support to other theories that ask learners and teachers to engage rich performances to demonstrate their understanding.
Although I’m not convinced that connectivism helps to explain the generation of spontaneous ideas, I hold out hope that creativity can also be addressed within learning networks. As much as I find myself re-considering the words I’ve used to show my current understanding of what connectivism is, I suspect that this traditional authoring task is very familiar and comfortable territory for course participants. In a world where relatively few teachers provide students open creative opportunities to show what they know, I find myself looking forward to the more open culminating task for the CCK08 course.
Photo Credit: Felipe Morin, and Jonathan Jones
Note: In lieu of referencing course readings (and the writing of my peers), I decided to draw inspiration from the 'biggest idea' and to use this task as a forum to summarize my current thinking.