Shel22’s Weblog

Diary of a wanna-be Connectivist.
October 26, 2008, 12:21 am
Filed under: CCK08

These are just some notes I’ve been making as I work through a Connectivist course on Connectivism – CCK08.  They’re pretty rough.


Why make them? I simply wanted to log my thoughts about the experience as I worked through the weeks, watch my own learning as it were, log any insights.  Somehow I thought, it might also help me help other learners come to grips with a connectivist course, or at least talk to them meaningfully, or at least sincerely about stages in my becoming a connectivist [smile].  Not sure it does anything of the sort, but here are my thoughts so far….This may all be blindingly obvious to all you guys on this course, who are pretty digitally literate if not digitally artistic. I also haven’t documented yet my path and trails of thinking via resources, other participants etc.  and I haven’t yet looked at my own pattern making, I need to that. 


0-Week 5: Early Flounder period of Connectivism:

General feelings of trying to get to grips with the amount of content, the readings, the links, the postings and various presentations. Whilst the introduction mentions that we’re not supposed to read everything, i.e. the trick is to pick and choose and create our own connections, finding it difficult to for example, not to follow the readings in the chronological order offered. Find the strait-jacket of instructivism has me well and truly locked in….need to escape.. 

 I lose this fear over the next few weeks [i.e. the read in order thing] as I simply can’t seem to keep up with all of the material that’s out there, threads and different discussions and so on. 


 Also note that a certain group of participants seem to have ‘hit the ground running’, they seem very familiar with the types of concepts, vocabulary etc. being discussed and used.  This I find off-putting, reminds me of the phrase ‘faux debutantes’, i.e. those learners who are a little more than beginners in language learning for example and it can be offputting to the beginners who literally don’t have a word, or a clue!  Anyways, my point is that because of this, I’m scrabbling around looking for a group that are a bit more beginner-like.  Go into the yahoo group but find after an initial couple of comments, I get lazy and don’t bother going back, my fault here, by the way, need to revisit.


Learning strategy

Pick out a few core pieces of material, presentations typically from George or Stephen and re-listen to them over the period a couple of times. Still in Flounder mode, but perhaps moving to Lurk mode.  


What not to do

Under pressure to at least start posting something, I post ‘something’ as in not particularly insightful even interesting pieces.  The pressure is to post, even though my thoughts and beliefs at this point are relatively unformed. Is this a good thing to do? Dunno.


Maybe I shouldn’t join and then fail to revisit frequently a group, perhaps there’s some commitment required here? Of course there is, actually I think it’s more to do with not managing the feeds better, Google reader would probably help here.  


Week 6:Lurk to the left, then move to the centre…

Oh God, half way through the course and not a child in the house washed [as they say]!  Panic – Should I panic?  There is still a pressure [self-imposed of course] from seeing everyone else use the blogs so fluently to scrape something together and do something myself.  Had used the blog part of Moodle up to this.  Reckon I was the only one in the entire 2, 000 participants to do this. Nice to be maverick, or worse…. 


So I start my WordPress blog.  Handy tool and I like, though my site hasn’t all the bells and whistles I see in other peoples great blogs.  Will set myself some of these features to include in the next few weeks. Spend ages, trying to find what the RSS url is on the weblog you ultimately produce, as you need it to circulate –  and ultimately use just the login and the weblog address. Stunningly easy.  Now I sit and wait, [drum, drum sound of fingers on my laptop].

Also, having played with Cmap a wee bit, start playing with MindMeister… Up to now, I’m actually just hand drawing my concept maps.  And to be honest, they’re not really concept maps, they’re just short notes on what the content of a particular presentation, or paper is….Not sure I see the real learning value for me, of becoming adept with these tools.


Learning Strategy

I mentioned in my blog that I was doing this diary, posted that as a comment and it’s like telling the world you’re giving up smoking,  you kinda gotta keep to the promise.  The pressure is on.  Blog as self-applied pressure, nice. Oh yeah, Google Reader getting helpful as management tool. 

What not to do

Don’t avoid the tools.  Get digitally literate.


Week 7: Radio silence and then..

And then…first PingBack. Mm, don’t sigh all of you blog experts, remember that feeling, it’s great, someone has made a link to and with what you’ve put down in your blog.   Great feeling and a very generous comment from another participant.  Interesting how he did exactly what Stephen Downes refers to in his 7 Habits of highly connected people , he refers to my point and then offers a link to something that might be of interest me,  to someone reflecting a similar experience or point of view.


It’s the gifting culture of web 2.0, or of Connectivism, priceless.


Write a comment back on his blog.  Mmm, not sure of protocol on referring to other post he mentions for me.  Should I comment back on that one first, i.e. the one he suggests, or is there even an expectation of that?  Must check out the protocols on all of this.


Things to do with Tools

Clearly try them. Then try and explain them to someone else. Useful exercise. Oh yeah, and start to critique the tools.  I was just lamenting, to myself, how a particular tool doesn’t seem to do the accompanying audio, and then I noticed  that another participant  had also made a similar comment, to which the co-founder of the company had replied or at least queried her comment! Wow what service!  As a novice to these tools, I wouldn’t be prepared to say anything about them yet, but by critiquing, you’re ultimately going to learn more, see reaction, and of course ultimately see evolution and fixes on tools, I suppose.


Question to myself – should I be mentioning all of the tools, people, participants etc. I refer to in these notes by name, not sure of protocol..this is a trust thing and a privacy thing, and this is an issue for people, I imagine. …Actually, probably should include names etc. Will update later.

Stephen Downes in discussion session on Wednesday, gave a stern warning to all of ‘those people’, ‘us?’  who use a recipe based, prescription based approach to learning.  He believes that there is not a strong future for ID proper,  but does point up his belief in logic, rhetoric, acting, drama, modelling and demonstrating.  I need to relisten to this as I missed the final part but, how do we work this into a learning programs that we’re paid to produce. Already, there’s someone, ‘deciding’ what participants will learn.  Where I’m going with this is should we be helping participants really feel the strength and generosity of the blogosphere over doling out the prescriptive stuff?  So, what are the best ways of modelling, or demonstration of blogging strengths to people in large private organisations?


Learning strategy

Haven’t time to run this one right through to conclusion, but some ideas might be to use the blogs to get people to talk about their learning challenges, or their modes of learning or what they actually really do want to learn in their courses.

This is actually the week that we’re discussing Instructional Design or the role of educators and how Connectivism might change or affect what educators do, need to do.  Is it my imagination or is this a quieter week than any preceding?


Question are there ebbs and flows in connectivist models and networks?  If there are, and surely there would be, how or should a flow and dynamic be maintained?   How does this map to patterning and making connections? Need to look at this.  TO BE CONTINUED [maybe?]


The Cuidiu Book Club
November 25, 2009, 12:58 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dates & books for 2009
The Great World Spin Colum McCann – January 19th 2010 – Noirin’s
Wolf Hall – Hilary Mantel – 23rd February in Rosie
Ghost Written – David Mitchell Michelle R March 30h
Cyrano de Bergerac Isabelle – April

CCK08 – Concept Map
November 25, 2008, 12:07 am
Filed under: Concept Maps


Final week of the CCK08

Here’s my concept map for CCK08.  This was one of those tools and exercises that I didn’t like at all to begin with, but found it really quite an interesting and useful learning strategy as time moved on.  I wish now I’d been more assiduous with it and carried out the thoughtful gardener role of pruning and watering regularly.


Here it is: CCK08 Concept Map


And this is a moment to thank everyone on the course for all the wonderful material, generous connections, contributions and comments.  It’s been a fantastic learning experience and I wish everyone well.  


How bad can withdrawal be, we have to ask ourselves?

Good luck,




Short Paper 3 CCK08: Opportunities and Resistance
November 22, 2008, 11:03 pm
Filed under: CCK08, Short Papers for CCK08

Reflect on the opportunities and resistance found in society and organizations in adopting different approaches to teaching and learning.

As George Siemens (2008) says in New Structures and Spaces of Learning[1], exciting times lay ahead for educators as the dream of learner centered education moves daily closer to reality. So why, when we now have the theory [Connectivism] and some of the tools [Web 2.0 applications] and many of the individuals are we not further down the path to the educational revolution we might have expected?   And why as he points out has education continued to exist primarily in a class room environment? 

Stephen Downes in The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years on talks about how the major shift in instructional technology will be from systems centered on the educational institution to systems centered on the individual learner. 

Why is there resistance to the above within corporates and other educationally focused bodies? A definition of resistance according to Wikipedia, is the act of defending one’s position in response to confrontation. Yet resistance seems almost too strong a word to use, lack of fluency, and progress seems apposite.    Some reasons for such lack of progress include:

Corporate Lack of Progress
Why embrace change? Large private companies do not frequently perceive themselves as learning institutions, while there are always exceptions, the predominant goal is to improve market share, increase profits, expand and so on. Whilst many companies employ CLOs, in many workplaces, there is no such fluency in educational thought and theory. 

It is infrequent that corporations examine how successful learning methodologies are or might be.  If learners are passing the tests, getting to know new products etc. how efficient or effective the learning channels and environment might be, may never be measured.   Many learning programs come into play when a new piece of knowledge/content is required, not a new way of thinking about education.  

Education is often seen to be a check box looking for a tick. Education is often imposed or mandated.  There may even be a punitive feel to it, as a new piece of compliance imposed by a regulatory body leads to a rapidly implemented series of compliance programs.   

With financial markets in meltdown and the ensuing recessionary wind blowing cold over the US and Europe, companies that once were in rude financial health move away from risk/change and batten down the hatches.  This may not seem to be a good time to explore a new educational model or new tools that may be seen as too open and uncontrolled in an economy already out of control.


Corporate Opportunities
On the other hand, as web 2.0 sweeps into companies in a variety of forms, is it just a matter of time before these new connecting vehicles are boarded, not just by IT but by everyone in the organization?   Slow change must surely be afoot.  The journalist Karlin Lillington wrote about seeing bloggers registered for the first time at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Franscisco’s Moscone Center this year.  The conference ran an event wiki, event blog, event videoblog, event, RSS feed, bunch of Twitter addresses …and it’s brave  as Lillington says, ‘Encouraging attendance at a massive company event by bloggers, for example, puts citizen journalism on par with the “real” press.’ If technology companies are finally taking notice of real world use of web, communications and collaboration technologies, perhaps mainstream companies are not too far behind.

And there are many companies that have been brave about new ways of learning.  Nigel Paine brought Web 2.0 to the BBC[2] and transformed their intranet into a learning space.  His description of his organization ‘We concealed knowledge’ pushed him into bringing blogs, wikis, podcasts, vodcasts and other informal learning modes into the organization.  And when discussion forums started with just 60 people discussing the water quality in the water coolers, he held his nerve and this jumped quickly to 10,000 engaging in 100s of forum. 

As work and learning coincides more and more by necessity, our work ways and needs combine into personal learning environments.  

But why is it so difficult to change the practice of education?

Howard Rheingold in his talk two weeks ago, talked about his daughter coming home from school, terribly disappointed, ‘they made us sit in chairs and all the chairs were in a row’.  He mentions how a certain amount of deprogramming is required.  This is true, students ultimately end up wanting to sit in the very same chairs they occupy every week.  Three elements make it difficult to change the practice of education, the institutions themselves, the formats and the individuals, instructors and learners.  

In his article on Universities Peter Scott (2002), it’s noticeable that the major rivals to universities still come in a university shape, border-less education institutions, e.g. on-line universities, private for-profit universities [e.g. University of Phoenix] and thirdly corporate universities, e.g. the National Health Service Industry in Britain. But he comments it’s misleading to see the evolution of the University solely in terms of the emergence of rival institutions. What’s needed he argues is more subtle account which places as much emphasis on the process of ‘internal’ transformation as ‘external’ challenge or substitution. Siemens (2008) talks about the lack of effort assigned to date on conceptualizing innovative and creative uses of existing participatory technologies.

John Seely Brown (2002) describes how initial uses of new media have tended to mimic predecessors, early photography imitated painting, movies the stage and so on. It took 10 to 20 years for filmmakers to perfect new techniques and while teachers may bring in new media to the classroom, it may take longer for the shift to the new media to really take place. But changes are afoot, with learners becoming more involved in creating curricula, witness CCK08 of course.

Individuals [teachers or learners]
If the development of a certain type of person with certain mindsets is more important than being in possession of a particular piece of knowledge (Siemens, 2005) and nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning then learning is about a way of being, and being always takes effort.  This translates into a challenging, constantly changing landscape for either teacher or learner.  Howard Rheingold talks about being ‘not ashamed to fail’ and some of the changes he made and explored with his class when he taught social media using social media challenge, changed and at times failed.  Some of them are striking in their creativity, novelty and bravery, e.g. the idea of handing out a grade of 500 points to be distributed by the group to the group.

If we make fundamental, systemic changes we can expect:

New what, new how, new by whom, new when, new whys, new accreditation and new becomings.  Opportunities include

§         Self–directed lifelong learning

§         Self–directed lifelong personal development

§         Changing roles – teacher, learner and people following self-generated interests

§         More efficient learning

§         Greater economic well-being and greater social equity

A new How
Just looking at one issue threatening Irish schools is the large pupil teacher ratio, second highest in Europe.  The web could as John Seely Brown (2002) says, combine the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few, similar to the Hewlett-Packard engineers who helped kids with science and maths problems.

Can our current world of weak ties and easy connections produce the depth of learning required to meet the complex challenges facing our future?

We’ve got to try different things. Different things will work for different people and different organizations.  The starting point of connectivism may be the individual but as John Seely Brown says, the web leverages the small efforts of the many with the large efforts of the few. The potential is limitless.  





Brown, J.S (2002) Growing Up Digital How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Conole, G.C. (2008). Summary of work/learning design.


Downes, S. (2006). Learning Networks and connective knowledge. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Downes, S (2008) The Future of Online Learning: Ten Years On. Retrieved November 20th, 2008 from


Gorman, M. (2007) Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, Part 1, Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Lillington, K. (2008).  Bloggers take their place beside ‘real’ journalists. Retrieved November 11th, 2008 from


Learning Leadership Award, Nigel Paine, BBC Retrieved November 12th from,com_alphacontent/Itemid,99999999/section,9/cat,28/task,view/id,1389/


Scott, P (2002) Globalisation: What issues are at Stake for Universities?


Siemens, G (2008). New Structures and spaces of Learning: The systemic impact of connective knowledge, connectivism and networked learning.


Siemens, G (2005). Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved November 12th, 2008 form


[1] New Structures and Spaces of Learning: The Systemic Impact of Connective Knowledge, Connectivism and Networked Learning

[2] British Broadcasting Corporation

Short Paper 2: Changing roles of educators
November 10, 2008, 11:08 pm
Filed under: Short Papers for CCK08 | Tags:


My point of emphasis is that of an independent instructional designer, instructional Design as the systematic process of creating a learning output making use of a variety of delivery channels to meet a defined outcome agreed with a client. The task range is wide from needs analysis, tech specification documentation to areas as broad as game, simulation and test design to helping follow-through learning happen within organizations.              


The role of ID for many of us has changed greatly. Early days and technologies allowed mechanistic, dull looking, formulaic page-turning particularly in elearning.  The tide of new ways of thinking about what makes good design, advances in cognitive and brain science, research and debate and new theory on the nature of learning, intelligence, and knowledge has forced a constant examination of what the role must strive to do.  Web 2.0 has engendered the biggest shift.  Not only do IDs now have access to better resources, people, and tools, they are now challenged to use this content and community in their relationship with and product design for learners. Brown and Adler (2008) write that the most profound impact of the Internet is its ability to support and expand the various aspects of social learning, contrasting the traditional way of looking at knowledge and learning ‘I think therefore I am’ with the social view of learning ‘We participate, therefore we are’. So the challenge of keeping abreast in ID requires at a minimum competencies in widely diverse areas from writing audio for pod casts to simulation and game design, but it is the community and social learning element that is the real change to be taken into consideration and included in desired outcomes.  


Constantly upskilling in an ever widening range of areas is not possible, the response is a multi-disciplinary team highly specialized. As for social learning, ID must decide on the implications of this aspect for learning, become competent with the tools and creative with the possibilities of their combination. So, ID must participate in social learning experimentation, joining communities of practice, ‘learning to be’ within these social learning spaces, monitor progress, effects, and implications for learners.   


There are many impediments to change. They include limited knowledge and experimentation in the new technologies for both vendor and client and a factory type model of production of learning that limits creativity and scope.   


There is a frequent lack of debate about the nature of the learning interventions required.  The traditional model of learning holds sway and is made evident in the e-learning production process whereby, a hand over of content [document, brochure etc.] assumes a process of transformation or republishing into a different medium by ID. As Geoff Mulgan writes in Connexity Revisited (2004) for all the talk of the network economy, most businesses are organized as fairly tight hierarchies.  This hierarchy means that that by the time ID comes into the picture on a learning solution, the creative direction may already be decided on, not to be revisited easily. This tight hierarchy is reflected in a production model that often once kicked off does not allow revision or change of scope.  In a question posted by Elliot Masie in, What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? It’s notable that in the 20 comments posted, the term Learning 2.0 appears once, Communities of Practice once and Collaborative Spaces once. This is still, uncharted waters for many vendors and clients.   


Issues of privacy, power and control also raise their heads.  Many technologies are blocked or unavailable.  This may even be at a basic level, e.g. audio and video.  


Elearning is frequently an externally sourced service, seen as limited in scope and meeting a short term need. The finish line is seen as the end of the program. Questions on  how learners will transfer what they’ve ‘covered’ in the course into their work life or an examination of factors that might ensure they do, doesn’t often fall into the realm of the external ID.  Research suggests that these issues may even be more important than what’s contained in the learning program.  Newstrom’s (1983) survey of trainers listed a serious of barriers including ‘lack of reinforcement on the job’. 


How can we change what we do? A walk on the wild side?

Learners in large organizations will always be given specific learning aims to achieve. Learning will always be structured to some extent. Educators will always have a range of function as George Siemens describes in the session on Curatorial Teaching, compiling good structure, facilitating and mentoring people, encouraging, helping and so on and ID fits into that structure.  But we must offer learners at least the experience of social learning and participation.  To do this, I suggest a national or international holiday from all formal learning programs. This is a fallow period to render the future more fertile.  During this time, no official learning with specific learning outcomes will be delivered.  Titles of educators would be revoked for the period.  Learning sentinels replace the above. Their priority to expose people to the role of their own personal agency in learning in order to become autonomous, self-led learners, competent in a range of digital tools relevant to their goals.  As George Siemens said in discussion week 9, we need to redeem the notion of individual context and agency. This is what the sentinel would protect during this brief learning holiday.  No prescription in most matters but learners might look at the Top 100 tools for Learning 2008 for suggestions.  The expectation is that all participants would ultimately create and design a personal learning environment that they share, exchange and evolve with colleagues.  The sentinels operate as modellers on this task seeding and encouraging participation with the various communities of practice and networks. Nancy White [2008] in the recent Elluminate session talks about a variety of activities for participants, usefully participating, finding and creating content, expressing identity, being in and using communities and networks. This period is used to attempt to grow the open participatory learning ecosystem, Seely Brown and Adler talk about.  By taking this break in the structured learning curriculum, we prepare better for going forward, it is as they say in french ‘reculer pour mieux sauter’.   



John Seely Brown and Richard P. Adler (2008). Minds on Fire, Open Education, the Long Tail and Learning 2.0, Educause Review, January February 2008


White N.  (2008).  Nancy White in Elluminate Discussion for CCK08 with Stephen Downes moderating.


Hart J. (2008). Top Ten Tools for Learning 2008. Retrieved November 9th, 2008, from


Masie, E (2008). What changes in Learning Strategies is your organization planning for 2009? Retrieved November 9th 2008,  from


Calhoun W. Wick, Roy V. H. Pollock , Andrew McK. Jefferson, Richard D. Flanagan (2006),

The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning: How to Turn Training and Development Into Business Results, Pfeiffer, A Wiley Imprint.


Mulgan, G (2004) Connexity Revisited, Demos.


Newstrom John W. (1983) – please note I could not get access to this survey of trainers or the related document, so my reference is based on reading about it in above source and web enquiry.


Siemens, G (2007). Curatorial Teaching, George Siemens in Elluminate session, September 18th, 2007

CCK08 Short Paper 1: Position on Connectivism
November 10, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: Short Papers for CCK08 | Tags:

Fast moving changes in technology, in the rate of knowledge and information change and evolution require fresh examination of how, where and when we learn.


The following present a strong case for Connectivism

  • There is a need for a networks based learning system to interface with the knowledge and information flow that characterizes many disciplines today
  • There is a need to know more about how effective networks work and how to navigate them as teachers and learners
  • Whatever learning is, we continue to learn, unlearn, relearn constantly. Too many ‘courses’ have a finish line, an event-over status, connectivism offers a continuous, ongoing relationship with the learner that is missing in many traditional formats of learning.
  • The ‘learning as conversation’ metaphor used by Stephen Downes works both on a personal level and network level.
  • Connectivism encourages metacognition. The technology, the tools, RSS feeds to sign up to, friends to choose or reject, threads to follow or not, posts to reply on and so on, these choices push participants to constantly consider what’s relevant for their learning at this point in time. This promotes reflection on learning and thinking, an undervalued element in more structured models of learning.

Technology is pre-eminent in this learning theory. Whilst the pipe is important matching learning vehicle to speed on the knowledge/data highway and in promoting a self awareness not offered in many formal learning vehicles, the question remains whether it outweighs the content in importance. It’s as important but not more important. And while the rapid growth in knowledge means new techniques for handling that knowledge are vital, whether it we can off-load cognition, sense and meaning making to a non human network remains a question for me.



A new theory of learning?

Whether the existing major theories of learning [Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism and sub-sets] qualify as well constructed theories, seems irrelevant in one sense. They are what the debate on learning has used as a centre around which to orbit. Merkel talks about each of the learning theories building on the previous one. This seems sensible, a series of concentric circles with Behaviourism at the centre and moving out through Cognitivism to Constructivism and its many incarnations to Connectivism at the outside. Nothing is replaced or eliminated, there is accretion and building upon the base or beliefs and propositions of previous ‘theories’.



When faced with instructionally designing content for a particular learning audience, elements and approaches from all of the theories are still being applied whether we label ourselves behaviourists, cognitivists and so on. We still see objective setting, not prescribed but generated by the learner as in this course, we see building on prior knowledge, worked and practice examples to help build understanding …and so on.



What are the weaknesses and strengths of connectivism as formulated in this course? Does it resonate with your learning experiences, if so, how?


The weaknesses are contained in my Gaps section below. Briefly, I wonder what a fully connectivist course feels like, can we categorically state what’s allowed and disallowed. Even in debates on CCKO8, some felt it was too structured, others wanted more structure. What role does structure, scaffolding, guidance to learners take and how fluid is the prescription for these characteristics? Does curriculum float as well as learning space and structure for example? How many varieties of connectivism exist currently?


Gaps to be filled:

  • Concrete learning examples allow people to process them deeply and test their validity against their own internal systems. We need to generate more concrete connectivist examples and offer deeper analysis of them.
  • Connectivism covers some learning situations but not all. What does it not cover and why? In one article, the university is described as a ‘connection forming organisation’ and the model proposed includes formal structured pathways as well as more self-led exploratory modes. What variants of Connectivism are proposed and what research around students using such systems exist?
  • What types of content/knowledge is Connectivism ideally for?
  • What types of learners is Connectivism ideally for?
  • Do we need to develop learners so that they are Connectivism ready? Lurkers to center players etc.
  • Can we say something about Connectivism and long term memory?
  • Connectivism has an intimate connection with technology. But a dependence on levels of technology won’t cure all educational ills. Is there a necessary link between high levels of computerisation and higher levels of literacy, numeracy at primary level? Alan Kay talks about basic tokenism asking whether schools just won’t face up to what the actual problems of education are, whether you have technology or not.

The inclusion of technology, the application of network principles to define knowledge and learning, the continuous relationship with the learner and with context all make Connectivism an approach to study. T he truth of it is, we need a new way of looking at learning and we need new ways of teaching and designing our learning spaces: this has always been the case.



Downes, S (2007) What Connectivism Is. Retrieved October 2, 2008



Kay, A. Retrieved October 2, 2008 from



Kerr B. A Challenge to Connectivism. Retrieved September 11, 2008, from http://learning



Kirschner, P. Clarke, R.E, Sweller, J. (2006) Why Minimal Guidance During Instruction Does not Work, An Analysis of the Failure of Constructivist, Discovery, Problem-Based, Experiential and Inquiry-Based Teaching



Mergel, B (1998). Instructional Design and Learning Theory



Siemens, G (2006). Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Self-Amused



Siemens, G (2006). What is the Unique idea in Connectivism?


Week 6, Complexity, Chaos & Randomness
October 20, 2008, 10:16 pm
Filed under: CCK08


Revolutionary technologies like the computer and ultimately the web and its vast stable of innovative applications seems to be a manifestation of complexity theory whereby as Heylighen notes, non-linear side effects can result, witness the recession that followed the dotcom boom.  He describes productivity paradox whereby technologies that increase productivity can also have paradoxal effects like complexity and information overload.


It brings to mind other everyday paradoxes.  At my local gym, I noted how people going into the gym would struggle to park their cars in the nearest car space to the gym entrance, the gym about physical exercise, yet the unwillingness to walk the few extra feet. I don’t where I’m going with this but I suppose it’s to question how one technology or idea can embrace us and at the same time let us lose sight of the other issues or value systems we might subscribe to. It’s about fitness, but I’ll drive up to the door of my gym or health club.  It’s about productivity, but I’m paralyzed through information overload. Of course as Francis Heylighen suggests it’s about problem solving, discovering productive ways to use a technology.  He integrates 3 resources, human intelligence, computer intelligence and coordination mechanisms into a potential solution, a master information system omnipresent and omniscient that could support individuals and society at all levels of information need, information management , decision support while dealing with the negative side-effects he cites.  But this is problem solving at a very complex level.  Dr. Joseph A. Tainter in a lecture on the Archaeology Channel talks about problem solving techniques that have occurred within history. He comments that history doesn’t repeat itself but problems often do.  We respond to problems today much as people did before. He goes onto chronicle how the Western Roman Empire in fifth century AD had huge responsibilities to administer and defend its empire, and this was largely paid for from agricultural production. By the middle of third century AD the government was bankrupt.  In the early fourth century AD, the empire created a larger and more complex and more highly organised government, doubled the size of the army but to no avail.  Peasants abandoned lands, and fast forward to when the  Barbarians overthrew the empire in 476AD.


He then discusses how the Byzantine Empire under attack from Arab armies saved itself and made a remarkable recovery.  It rejuvenated its society and business by simplification, by contracting cities to fortified hill tops, by settling the army on farm land so that they could feed themselves. Businesses and society simplified.  The economy was organised around self-sufficient manors.  Literacy declined. But the size of the empire doubled.   Unlike the Romans, the Byzantine model shows us a large complex society systematically simplifying. 


Finally, he talks about the European problem solving model which from colonial times onwards,  produces ever increasing complexity and consumption regardless of costs, forcing us to continuously innovate and find more and more resources, whether in the Americas as colonies initially or through our natural resources colonisation of fossil and nuclear fuels.   I attach the link below as I don’t wish to do this piece a disservice. 


This is not a critique of the global brain concept of Heylighen which when run through the transport example proposed is impressive and convincing.  But should we be wondering about problem solving and innovation that is predicated on increasing complexity?  Complex systems and complexity effects are irrefutable but is it naïve to look for more simplified and sustainable problem solving methodologies?


 Here’s an excerpt from Wikipedia on Dr. Tainter.

 His best-known work is The Collapse of Complex Societies. This 1988 book examines the collapse of Maya and Chacoan civilizations, and the Roman Empire, in terms of network theory, energy economics and complexity theory. Tainter argues that societies collapse when their investments in social complexity reach a point of diminishing marginal returns. According to Tainter, societies become more complex as they try to solve problems. Social complexity can include differentiated social and economic roles, reliance on symbolic and abstract communication, and the existence of a class of information producers and analysts who are not involved in primary resource production. Such complexity requires a substantial “energy” subsidy (meaning resources, or other forms of wealth). When a society confronts a “problem,” such as a shortage of or difficulty in gaining access to energy, it tends to create new layers of bureaucracy, infrastructure, or social class to address the challenge.’  [Joseph Tainter, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]



So, is sustainability and simplification an issue for connectivism and connective knowledge?