Shel22’s Weblog

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?



Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: