What is Connectivism?
The most concrete definition I have found is: An educational proposal that states that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections where learning consist of the ability to construct and traverse those networks. Stephen Downnes
I still have to munch over it. From the forum messages I see that the concept, the idea of Connectivism, as it is being described in the course, is familiar to many, including me. Maybe at the end of the course I will be able to answer this question standing on solid ground, maybe not.
From the live sessions and video presentations, as far as I understand, which is not very far yet, we cannot say if Connectivism is a learning theory or not. The debate goes on among the high spheres of knowledge, were the gurus are, I will let them solve this riddle.
As it often happens when dealing with non tangible outcomes, at the beginning, the new wave or new "theory to be" is challenged from every corner while it proclaims to solve all the problems, that it covers more or at least that is better than the ones preceding it. Only time will tell if it is a theory or if it is a fashion. It is too early to tell for sure how Connectivism will be labelled.
What I perceive is that Connectivism tries to explain how learning occurs. It tries to explain what many scientist and theories have tried to explain: How do we learn?
It tries to go beyond learning theories. Paradoxically, we are sent to review previous learning models; Behaviourism, Cognitivism, Constructivism, etc. If Connectivism comes forward and gets recognition it will be the first learning model created by educators. Among the participants in the course there are mainly educators, probably all of them would like to have their own model.
That's the word that suits me: model. Connectivism has 5 principles as foundation.
1.- Our need to externalize, verbally or non-verbally, in order to make sense.
2.- Our need for frameworks or structures to deal with new information to make sense.
3.- Our need to socialize and negotiate around knowledge.
4.- Our patterning mind and
5.- Our need to extend our humanity, to overcome our limitations with inventions and technology.
This principles are shared by many learning models.
Connectivism believes that we build on the foundation of how we engage with others and interact with the world. Psychology believes the same, our perceptions shift when a significant other joins the picture and our perceptions shape our actions.
Connectivism takes into account three critical areas or surroundings or types of network:
Biological (Neural), Conceptual and External (Social).
What is new for me is the way in which Connectivism tries to explain learning.
It takes into account that our ability to understand is related to how well and how consistently we are connected with certain ideas or concepts. Such connections are a function of the depth and diversity of the connections, the frequency of exposure, the integration with previous concepts and the force or strength of the connecting ties. For someone expert on Artificial Intelligence or Neurology this will not be new.
However, Connectivism stresses that learning is the formation of new connections, that it is a distributed process. It states that different types of network with different types of attributes will serve different types of learning needs. Hence, the diversity of the network along with the strength of the ties influence the learning process.
"Learning in this model is not transferred but grown anew by each learner".
I feel strongly attracted by the above statement, I would like to prove it is right, I have sensed that growth in myself and observed it in others. How can we show this in an objective way? Is there a way to demonstrate it?
I may be naive but I sincerely hope that data from this chaotic course helps in that direction. Let's wait, watch and see how this course evolves.