Sunday, October 05, 2008

My Position in Connectivism

Week four is coming to an end. After four weeks of being exposed for the first time to Connectivism philosophical concepts as well as to the inherent confusion of the practice as a student, mi position is somewhat ambivalent. From my two standpoints, context is important, I see drawbacks and incongruence while at the same time my innate dreamer nature feels attracted by the holistic, democratic or ideal principles of it.

Before going any further, bear in mind that my views are permeated by pre-conceptions and very limited, knowledge is not yet growing in me in a noticeable way as I mentioned to Jenny in the comment area.

Why am I taking this course? As Stephen and George happily said at the October 3rd. USTREAM live session (the recording is not available yet), no one has a gun pointed at me to do it and they are willing to give a refund to anyone that asks for it.  If we, the students, were not experiencing confusion, this little experiment would not be doing its job. What attracted me was the definition of the "course".

I am not teaching online at the moment, I am acquiring the Digital Literacy required to do so because I view myself doing it in the future. Taking a course on Emerging Technologies for Learning makes perfect sense. I believe that students learn about a subject they are interested in not only from someone they consider versed in the subject but from someone they care about and feel cared by.

I strive to engage my students, not to enrage them. I do not consider myself a vessel of knowledge, I usually mention that in any class or course I give, I am a long-life learner but that does not prevent me from gently pointing my students and patients towards a place where they might find answers or from asking them about something I don’t know. I avoid dependencies as Stephen does, I don’t’ let them cling to me for answers, rather I encourage them to look for them.

However,  I make sure they know I care even if I don’t or can't give away the answers.  This caring and nurturing is something I have not seen yet in this course, keeping in mind that it is a massive course kind of softens my view but if I ever engage on giving a course with this approach I will make sure to count with a bunch of moderators to help out and to have a help wiki as the Webheads have.  Don't misread me, they also do not answer questions but provide a place to find them. Adrian Hill seems to have a similar view, he suggests the use of simpler language and more caring.

What Resonates with me.

Connectivism as a way of being, a way of seeing, a way of understanding, a way of thinking is very appealing. From Stephen as well as from George introduction video presentations the ideas that resonate with my Humanistic approach are:

  • Center the teaching on the student.
  • Knowledge is grown, not transferred.
  • No one has the whole truth.
  • You are responsible for your own learning.
  • Believe that your students will come up with the answers.
  • New and novel connections open new worlds and create knowledge.


Connectivism states that knowledge can be gained through “a set of connections formed by actions and experiences” not language, that “knowledge is distributed across networks, and learning is the skill one gains by travelling through them.” 
It  theorizes that learning happens by travelling through
our developed networks to human and non-human nodes.

I see that the suitable way to gain knowledge in a connectivist adventure is "networked individualism".  To socialize I need to develop strategies and tactics for self-advancement.  In the solidarity area I need to foster a sense of being an autonomous individual, loyalty is to myself and the network I am  developing while the commitment to network members and nodes is variable, according to the needs.

Stephen Downes on Sep 12th 2008 wrote: "I believe that this is because the theory is neither collectivist nor individualist. It doesn’t argue that people (students, whatever) should subsume themselves under some sort of general will. At the same time, it doesn’t suppose that people live their lives as lone wolves, responsible for and to only themselves. There is a middle ground between these two extremes, a half-way point between joining and not joining, which (we believe) may be found in the network. Oh, b ut to get to this point, which doesn’t come up until week 5!"

What is making noise.

I will not engage here in explaining why I consider it a model instead of a theory, I did that in an earlier post. This ideas sound very good in paper but, as I stated before,  I don't see them applied in a traditional school end even less in Mexico. In addition to have a traditional educational system which focuses in the curriculum rather than in the student, the vast majority of  teachers in Mexico at best use email to contact students.  A minority uses digital technology in their classrooms as Rocio does but she teaches parents and teachers. Moreover, she teaches in one of the most expensive schools in San Luis Potosí and not even there the students count with a computer for each one. 

George Siemens is promoting his views as a Learning Theory for the Digital Era. My questions are:  Is Mexico already in the Digital Era?, Do Mexican teachers know and use digital tools?  When not all the students have access to computers Do the PC's at the cyber places in Mexico are set to connect with web 2.0 tools?  As part of my BaeL adventure I visited several cyber places in Toluca and San Luis Potosí and when I accessed the web 2.0 sites I found that the PC's were not ready, plug inns were missing, programs were not installed, camaras and microphones did not work, etc.  Of course that SL is even more out of reach. Sounds unbelievable but I am working to change that.

In his paper George goes on saying: "Learning theories are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned". How do you sell that idea to a school?How do you manage a connectivist course and ensure that the subject is known? Are we pursuing a golden nugget? or Are we planting the seeds of knowledge?

While I have my eyes on the Connectivism nugget striving to get knowledge I am making the connections to plant the seeds of knowledge in me and then spread those in my country.