This year I am participating in the Connectivism and Connected Knowledge (CCK09) course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. I was considering taking it for credit, but ran out of time and energy to jump through the hoops needed to make that happen. So instead I am doing it for fun, learning for the sake of learning, because it is a topic that really interests me (I will have to put some of the principles from my very first blog post into practice).
So what is Connectivism anyway? After reading and watching much of the first week’s content here is my interpretation:
Connectivism is a new learning theory that was developed by Stephen Downes and George Siemens. It basically states that knowledge “is” connections. It rejects the notion of knowledge as a physical entity (that can be passed from one person to another), but more as something that grows as we create more connections.
According to Siemens and Downes, this type of knowing exists on three (and perhaps more) levels:
- The brain: our brains store memories and “knowledge” as a set of distributed pathways and connections.
- Concepts: We can only know concepts by drawing connections between different nodes.
- Society: The knowledge that a society has exists in the links between different nodes (people, databases, books, etc).
Now, of course, this is my gross oversimplification. For more thorough insights into the topic here are some links to read:
So here are my questions concerns and thoughts after 1 week:
- I understand and accept the neurological principle (modern neuroscience has accepted that what we know is stored in the connections between neurons). The question then is: Can we abstract that one level up for our learning in higher level concepts, or should this thinking stay at a neurological level?
- Even if we can represent learning in the same way our brain stores things, is that the best way to do it? Our brain is a result of evolution and we know, as fundamental as evolution is, it tends to follow the principle of “just good enough”. If our brain’s method of storing information is “just good enough” could we not have developed better ways of doing things? I would argue that even the fact that society is “connectivist” in its knowledge is a result of “just good enough” as the system is too large for a more efficient method to have evolved. Are we smart enough to come up with something better?
- Assuming I get to the point where I believe fully in connectivism as a learning theory, what technology needs to be created to support it? 3D networking maps? A personal learning framework that allows you to visualise the framework of your connections? How can I apply the principles of connectivism to come up with brilliant pedagogy and the tools needed to support that?