Connectivism

Charl Fregona Advanced, FOLC

So what is ‘connectivism’?

‘Connectivism’ is a theory developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes. It is often linked with MOOC’s and open online learning. Downes defines connectivism as follows:

Connectivism is the thesis that knowledge is distributed across a network of connections, and therefore that learning consists of the ability to construct and traverse those networks

Reaction has been controversial. Some believe connectivism is a new learning theory for the digital age which relies on building meaning by forming connections with content or people through technology online; others believe it does not add to 21st century pedagogical frameworks. Either way it is an interesting concept which has created heated and thought-provoking debate.

To get started read Seimens’ article:

Siemens. G (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

In this article Siemen’s lays out the core principles of connectivismas follows:

Principles of connectivism
  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.
A critique of connectivism and MOOCs

To get an idea of the theoretical controversy elicited by connectivism and MOOCs, read this blog post by Keith Brennan in the Hybrid Pedagogy Journal In Connectivism No One Can Hear You Scream: a Guide to Understanding the MOOC Novice.

So how does connectivism relate to teaching and learning?

This infographic by Daniel Grafton lays out a definition by Stephen Downes and the principles of connectivism in relation to 21st century teaching and learning rather nicely:

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