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What is Connectivism?
According to George Siemens, "connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories" (2005, para. 22). This idea is often used in the creation of instructional technologies and strategies in the current educational system (Siemens 2005). Its relevance is often questioned in today's age of learning through technological avenues, which is discussed more in depth below.

Is Connectivism a Learning Theory?
This is a highly debated question, which has been argued for years. George Siemens, in 2004, wrote his article "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age" which shares the idea that connectivism is a learning theory that allows us to continually acquire knowledge through connections and the diversity of opinions. Bijdrage van Pløn Verhagen responded to Siemens article in 2006 with the idea that connectivism is a pedagogical view on education that demands for an underlying necessity of human interaction with the world at a young age. These interactions develop the application and transfer of knowledge of individuals, making them key members in the information society. Connectivism takes place at the curriculum level, which is concerned with what is learned and why, as opposed to an instructional level, which is concerned with how learning takes place. The connections and interactions that are made as individuals is why we learn about specific skills sets instead of how we learn and acquire knowledge, which supports the argument that connectivism not a learning theory (Pløn Verhagen, 2006).

Is Connectivism relevant to your teaching practice? If so, how?
In Stephen Downes slide share (Downs 2010), he talks about one of the three principles of Connectivism, interaction. He says that we need to connect not to things but to people and to put yourself at the center of your interaction network not the content. As teachers we can't imagine not being connected to our "things" such as text books, materials, and lesson plans. We are able to use our text book and materials to create our lesson plans for teaching without consulting technology or other people. Sure we can consult the people around us but they are not our only resources. What would teachers be without our content. The content is the building block for where we start our lessons. We can use ourselves to expand on the content but we, the teachers, are not the center of the interaction. Without the content what would we interact about?

Does Connectivism support your students?
In Siemens conclusion of Connectivism:A Learning Theory for the Digital Age he states " The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today (Siemens, 2005)." If we are using this statement it seems that we are saying students don't really need to have knowledge of what we teach them each day. We are saying that as long as they have a resource to get the knowledge, such as their computer, we do not care if they know the material. This simply is not true. We want our students to be able to recall facts and understand information given to them without having to seek outside sources. Having a "pipe" to get data is helpful in expanding students' knowledge but should not be all they have. Our students' ability to learn what they need for tomorrow is important but they need to have a basis for that knowledge today in order to get to that point.

Are parts of the theory more compelling or relevant to you than others?
In today's education system, a large percentage of the learning occurs through technological avenues, and many courses are blended learning environments. Although much of learning has shifted to an online or blended format, there is still a need for parts of this theory that are "grounded in both the learning theories of constructivism and connectivism to guide the teachers’ professional practice to engage today’s students who are digital natives" (Chew & Wee 2015). This is a quotation that demonstrates the relevance of the connectivism theory regardless of the avenue in which our students are learning, which shows that it is relevant to even the newer pedagogical models of today's education system. The part of the theory deals with the social connection made during learning is definitely the most relevant in blended learning environments, as this connection and ability to interact socially is essential.

Are there any Cons of Connectivism?
  • Connectivism is not a learning theory, but a pedagogical theory (Sahin pg. 444), which implies that it is the role of the educator to implement it successfully
  • Connectivism can be considered to apply only outside of the formal educational environments of the classroom or school building (Sahin, pg. 445). This is best described in the quote from Sahin's research that states: "in the formal class, students focus on the connected tools and in this way they are distracted from lessons. In this way, in the formal learning environment, connected tools can prevent learning as students make themselves busy with them ignoring what is given during lessons”. (pg. 445)
  • Connectivism can be a motivation for learning, but it can also be harmful and risky when individuals are left aside to learn on their own through distracting avenues and connections (Sahin, pg. 448)


Additional Sources
A Challenge to Connectivism
What Connectivism Is
On the Three or Four Problems of Connectivism
Connectivist Learning and Teaching Slide Show
Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning
Pros & Cons of Connectivism as a Learning Theory
Use of Blended Approach in the Learning of Electromagnetic Induction


Resources
Bell, F. (2011, March). Connectivism: Its Place in Theory-Informed Research and Innovation in Technology-Enabled Learning. Retrieved April 06, 2016, from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/902/1664

Chew, C., & Wee, L. (2015). Use of Blended Approach in the Learning of Electromagnetic Induction [PDF]. Cornell University Library.

Downes, S. (2007, February 03). What connectivism is. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html

Downes, S. (2009, November). Stephen Downes. Retrieved April 06, 2016, from http://www.downes.ca/me/

Downes, S. (2010, May 6). Connectivist Learning and Teaching. Retrieved April 06, 2016, from http://www.slideshare.net/Downes/connectivist-learning-and-teaching

Downes, S. (2013, October 03). On the three or four problems of connectivism. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2013/10/on-three-or-four-problems-of.html

Kerr, B. (2006, December 26). A challenge to connectivism. Retrieved from http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2006/12/challenge-to-connectivism.html

Pløn Verhagen, B. V. (2006, November 11). Connectivism: A new learning theory? Retrieved from http://opendata.socrata.com/views/g954-2ypq/obsolete_files/250e6905-cc5f-49c9-b8ac-071714bedec0

Sahin, M. (2012, April). Pros and Cons of Connectivism as a Learning Theory [PDF]. International Journal of Physical and Social Sciences.

Siemens, G. (2005, January 01). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved from http://www.itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm