Learning for 2020

My journey to understand what life will be in year 2020 and how we should prepare our next generation to cope with life at 2020.

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

George Siemens wrote:
Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge)1 can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday2 is also critical. [superscripts mine.]

Principles of connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.

  • Learning3 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.

  • 1 If we define learning as actionable knowledge, there is an implicit objectivism in the definition. As such, I read connectivism as an acknowledgement that knowledge reside outside of ourselves and hence one of the strategy to manage knowledge is through building of "connections" and promoting skills associated to acquiring "know-where" - information literacy. So, in addition to know-how and know-what, we need know-where, the ability to know where a solution may be found and also be able to find a good solution. Closely related to this will be another important skill - know-who - a social network of associates who will have similar interests and believe and are ready to form team quickly to solve ad hoc problems.

    2 This is a call to recognise the role of chaos and understand the inter-dependency of entities in the eco-system.

    3 This is a point I am not sure if I have understood. Earlier, quoting Driscoll(2000), "This definition ... [of] learning as a lasting changed state (emotional, mental, physiological (i.e. skills)) brought about as a result of experiences and interactions with content or other people." In the section discussing "Limitations of Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism", Siemens wrote:
    These theories [Behaviourism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism] do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how learning happens within organizations.

    Then I failed to see how organisation has emotional, mental or physiological states. Any decision made by an organisation is a consequence of decision(s) made by people and these people's previous experience. While I acknowledge that these decisions may be stored external to the people making it (e.g. as rules in the organisation's processes or policy), this is NOT the same as the organisation learning.

    With the above comments, I felt that Siemens is taking a right direction towards understanding the new learning environment to be faced by us now and by our next generation. As the theory is refined, I believe we shall have some guidance from the theory.


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