Monday, September 15, 2008

Connectivism course week 2 - rethinking epistemology

I have knuckled down this week into concentrating on the readings so that I am able to make up my mind about the relevance of connectivism to my current teaching context. I am keeping a peripheral eye on what is taking place on the Moodle discussion forum but this is more of a browse through than actual reading of each post. I have not had the time to look into the Google groups forum although I am getting digests of the contributions.

The overall theme of week 2 is ‘rethinking epistemology: connective knowledge’. For me, it is an opportunity to review my concepts of knowledge. Stephen Downes provides a good revision to types of knowledge, the different interpretations, perspectives and structures of knowledge and links these to the concept of connective knowledge.

The above is then expanded in a blog arguing for the concept of connectivism as a form of knowledge along with copious discussion on Moodle of “what is connectivism” and whether it is a viable way to describe learning. There is also lively discussion begun by a sceptic of whether connectivism can be regarded as a theory of learning. Over 90 posts in the course of a week
The main readings for this week are Siemens’ introduction to connectivism, on learning networks & connective knowledge, rhisomic knowledge and the need to rethink how we view learning. In all they are invitations to think more widely about how learning takes place & the mechanisms by which individuals, groups, communities & societies learn. I am an advocate of the principle that it is important to know lots but be able to choose well. Attempts to explain how we learn has moved from behaviourism (stimulus = response) to cognitivism (an input = output model) to constructivism (prior knowledge reworked = new concepts) to sociocultural theories ( engagement + participation = social & cultural knowledge) and now to connectivism (the contribution of many = learning of one who then contributes to the many). There is something in each of the theories that relate to the many contexts that we learn in. Sometimes, one way works better than others. As teachers, we need to be able to pick out the gem that fits into a given time, place, cohort of students, subject to be learnt etc.

So far, the course has been rich in the sense that it has provided an example of how networks bring people together. This course could only have come together due to the way in which the facilitators have been able to use the networks they had previously formed to broadcast their course. Then the delivery modes that are now used for flexible delivery are used to bring the course participants together. 2000+ people mulling over whether connectivism is a viable learning theory will not only bring more contributions into the discourse but evangelise the concept far & wide! Surely an example of how connectivism works, not perhaps as a learning theory (I have yet to make up my mind on this) but as a concept to bring learners together towards discussion and connection.

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