This brief, largely informal and reflective (draft) paper for the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Online Course, is written with the intention of positioning Connectivism in context, for educational leaders intent on developing new pedagogy in Australian schools appropriate to the digital age. It is perhaps, not what was intended for this assignment but is an accurate reflection of my perceptions of the importance of Connectivism.
Connectivism provides a framework for teaching and learning that helps make sense of the impact of digital technologies on society, education systems, learning, teachers and students. Many teachers are skeptical about theory and are often not able to articulate what informs their practice. Connectivism is a theory that encourages the individual (node) to engage in learning by doing, similar to Constructivism (scroll down) but with more emphasis on networks and digital technologies.
The deployment of technology into high schools, after a lengthy gestation period, is rapidly accentuating the ever-widening new digital divide between teachers. Learning professionals actively engaged using the internet, web 2.0 and digital technologies, in their professional and personal lives, are positioned to continue to update their pedagogical knowledge and skills because they are networked and actively learning.
Unfortunately, it is a challenge and concern that the technophobic and disengaged are such a sizeable minority of educators. Mostly, they are not a philosophically disinclined neo-luddite movement but are unlikely to update their professional skills without considerable support, encouragement and a framework that increases understanding of the digital revolution and societal changes that are in evidence.
Too many of this technologically disengaged group are in leadership positions and this is of great concern.
Connectivism has the potential to develop the theoretical understandings that teachers have of the impact of digital technologies, especially the internet, on learning in order to improve their pedagogy.
Many systems, leaders and teachers equate professional development with learning ‘how to’ use hardware, software and online tools rather than the pedagogical uses of these tools and new ways of thinking.
Connectivism has the potential to develop learning professionals to the level they are comfortable with, for some this may be highly sophisticated, for others, just the rudiments of the theory.
The key points of Connectivism that need to be explicitly understood are more than can be listed here but it is important that one recognises:
- ‘Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity’
- Learning is distributed across ‘connections’, in the widest possible sense of the word
- Learning develops as connections are made, in the mind and across society
- Learning is composed of interactions
- Learning may reside in non-human appliances
- Constructing a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) or Personal Learning Network (PLN) using an ever-changing set of tools is a practical skill that can be employed by students and teachers
Personally, when first reading about Connectivism, it all just made sense and fitted with my values, knowledge and beliefs, especially the importance of distributed leadership, dialogism, constructivist learning, new media and post structuralist ideas.
The media theories of Marshall McLuhan and social constructivism resulting from Lev Vygotsky’s writings, inform my thinking as a learning professional. Experiences in the classroom and with implementing traditional content based syllabi convince that educational systems need to change and educators operate in a different, networked manner, using technology, if students are to learn effectively.
More importantly, if we are to create life-long learners who can cope with the rapidly decreasing ‘half-life of knowledge’, change needs to occur.
Teachers and educational leaders who experience a ‘Connectivism course’, like the #CCK09, may have many questions that remained unanswered in relation to the current realities of the bricks and mortar institution where they work as educators. However, change, glacial as it sometimes seems, would be framed by a learning theory and pedagogical view appropriate for our digital age.
Stephen Downes, A quick introduction to connectivism(ustream)