Monday, January 17, 2011

Understanding connectivism: some first thoughts

If I think about one of the driving factors behind my enrollment in the CCK11 mooc, which is the desire (and the professional expectation) to keep abreast of lines of thought and development in my field, I am making the obvious connection (no pun intended) that this is exactly what lies behind this theory of learning.To quote from George Siemens paper Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age: "Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities." Actually I feel quite oppressed by the pressure to keep up, and yet also compelled to do so by my own desire for intellectual stimulation. Why doesn't the latter cancel out the former? Mental laziness perhaps, but part of it is that I really don't know how people can do it! Not literally how, but motivationally how, I suppose. One conclusion I have come to is that I haven't developed the ability, and so another of George's points resonated with me: "Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill." And as an extension of that, in my mind, so too is the seeking out of those connections. Hopefully, as the theory suggests, connectivism will allow me to remain current in my field. :)

I have to say I am struggling with the idea that learning may reside in non-human appliances, or that it exists outside of the person. I can't quite grasp that a mental process could exist if the mind is removed from the equation. To me it seems only information resides in the non-human appliances. Although I suppose I can form a concept of a learning organism that exists out there in the ether, consisting of the information stored on devices, the physical network that connects the devices, the ideas, thoughts, opinions, explorations and observations pertinent to that information that are added to the devices and network, (and the connections that form between the human originators of those ideas, thoughts, etc), and the processes of change and movement that occur within these structures, and finally the impact they have on society and culture, ALL constituting an unnameable learning beast which we can commune with (and influence) on a personal level. Yes, clumsy, but I need to make sense of it.

After reading Stephen Downes' blog post "What connectivism is", I have found I experience a brain freeze when I try to start comprehending the arguments of those digging deep down into the language we use to describe learning or meaning-making . I understand the arguments, and the literal meaning of their words of course, but getting my mind around the concept of learning, creating understanding or meaning-making as a physical process, trying to conceptualise it in my own mind – stumps me. Even in my attempts to write this and choose words to describe the “act” of learning I fear I am tripping myself up by using all the wrong words. It is unnerving, but challenging, therefore to be trying to learn in an atmosphere of trepidation. Learning is a mystery I struggle to make a mental model of. (!!)

6 comments:

  1. "The pressure to keep up"? As Tracy said this is not necessary in connectivism. Can't you "remain current" without?

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  2. CCK11

    "Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill."

    Leitha-

    That quote also resonates with me- I call the ability to see these connections a digital literacy and, as such, has to be taught in our schools. For those of us who have long left formal education and degrees, we have to do some deep thinking on how we can make these connections.

    Here is the beginning of my list. Can we all add to the list?

    1. Visualize the connections with mind maps (I think that skill is well known, at least I think so) and learn new tools to help us draw out these connections.

    2. Be as well rounded in our knowledge base as possible. And move into other knowledge bases that we find interesting. But that requires time so….

    3. Learn how to manage our time. My buddy and my wife always tell me they don’t have time to X and I reply, “You do. But you have to stop doing Y to get X on your list.)

    So can we add onto this “job aid” list? What say you?

    And check out my video and blog too!

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  3. I agree with Tracy too, Matthias, but I still sometimes feel it as a pressure, more than a desire. Reading Skip's comment prompts me to add it is really only the time factor - whatever process connectivism facilitates, I still have to time put in the time. Ultimately it is pressure I put on myself, not pressure I feel connectivism creates.

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  4. Maybe this is a begin of an answer?
    I guess thinking and learning are human characteristics and you dont see that exists in a network. but, the network consists of humans. The humans are the nodes in the network. You and me do learn in a network now, you think and I think so the network we are in is a thinking network.
    do you agree with this?

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  5. Are we dumbing down? Is multitasking taking away of our ability our ability to absorb?

    Today I participated in a class for CCK11 with Martin Weller as a guest speaker.

    He ran though 30 or so slides, and the moderator, George Siemens, followed the simultaneous chat and intervened when multiple folks were asking the same question or making the same comment. (Kudos!)

    Here is what I found for myself- the chat was actually distracting from my ability to follow Weller. However, I did address a private question to George to define “Barcamp”, a term on Wellers slide. George provided me privately and then publically the wiki link. (“international network of user-generated conferences (or unconferences). They are open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants) that exchange functioned as a lost student raising his or her hand in class.”

    On the spot I came up with a coping strategy- I opened Snag It and captured screen shots of the slides I like for graphics or information and exported them to PowerPoint at the end of the session.

    I was very tempted to create the PowerPoint as we went, but decided that was like the chat, detracting from my concentration on the speaker.
    I then asked George (private) how to save the chat for later review. (I had first tried to copy and paste into Word!). George provided directions to me privately and then to one and all orally.

    I sent the slides and the transcript to my spouse so she could follow along!
    Now I am sharing my slides on this blog via Slideshare and the transcript via Google docs.
    Here was a naturally evolving coping system that was dependent on my digital literacies.

    Were there other strategies? Do you find the chats overall a help or a distraction?

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  6. "I have found I experience a brain freeze when I try to start comprehending the arguments of those digging deep down into the language we use to describe learning or meaning-making . I understand the arguments, and the literal meaning of their words of course, but getting my mind around the concept of learning, creating understanding or meaning-making as a physical process, trying to conceptualise it in my own mind – stumps me."

    Maybe if you try and visualize humankind as a loose type of organism, rather than humans as disconnected entities? Just a thought exercise...

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