A discussion of learning theories is an essential component of the Adult 601 course. Students cluster into small groups when asked to explore and present each theory. Presentations culminate in a rather loud discourse as to the merits and value of each theory. It’s common for several students to swell as peacocks when asserting, “I am a constructivist.” This display of pomposity deflates when learners recognize that something may extend beyond the traditional set of five (5) learning theories. Enter the theory of “Connectivism.”
The comprehensive guide, Learning in Adulthood (Merriam, Caffarella & Baumgartner) showcases the Five Orientations to Learning as Behaviorist, Humanist, Cognitivist, Social Cognitive, and Constructivist. Connectivism is similar to each of the five (5) theories in that it has (p.p.295-296) learning theorists, a view of learning, a locus and a purpose for learning. The role of the instructor, as well as the way in which learning manifests for adults, is also similar to that of the other five (5) orientations.
- Learning theorists: George Siemens, Stephen Downes (primary)
- View of the learning process: informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning and occurs in a variety of ways (i.e. personal networks), is a continual process, lasts for a lifetime.
- The Locus of Learning: the concept of a “node” where learning can be fields, ideas or communities, learners face a challenge to recognize patterns that might be hidden, learning can reside outside of humans
- The Purpose of Learning: learning is required in a knowledge economy
- The Instructor’s Role: the instructor can be technology, which rewires the human brain, human instructors, to help the learner recognize and adjust to pattern shifts
- The Manifestation in adult learning: capacity to form connections create patterns, chaos can be a new reality of individuals as knowledge workers,
However, Connectivism is not considered an actual learning theory by all in the field of adult learning. Testing, evaluating networks, the application of chaos and self-organizing theories, according to Siemens, occur in a rapidly changing environment. The ability to make a decision about the way in which learning proceeds is a principle of connectivism.
There are several distinct elements of this course, Adult 640, which I perceive as components of connectivism:
- I know that the members of this class have diverse opinions. They may need time and a feeling of safety in order to surface more fully. Others may not share these opinions as a result of personality, cultural or situational learning.
- We’re all considered nodes of information, individuals who are able to share their knowledge with others in the class as well as to provide connections that may support the program module of learning each is developing.
- The non-human appliances that we use such as the class blog, our own blogs, and Twitter accounts are a source of learning.
- I can assume that as a group we have the capacity to learn more. David Weinberger, a Senior Researcher at the Berkman Center for the Internet & Society suggests that “As knowledge becomes networked, the smartest person in the room isn’t the person standing at the front lecturing us…” “The smartest person in the room is the room itself: the network that joins the people and ideas in the room and connects to those outside of us (p. xiii).”
- The class site joins all of us together to share the ideas that we have gathered through our use of the net and though our weak links. We are not lectured by someone standing in front of us.
- The nurturing and maintenance of these connections occurs when those in the class read, react and respond to blogs and tweets.
- Information flows from the class blog to those in the community.
- As learners, each person in the class has selected a project that engaged decision-making. What we “think” at the beginning of this study of e-Learning may shift dramatically as a result of learning.
In terms of the project that I have selected, I am a little apprehensive about how the concept of connectivism will unfold. I have a tendency to become very excited about new technologies and ideas that surface as a result of my learning. I have been described as someone who gives you “a run for your money.” This uber-enthusiasm has caused difficulty in the past. With this knowledge of myself, I will exercise caution when creating the module. What I would provide is detailed examples of how specialists can supplement the learning in the module when interacting face-to-face with the learners for this module. A primary obstacle may lie in the descriptor provided to me of the “typical” educator who will complete the module.
The module that I will create will certainly be a non-human appliance that will store knowledge for the adult learners in this program. It is possible that the learner’s capacity to gain greater knowledge may be enhanced through hyperlinks or provisions for additional learning and resources. Links for discussion boards may be opportunities for educators to share success stories thus becoming both nodes of information as well as weak links to support others in their own decision-making.
The obstacles that may surface could surround the level of experience of those who interact with the module. The desire to use a digital format as opposed to that of a face-to-face instructor controlled format may present challenges. In the absences of nothing, one can only speculate as to the level of engagement on the part of the learner.
In the TEDxNYED presentation, there are many powerful ideas that will certainly impact my practice as I move from infancy to maturation. Several thoughts which resonate with me at this point in my learning are:
“The act of showing others how we are learning is an instructional task.” (11:14)
“Every expression is an opportunity for connection in a digital space.” (11:23)
“Problems can’t be solved by an individual. They can be solved by a network.” (14:16)
What resonates with you from Siemens’ talk? Where are the challenges and struggles for you at this point in your learning?
Merriam, S. B., Caffarella, R. S., & Baumgartner, L. M. (2012). Learning in adulthood: A comprehensive guide. John Wiley & Sons.
Pazdzion, A. (2017, October 11). Connectivism. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=URcLQNywS_E
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International journal of instructional technology and distance learning, 2(1), 3-10.
Siemens. (2010, April 13). TEDxNYED – George Siemens – 03/06/10. Retrieved June 11, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BH-uLO6ovI