Sunday, 22 January 2012

When I think of Connectivism, I think of an information vortex!

Image: Graphic representation of a minute fraction of the WWW

My mind currently associates Connectivism as a vortex of information of which I am still trying to make clear sense of. George Siemens website is great as it offers more of an insight to the theory and how to apply it. I read a post on his site titled ‘Teaching in Social and Technological Networks’ and this has helped me to understand what the role of the teacher is in the Connectivist view. If I look at Connectivism from a very raw standpoint, the role of the teacher becomes to ‘facilitate’ the vast array of information that students obtain from their connections and networks (social media) and from the World Wide Web. The teachers role turns into one of facilitating, directing, steering, filtering and sense-making while still providing a “narrative of coherence” as Siemens calls it, for students in the pertinent discipline. 

Do I think it is a valid theory? I think the key word here is valid. Whether we like it or not, technology is all around us and rather than try to hide from it, I think we should embrace it. As Siemens says in this article “Course content is similarly fragmented. The textbook is now augmented with YouTube videos, online articles, simulations, Second Life builds, virtual museums, Diigo content trails, StumpleUpon reflections, and so on”. The question is, how do we embrace the technology from a Connectivist point of view when it feels, quite simply, bigger than all of us?

When it comes to teaching and learning, do teachers apply one single theory to their teaching? Different theories can be used and applied wherever applicable in the learning context. I found a table by Siemens, 2009, which provides a breakdown and comparison of the learning theories . There are many facets to Connectivism, especially how the learning occurs: “distributed within a network, social, technologically enhanced, recognizing and interpreting patterns” (Siemens, 2009). How do teachers evaluate that learning has occurred? When I think of this alone, I am still a long way from fully understanding Connectivism. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post when I think of Connectivism, I think of an information vortex! :s


  1. I think as with most educational theories, it has a degree of validity. I believe that teachers need to facilitate, steer, guide and model managing the technological and information rich world in which we now live. I also think, however, that we need to be aware that facilitation is a complex skill that is easy to talk about but much harder to do effectively. Bad facilitation leads to learners who are lost and confused. Skillful facilitators are unfortunately quite rare, and the skills required often need to be explicitly taught to support educators in this new part of their role.

  2. Many teachers (I'm thinking particularly in the tertiary context) do not know enough about learning theories to be able to comfortably apply them to their teaching and learning practices. In some institutions of course, they have the luxury of getting assistance with this from learning designers, academic developers etc., but even then workloads and lack of time can sadly push such considerations to the background and experimentation/innovation is often stifled.