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Spring in Alexandra

Spring in Alexandra

This section will be about a course that I am embarking on in July 2008. It is called: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge offered by George Siemens. This is mainly for my reflection, but I am interested in any comments – once I have something to say!

The course wiki is here: Connectivism Wiki

The course blog is here: Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Blog

The course email list is here: Connectivism Google Group

  • Resources:

An article on Connectivism 

Website on connectivism

The online conference – provides the names of contributors

I have now read some articles on this topic and was intrigued by what was even meant by connectivism. Bill Kerr’s critique provided interesting reading. Its particulalry good to see soemone acknowledge the various learning theories and draws these into the arguments rather than start from the position that this is new knowledge. Ok, so in a nutshell what is meant by ‘connectivism’? From Stephen Downes web site: “It is more than the process of making connections”; “It is not a representational Theory”;In relation to a chess games he says that … “the difference between a cognitivist theory and a connectionist theory [is that]… The cognitivist thinks deeply by reasoning through a long sequence of steps. The non-cognitivist thinks deeply by ‘seeing’ more intricate and more subtle patterns. It is a matter of recognition rather than inference.” Not sure that I agree with this! From  a description of connectivism: “Our knowledge resides in the connections we form – where to other people or to information sources such as databases. Additionally, technology plays a key role of 1) cognitive grunt work in creating and displaying patterns, 2) extending and enhancing our cognitive ability, 3) holding information in ready access form (for example, search engines, semantic structures, etc). We see the beginning of this concept in tool-based discussions of Activity Theory. Connectivism acknowledges the prominence of tools as a mediating object in our activity system, but then extends it by suggesting that technology plays a central role in our distribution of identity, cognition, and thereby, knowledge. ”

I am delighted to see that Stephen Downes suggests that a community is more than people simply being in one place – he suggests that there needs to be a common interest that facilitates connections. OK, I think I knew that. …. reminds me of residential homes which often seem to work best if there is a natural connection between the residents eg. war veterins; same religion. I was intrigues by the idea of a tail and a body – I wonderedif those that replied to the blog were desperatley wanting to have people read their blogs and so be part of the body rather than sit in a more isolated postion in the tail. My thought for the day!

Now that I have finally got around to what I was possibly supposed to be doing in the 1st week – I was interested in the following bullet points about changes in learning found in George Siemans work. It seems to imply that learning was only the formal classroom type and now this has been superceded. Well, in my book learning has always been about a range of differing experiences and opportunities. Just becasue we did not formally label these expereinces in posh terms it did not mean they were non-existant. Workplace based learning was once the norm and highly valued. Technology may well have devalued it unless its linked to various networks

  • Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways – through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.
  • Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.
  • “Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences”  (Driscoll, 2000, p. 376). I put this here because it reminds me to think about this in relation to clinical reasoning. Through thinking about our ongoing ‘clinical’ experiences so we develop new knowledge in the process of working through problems with our clients. So much of this cannot be known in advance – so EBP can be problematic when the best knowledge is that derived from our ongoing experiences when working with clients (no different to those experiences in teaching).  EBP comes from a more behavioural approach to learning.

    We can no longer personally experience and acquire all the learning necessary for action. (Did we ever?) “We derive our competence from forming connections”. Thats an interesting statement – does it have an application to professional competence and standards of practice?

    “Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks, chaos states that the meaning exists – the learner’s challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden. Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities.” Those 2 sentences do not link in my head. What does a specialised community contribute to forming connections? He goes on to say: “If the underlying conditions used to make decisions change, the decision itself is no longer as correct as it was at the time it was made. ” Surely this has always been true? – your reasoning is only as good as the premise on which it was based.

    “The central premise is that connections created with unusual nodes supports and intensifies existing large effort activities” …. “This amplification of learning, knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism”. The examples given of seniors contributing to a larger network that teachers developed adds to their main network maakes some sense. The idea being that we can all contibute to many larger endeavours but we do not all necessarily develop these larger networks ourselves.

    The more I read, the more I think it seems like common sense – for instance my Sabbatical is all about making connections, developing networks so it is definately not a new phenomenum. It was good to get a review of social networks (ie. an analysis) to provide a background to  this way of thinking. One of the disadvantages of this discussion is the focus on organisational policies and productivity. I guess one could argue that education is also about productivity – personally I would like to see a softer approach with learning for its own sake being an end ‘product’ although I don’t think that word fits that well… how about new schemata? Actually that fits well with the idea of networks.

    Here’s another link that provides an overview of connectivism. There is a summary of 5 points made in reference to connectivism (from Siemens, Sept. 2008). To me 1-4 appear to be similar to other learning theories – only 5 is different and is debateable anyway … well its probably a fair point but is it about learning?

    1. We have a need to externalise to make sense;
    2. We have a need for frameworks and structures for sense-making;
    3. We have a need to socialise and negotiate around knowledge;
    4. Our mind is a patterning mind;
    5. We have a desire to extend our humanity through technology.

    I liked the ideas of different types of groups as described on this blog. A group is described as having things in common with people – more of a melting pot while a network is when people connect but do not necessarily having much in common – rather like a salad bowl with all its components still visible and even though they are lyng together.

    I thought that Stephens comments about characteristics of connected learners was interesting.  I quote the following: ‘The way to function in a connected world is to share without thinking about what you will get in return. It is to share without worrying about so-called “free-riders” or people taking advantage of your work.’ After a conversation with a colleague about the realities of the world of research and the rivalry between different factions one does wonder how idealistic this all is. I would have to say that I agree with Stephen’s stance – those who freely share knowledge are the true heroes of the world of education. The points he raises are:

    1. Be reactive. ‘Posting …. isn’t about airing your own views. It’s about connecting, and the best way to connect is to clearly draw the link between their content and yours.’
    2. Go with the flow: ‘it is more important to find the places to which you can add value rather than pursue a particular goal or objective.’ This is a reference to the fact that each person is pursuing thier own goals rather than a common goal.
    3. Connection comes first. He says: ‘In almost all fields, connecting with others online is the work.’ … Hmm need to think about that
    4. Share. See comments above
    5. RFTM – read the fine print. personally I thinkn this could depend on your stype of learning – some of us don’t like reading the manuals!
    6. Cooperate (cf collaborate – as an off line version) Each person has their own goals
    7. Be yourself

    Just read Phelps account of complexity in learning. This was an interesting overview and re-eforces the need to prepare students well for this type of learning  – ie. do more ‘regular’ teaching first which ensures that they have the skills necessary for managing technology and their learning.


    July 5, 2008 Posted by | E learning communities, E-Learning, student centered, Uncategorized | , , , | 6 Comments

    Student centered / client centered

    At the moment I am trying to work out what these terms have in common – on the assumption that there is something!! So, for the moment a search to find some definitions. An article that does provide a brief summary of the essentials of being ‘student centered’ is interesting for me in that is suggests that some teachers are more likely to teach in this way than others. One question is, if you do – are you a better teacher than if you don’t (have a student centered focus)? Perhaps assumptions about student learning can be wrong – ie. do (adult) students want to take responsibility for their learning? If they don’t, why not? What can be done about it? Does it matter? Another question is how significant is the environment? eg. if you set up the class so that the desks are in a circle rather than in rows how much difference does this make to the interaction – and in particular for students taking responsiblity for their own learning? The article referred to above noted that there was a difference – those with the intention to ensure students could link course content to their own experiences were more likely to set up their desks in an informal way. It was interesting to note that the intention to be student centered did not necessarily result in different learning environments when compared to those teachers who did not have this intention. See the Wikipedia for a list of characteristcs of student centered learning.

    So, to go to the idea of being client centered what definitions are there? The Wikipedia provides a discussion of the key characterstics. The focus here is on Carl Rogers as the key theorist, the term used in ‘person -centered’ and oddly enough to locate this information the spelling had to be ‘centred’ even though in the discussion it was spelt as’centered’. Now for a few more thoughts. As cited in Matthew Ryan’s web site:  “That CCT is effective has been amply demonstrated by decades of research. Furthermore, recent research has shown that the most significant variables in the effectiveness of therapy are aspects of the relationship and the therapist’s personal development – not the particular discipline they practise or techniques they employ.” There is another site that provides an article that was written by Carl Rogers and provides a very good explanation of the application of this approach to therapy. This refers to the centrality of the ‘life force’ that exists in every person and the importance of tapping into this to facilitate the client using thier own resources.

    This might be a superficial comment and based on a few readings – but the information about being client-centered appears to stress the relationship between therapist and client whereas the teacher centered information stresses the teaching strategies. One obvious difference between the 2 situations is that one is focused on working with one person and the other relates to group processes. The common link is the basis of Carl Rogers work. However, one very good read on the topic of “Empathic Intelligence” (as the basis of student centered teaching) is written by Roslyn Arnold.  It focuses on the attitude of the teacher as being the essential core. I do wonder how ’empathic’ you can be in a virtual community. Does this skill require face to face interactions in order that the nuances of body language and voice tone can be noticed?  Further work by Roslyn highlights the importance of inter-subjective experiences in education. In relation to clinicians Moore writes an interesting article looking at various arguments in relation to empathic relationships in practice. Even better, there is a list of  behaviours described as indicators of this type of relationship. These are from the Zen of Listening. Another interesting read on this topic is a workbook called the EI Advantage  which among other things talks about the difference between cognitive and emotional empathy (p103). It states that in EI you are more likely to use cognitive empathy. p117-118 has a very interesting list of indicators of empathic listening.

    I have now come across one article that describes a teaching process that brings together student centered approach with elearning. It is called ‘Student centered teaching meets new media’ It describes a course in a medical programme and provides a very good overview of teaching that meets the criteria of being client centered as well as being a critical overview of the realities of elearning. An  article by Holmberg (I have already commented on under ‘learning communities’) refers to the need for empathy in distance based learning. This point is made towards the end.

    In relation to the idea that being client centred in e-learning has its own challenges, the article called “Student-Centered Teaching Meets New Media: Concept and Case Study” addresses this topic. It is based on teaching medical students.

    September 10, 2007 Posted by | client centered, E learning communities, student centered | | 15 Comments