19 June 2006

Connectivism Misconnected

From a recent piece I wrote for an educational conference:

As an analogy, think of education as the combination of a guide and a map. Traditional education gives the student a limited map and lets the guide tell you what is there. Successful interactive education provides you with a detailed map of a limited area, a general map of what surrounds that limited area and teaches you how to be your own guide. The distinction is vital: interactive education focuses more on teaching how to learn than on teaching what to know.

Interactive education demands that a large majority of students be able to “guide themselves”; otherwise, the learning process breaks down, frustration sets in and the endeavor fails to deliver a satisfactory conclusion. For one must remember that online education happens in an environment in which the information flow is vast and constant. Unlike a traditional classroom, where the knowledge sources are limited to teacher and textbook, the knowledge sources on the Internet are practically unlimited and range in value from authoritative to useless. Thus students must also be taught how to evaluate sources in terms of relevance and importance.

Traditional learning theories have never taken technology into account. Their focus has been the teacher-student interaction, the student’s internal processes and motivation and the school environment, as centered on the classroom and per-group interaction. Given the changes technology makes in the very foundations of traditional education, a new learning theory must be implemented.

The learning theory that takes into account the new realities of technology and information sources in education is called connectivism. First postulated by George Siemens in an online article, the basic principles of connectivism are:

• Learning has an end goal - namely the increased ability to "do something".
• Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. A learner can exponentially improve their own learning by plugging into an existing network.
• Learning may reside in non-human appliances. Learning (in the sense that something is known, but not necessarily acted upon) can rest in a community, a network, or a database.
The capacity to know more is more critical that what is currently known. Knowing where to find information is more important than knowing information.
• Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate learning. Connection-making provides far greater returns on effort than simply seeking to understand a single concept.
• Different approaches and personal skills are needed to learn effectively in today's society. For example, the ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning.
Learning is a knowledge creation process...not only knowledge consumption. Learning tools and design methodologies should seek to capitalize on this trait of learning.

It is obvious that connectivism integrates technology and its impact on learning, but it also addresses the issues of continuous learning and core career skills. To connectivism, the world changes constantly and thus information changes constantly, placing a premium on staying “up-to-date.” This need means that what we know today is less valuable than what we need to know tomorrow, so knowing where to find new knowledge is a valuable skill. In fact, being able to create connections and thus to create knowledge is the most valuable skill a person can have in this digital age.

The true environment for learning these digital age core skills is online. The isolation of the classroom is no longer an advantage: being at the center of the digital network, seated in front of a computer, is where the future of education and personal progress now reside. Any educational platform has to deal with these realities as a true, powerful facilitator in order to achieve profitable success.

How much of the above is actually known by local educators?

How much of the above is actually understood by local educators?

How much of the above is targeted by local educators?

How much of the above means jacksquat to local educators?

My guess is that the first 3 questions TOTAL about 10% and the last one about 90%. And that, according to local department of (mis)education standards, equals 100% so We get a passing grade!

What's the use of wittily skewering somebody who doesn't understand they are the butt of the joke?

The Jenius Has Spoken

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