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Is connectivism relevant to your teaching practice? If so, how?


One of the foundations to teaching is understanding how and why students learn. Learning theories are principles that we use to describe and try to understand how people learn. There are three main categories of learning theories: behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism.

Recently, there has been another learning theory for the digital age, as explained by George Seimens . His learning theory is called connectivism. The learning theory of connectivism is definitely relevant to all teachers because it attempts to answer the question of how people learn, but in a different way then we have been taught.

We have seen over time and history how the need for learning has changed, and thus the way we teach has changed. Wether for religious, industrial or career implications, how we as a society leach and view learning has evolved over time. In recent history, our world has become smaller in that we can communicate and share information as never before. Connectivism not only embraces these changes, it recognizes that we are continuing to change at an extremely rapid pace. The advent of new technologies (intenet, cell phones, etc.) has exponentionally increased the amount of change in the area of learning by ways of ever-growing communication networks.

Many educators fail to understand how technology is changing society. Contrary to criticisms against this theory, information and knowledge do not only lie in human brains, but in electronic networks that are constantly moving and being shaped. For example, I can create a network of knowledge in my brain by reading a book. I have made an internal network connection with the material, and perhaps the author. Yet with connectivism, I am making learning networks externally via vehicles like the internet, where information and knowledeg (like with books) are stored. The difference is that these external networks are growing and changing, based on user participation. I have the opportnity to learn from and make connections with whomever and whatever I choose.

According to Seimens, here are some of the main principles of connectivism:
  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • 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 activities.
  • Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

So, as a teacher, I must be aware of connectivism and its implications of how my students learn. The fact is that they are not getting the majority of their knowledge strictly from "static" sources like books by themselves or by my lectures, but rather from making value based connections from many other sources of information. It is critical that as educators, we stay current and try our best to keep up with our students, so we can stay somewhat connected with their interests and lives. One thing has not changeg, and that is the fact that we need to connect to students and meet them where they are. Connectivism helps us to recognize that students are learning in ways that did not even exist a decade ago, and we absolutly need to keep up with them. If not, we may be left behind wondering how to reach this generation adn those to come.

Resources:
  • (The Changing Nature, 2007).
  • ("Learning Theory (education)," 2008)
  • (Siemens, 2006)
  • ("Connectivism," 2008)
  • ("George Siemens," 2007)
  • (Siemens, 2004)
  • (Verhagen, 2006)