Connectivist Influence in Educational Theory

Connectivism:

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the technical tools now used in society. It suggests a new model where where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. New technical tools and educational theory models change how people work and function. Postulating how the field of education has been slow to recognize the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era. (December 12, 2004-)

http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf

Those observations, made by /George Siemens as late as 2004 have proven to be prophetic in terms of the direction that instructional design is going. We as teachers and designers are using more types of social networking, project organization, and doing more design work based on computer and internet connections than we have ever even thought of in the past. As part of this exercise, I have been rying to study my own learning system. Studying the process of my own brain processing information and comparing that to the apparently more functional computer model filing system made it seem like the computer had the edge in long term memory, even short term processing speed.

Design of learning environments now is so heavily impacted by personal use of computer and internet technology that Connectivism has become the basis of learning that most civilized people are using. In a sense, we all have access to the information, and we are connected by the information.

Chaos

The basic observation of chaos theory is that small changes can have large consequences. An instructional designer not only has to deal with what is measured and known, but also observe, guide, and keep the path open when changes are needed. Part of the problem with Connectivist theory is the structure. Which has to be in sync with human nature. Human nature is dynamic and time sensitive.

Chaos theory seems to provide a means of addressing two of Connectiveist Theory’s “structural” process.

Chaos as part of connectivity,  is inherently dynamic and time-sensitive and it permits a definition of social structural entities in such a way that if real, living, unique human beings vanished then the structures of society would also vanish.

This also provides, by means of its formal inclusion of human cognition, an analytic paradigm which might allow us to see how providing a set of democratic laws to a totalitarian culture does not necessarily transform it into a democratic society. Things can change and individual people can make a difference at the ‘macro’ level.

Smith, R. D. (1998) ‘Social Structures and Chaos Theory’

Sociological Research Online, vol. 3, no.

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