On Connectivism…

In reflecting on the article “Connectivism:  A Learning Theory for the Digital Age” by George Siemens, I connected with much of the content in the article from a career development perspective.  Seimens mentions that people, “as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime.  Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades.  Today, these foundational principles have been altered.  Knowledge is growing exponentially.”  (Siemens, 2004)

Although I would use different terminology as I view one’s ‘career’ as being one’s lifelong journey, I agree with the overall point that, not long ago, people were able to train for jobs and often worked for a particular company until retirement.  In today’s labour market, although statistics vary, it is common for individuals to experience significant change throughout their working life.  For instance, it is normal for individuals to experience about 15 jobs in their lifetime, in 5 different occupational areas, and across 3  sectors of the economy.  What this means for us in our life/career, is that we must be open to lifelong learning and able to adapt to constant change.  In fact, I believe the ‘High 5’ career development messages go hand in hand with some of the points Seimens makes in his article.  For instance, in career development, the focus is on developing competencies in our learners that will assist them throughout their life/career journey.   The concepts of following your heart, focussing on the journey, engaging in lifelong learning, adapting to continual change, and accessing your allies are important career development philosophies.  In relation to all of them, it is important to consider how people learn. 

Seimens states learning occurs in relation to our networks and that it is a “continual process, lasting for a lifetime.”  He examines the learning theories of behaviourism, cognitivism, and constructivism and suggests they fall short in that they do not address learning that happens externally from individuals.    We live in a world with access to more information than has ever been available before.  This can be overwhelming as it is very difficult to know how to channel one’s learning.  Seimens makes the point that “experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge.  Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge.”  From a career development perspective, I think this is very true.  Much of what students can learn in terms of the working world can be gained by connecting and networking with people who possess experiences of interest.   

In career development, we are trying to prepare students now for a future that does not yet exist.   I agree with Seimen’s point that “our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today…the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill.”   This and his other thoughts parallel the High 5 of career development in that it is important for us to access our allies (networks) and to develop skills to deal with and adapt to continual change.  It is essential for us as educators to prepare students for tomorrow and equip them with skills that will help them become responsible and capable citizens who are able to make a positive contribution to society.   We do not know what tomorrow will bring, but it seems that critical and creative thinking skills, the ability to communicate and collaborate, the ability to make sound decisions, etc. are and will remain important in the future. 

The theory of connectivism suggests connecting with others supports learning even when, and possibly especially when, there is a difference in opinion.  It is essential to be able to synthesize and interpret information in order to grow as an individual and develop knowledge.  Knowing how we learn and recognizing the power of connecting with others at various points of the learning process is important now and in the future.  Although we can’t be certain about the future, it seems as though networks, connections, collaboration, the ability to synthesize information, etc. will remain important.  Technological tools are changing and advancing at a rapid rate in addition to the increase in information available to learners. This article has sparked me thinking about this theory of connectivism and I look forward to learning more about how to support learners in an every changing and digitally influenced world in order to support them on their lifelong journey.

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~ by lewisv on October 24, 2010.

2 Responses to “On Connectivism…”

  1. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that virtually all human learning is connected. We do indeed learn independently. You can imagine moments of solitude when you worked out a problem or achieved a creative breakthrough independently. That is not the rule. Even if you imagine yourself alone with a book, you are connected to others. Even if you imagine yourself alone with just your memories to guide you, you are connected to your past social learning. We are social learners creating understanding collectively. Schools were intended to increase the number of connections available to people living intensely local and largely limited lives. They have been very successful at that. Today we are in something of a crisis because the connectivity outside school now exceeds that within. We rationalize our function by claiming schools help people reflect on the learning and sources better than people would independently. I’m questioning this too, but cling to the belief that our mentoring role remains valid. “Break out of the Box”, posted by Josie Holford at

    http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/1343

    points out that students want their learning to be:

    Social-based learning – students want to make use of emerging communications and collaboration tools to create and personalize networks of experts to inform their education process.

    This makes sense from the constructivist learning perspective that maintains all learning is social and interactive.

    Un-tethered learning – students envision technology-enabled learning experiences that transcend the classroom walls and are not limited by resource constraints, traditional funding streams, geography, community assets, or even teacher knowledge or skills.

    This makes sense in a world where we are swamped with information. Learners must become intelligent navigators, grazers and deep-sea divers.

    Digitally-rich learning – students see the use of digital tools, content, and resources as a key to driving learning productivity, not just about engaging students in learning.

    I think we have to give it to them.

  2. […] On Connectivism… « Wonder-FULL-World October 24th, 2010 Alan Stange Leave a comment Go to comments The theory of connectivism suggests connecting with others supports learning even when, and possibly especially when, there is a difference in opinion.  It is essential to be able to synthesize and interpret information in order to grow as an individual and develop knowledge.  Knowing how we learn and recognizing the power of connecting with others at various points of the learning process is important now and in the future.  Although we can’t be certain about the future, it seems as though networks, connections, collaboration, the ability to synthesize information, etc. will remain important.  Technological tools are changing and advancing at a rapid rate in addition to the increase in information available to learners. via lewisv.wordpress.com […]

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