Friday, 19 April 2013

Implementing Connectivism

This blog is for Activity 19 of the 'Open Education' course


The idea is to recast the fictional course that I created in Week 2 but adopting a highly connectivist approach.

As a reminder, here is the original course:

A Fictional OER on Digital Skills

Overview

This course is aimed at the older Greek and Greek–Cypriot diasporas in Britain, Australia and Germany who went to these countries in the 1950s and 1960s, either as economic migrants or to escape the civil war in Cyprus or military dictatorship in Greece.

The course is intended to help members of these communities develop digital skills to maintain links with their country of origin.

Brief Proposed Structure of OER

Week
Topic
Resources
Suitability
1
Informational Websites
There is a lot of information of Greece and Cyprus. However, the vast majority of it focuses on Ancient Greece and some of the modern Cypriot material concentrates on the civil war. I could find nothing on the present crises in either country.
B
2
Joining Discussion Groups
There are no materials on how to join and use discussion groups.
B
3
Using Social Media
There are some OERs which look at the educational impact of social media but nothing instructional.
B
4
Language Skills
There are several Greek language courses
M
5
Modern Culture
There are some resources on modern Greek and Cypriot culture and music
M

In order to recast this course, let's go through each of the key principles in turn and see how useful it is.

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • This would happily work with this course. There will always be different opinions within any community. On top of that, as it means that it means communication between communities in the country of origin and communities in new countries, where some of the culture of the 'new' country will have been absorbed then that will also create the opportunity to learn from a diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.
  • This will happen at first with the aid of the person who set up the course. However as the participants become more confident in the use of digital technology and connections are made between different groups then diverse information sources will be brought together.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Given that the purpose of this course is two-fold: to develop digital skills and to create contacts between different parts of the diaspora, non-human appliances are of paramount importance. However, like the previous principle, this will be something that will gain in importance as the course develops.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
  • This is different from simply learning something new. It requires the members of the course to have the motivation to know more and to give this  a higher priority than what they already know. In a sense, this will depend on the reasons why the learners started the course in the first place. They may simply want the reassurance of having their knowledge reinforced. In that is the case, then this principle may be less true.
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • This will happen with the formal end of the course. Developing digital skills is not normally something that stops once the course ends. Connections made during the course will be maintained through chat rooms, social media, email etc.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.
  • The online world is, in a very real sense, connectivist. Although each week of the course is discrete the links between them mean that the participants in the course will be making links and connections almost without realising it. The trick is to find a way of teaching the ability to see these connections.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • This seems to me to be the most problematic of the connectivist principles. Whilst I am not saying that you can't teach an old dog new tricks, I am suggesting that older people may not see this principle as a priority - especially if some of their time is spent re-learning what they have forgotten.
  • 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.
  • Again for older people this principle might be slightly disconcerting. The idea that the world around them is constantly shifting is one that they may have difficulty with - especially if the world that they grew up in was one in which the reality around them was fixed and predictable.

Conclusions

The connectivist theory of learning is one that has arisen out of the shifting sands of the digital and social worlds in which we currently live. The old certainties are either gone or are placed under a lot of strain. In a sense, connectivist theory sits comfortably with the idea of the 'digital native' and the 'digital immigrant'. See Mark Prensky (2001) for a discussion on this.

Connectivist learning theory does not help those who are used to different way of learning and who may have difficulty adapting. The 'digital natives' will be learning in a connectivist way without thinking about it. 

I am also not sure how connectivism helps those who are reluctant learners or who have had a bad experience of learning in the past. It requires a certain amount of confidence and expertise to do what connectivism asks. Not everybody has that.



1 comment:

  1. Nice and well thought out post. I agree that some people may find it difficult but I guess we are lucky that we can choose our prefered method of learning or use both if we want.

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