Connection not Content

A Blog for MOOCs and Other Animals

Posts Tagged ‘cck11

#CCK11: Juggling with Connectivism: Week 1

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Connectivism has much to offer as a new perspective on learning and I’m pleased and excited to be one small node in the CCK11 MOOC.  However, I find some of the phraseology a little jarring and I’m unsure whether this is because some of the concepts are perhaps overstated in odd ways but are in fact straightforward and commonsensical or whether new and profoundly different meanings are intended. “Learning may reside in non-human appliances” is a good example and from tweets and Leitha Delves’ blog I know I’m not the only one having problems with this. I come to CCK11 with very little background in learning theory and was not born yesterday so I’m probably more resistant than some when it comes to accepting new ideas. Anyway, here’s where I’m coming from (and I’m no biologist either!).

Firstly, since the capability to know or understand has evolved and adapted over many millions of years as a means of survival, I’d say that knowledge, know-how, meaning, understanding etc are primarily to do with the memory, modeling and ‘programming’ functions necessary for a living organism’s success (be it hunting, fighting, socializing or complex cultural activities). Learning is then the process by which organisms acquire these skills over and above the ones they are born with. In the case of the modern human, ‘success’ depends on an extraordinarily large number of cultural skills: reading, writing, etc and education in the widest sense. This places heavy demands on the individual in time and effort as well as economic and other burdens on society. Ways and means of meeting these demands in the most effective way is the concern of educators in particular and society in general.

Secondly, I’m quite happy to apply at least some some of the attributes of learning to non-human appliances such as books or databases. It seems natural to talk about the knowledge or meaning conveyed by a book or the know-how stored in a database (containing, for example, the procedural details of a complex constructional project). A robot programmed to construct something ‘knows’ how to do it and if the robot were to adapt and improve its performance through some sort of feedback mechanism then I might reasonably call this learning and ascribe an artificial intelligence to the robot.

If this type of thing is what Connectivism means by “Learning may reside in non-human appliances” then I’m quite happy with that but for me it seems to hang together perfectly well without bringing in connections at all. Clearly, connections are at work in the human brain and the robot might be programmed by an artificial neural network but outside that an individual can learn from a book, come up with a new idea, or learn how to juggle, without obvious engagement in social or any other sort of networks. No doubt the juggler would  become a better and more knowledgeable or even expert  juggler by exploiting connections within a network of jugglers, reading juggling books, accessing databases on juggling know-how or even interacting with juggling practice robots. Although juggling knowledge can then reasonably be said to be distributed across the network I’m not sure what is achieved by stating that it literally identifies with the connections between the nodes; another example of connectivist phraseology that jars with me, but maybe I’m missing something deeper. (Then again, maybe it’s all just semantics as I’ve certainly no problem with this little video by soto_mayra!)

Although I think that connectivism has the greatest relevance to social networks the connectivist focus on the similarities between neural networks and social networks jars a little less now after reading Stephen Downes, ‘An Introduction to Connective Knowledge’. It’s fascinating, scary even, to think how a futuristic social network or society could ‘know’ in a similar way to the human brain so I’m looking forward to next week’s topic on ‘patterns of connectivity’. (I wrote a facetious piece last year about education in 2022).

And now, back to next week’s readings ……..

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Written by Gordon Lockhart

January 23, 2011 at 12:35 pm

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#CCK11: More connections – and a little content on Learning Theories

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Looking forward to CCK11,  I’ve made one or two basic connections by laying down a few bookmarks in delicious, resurrecting an old twitter account and starting this blog. So far so good but where from here? I run a small, not-for-pofit education website and therefore have an interest in the workings of connectivism  where it means ‘networked learning’ but beyond that I’m not so clear about the concept and, as a retired educator with a background in engineering, not exactly up to speed when it comes to learning theories or philosophy. If there are others like me then so much the better but it’s quite possible that I’ll end up listening and lurking rather than contributing much. I’ve done some reading on learning theories though, so here’s a very initial thought – by way of content.

The Great Melting Pot of Learning Theories contains a large number of overlapping and sometimes competing theories and concepts dealing primarily in the realm of ideas or even speculation. To what extent has scientific method been applied as a means of validation? Not having surveyed the vast literature I can’t answer that but in some cases I wonder if it can be applied at all and if it can’t then how on earth do we sort out the good from the bad? In practice though, the different theories appear to be cheerfully applied by experienced educators simply according to how they best fit into different learning situations. Until a scientific basis for learning is achieved through neurology or whatever, I can’t really see an alternative to this sort of  pragmatism.

In the case of connectivism, I guess the jury may be out for some time if only because of its relative newness so every reason to maintain a healthy skepticism and an open mind. All the same,  given the rise of the MOOC, the energy and enthusiasm of those involved and the research activity following in its wake,  the MOOC itself,  and its little brother the OOC,  may be poised to provide the best fit examples yet of connectivism to real learning.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

January 12, 2011 at 3:12 pm

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#CCK11: Hello world! What’s new under the sun?

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I”ve mastered WordPress sufficiently to go public with this blog created for CCK11 and now, having made the connection, I’d better think of some content to put in – or maybe read the manual.

Anyway, YouTube videos embed without problems as I’ve proved below with this video I made last year as an experiment in using xtranormal. For some reason it seems to fit with the CCK11 theme ………..

 

Mary and Jon have been exploring the new Education Center.

Written by Gordon Lockhart

January 7, 2011 at 10:52 pm

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