This informal CPD article is Part 2 of “Online Learning Era” provided by Vasilis Palilis director of WIDE Training Academy of the WIDE Services company.
The article has 4 parts.
1. In the first part, "Community of inquiry", we discuss the process of empirical or conceptual inquiry into problematic situations.
2. In the second part, " Connectivism”, we discuss how knowledge is distributed in a network of connections through the use of technology.
Let’s explore part 2.
Over the last 10 years, the internet has developed more end-user-friendly technologies. Now, everyone can share things and thoughts with others. Information is growing at a rate that is practically impossible for an individual or a group to keep up with. At the same time, experts estimate that in 2020, human knowledge will double every 12 hours, whereas in 1945 it doubled every 25 years.
These rapid changes have resulted in a new theory of learning called Connectivism. Connectivism claims that knowledge is distributed in a network of connections through the use of technology. This theory was developed and explored by George Siemens and Stephen Downes.
George Siemens' approach
Siemens distinguishes the cognitive process into three levels
1. The biological level of neuronal function in the brain.
2. The grand level of making conceptual connections and;
3. The external social spaces level where information is exchanged with other participants. Social and technological systems now form part of human knowledge more and more and multiply our overall capacity to know.
In 2004 he published the article Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age which is considered the first attempt to establish Connectivism.
According to Siemens "Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn are more important than our current state of knowledge."
According to Siemens, Connectivism is based on the following principles:
- Learning and knowledge are based on a diversity of opinions.
- Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
- Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
- The capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
- Nurturing and maintaining connections are 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.
Stephen Downes' approach
Stephen Downes describes what a Network of learning is:
Network learning inside an organization is the actual formation of connections
- for a person connections between neurons in the brain (see our previous article, Individual Learning Part 2 - Neuroscience View of Learning)
- for an organization or society connections between people and ideas
The four major criteria for success in network learning, are Openness, Autonomy Diversity, and Connectedness. The networks that have these criteria make better decisions and are more reliable for use, for predicting the future or for determining the course of action.
Openness is the idea that there are no clear borders to the outside of the network and the network easily allows influences to come in and easily sends influence to the outside world.
Autonomy is the idea that members of the network make their own decisions, work according to their own values, and have their own goals and objectives.
Diversity is based on the idea that there is no value in networks if everything is the same. Instead, there is a value from the input perspective if things are diverse or different. We need many different perspectives and points of view. From the functionality within a network, the idea is that each member performs a different function.
Connectedness is the idea that knowledge is produced by the interactions of all members of a network instead of multiplying an individual's knowledge. Knowledge is more than what can be contained in any given member of the network and can only be created through the interaction of all the members of the network.
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