Sunday, 20 September 2009

Reflections on CCK09 Week 1

What is Connectivism?

Was a stimulating first week. Not quite what I expected and I must say I started off as a skeptic. However, there seems to be something in the 'theory'. The observation that this sort of learning is happening and appears to generate knowledge and understanding about topics quite clear. Connectivism does explain a lot of the activities. I am reading Wenger's Digital Habitats and going over his 'communities of practice' theory at the same time and this provides an interesting diversity of viewpoints.

The pace of adoption and the range of different tools used by the other 'students' on the course is quite incredible and I feel thoroughly 'immersed' as Downes would say. Gained experience with Ning, Yahoo! Pipes, Wiki, Blogs, tag hacking, RSS, Elluminate and Friendfeed. Watching how others use them is an excellent way to learn but also the use of the learning techniques explained by connectivism is a great way to learn about connectivism itself.

There are a lot of CCK08 attendees in CCK09 and I wonder what the proportion is. I feel quite humbled to be among some very deep thinkers and maybe the whole thing will make more sense if I come back in CCK10!

Defining terms has helped my understanding and have worked on a wiki page for a Connectivism Glossary. I found that writing out the jargon and then finding or inferring the definitions from previous papers by Siemens and Downes helped me piece together what the theory meant. More established theories have plenty of books on the subject which allow plenty of time to explain the jargon. I suppose this approach is a quite a 'constructivist' style of learning and I didn't really network very much to achieve it. James Neill helped thanks!

One of the polarities of digital communities that Wenger talks about in 'Digital Habitats' is the balance between participation and reification (or the creation of objects and artifacts). I wonder what the balance is in CCK09 at the moment. From my perspective it seems to be heavily in favour of participation as shown, for example, by the two separate discussion forums http://cck2009.ning.com/ and the 'official' http://ltc.umanitoba.ca/moodle/course/view.php?id=68. I feel that I have done more reification and not enough participating so will try and do more next week.

Wondered how connectivism is related to other theories. Having last studied learning theory about 10 years ago during a diploma in medical education I felt quite out of date. It seems everyone else has been having a deep philosophical debate about theories whilst I've been happily getting along with just applying what little I knew to OnExamination.com. So taking a lead from a posting by Siemens, and this article http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-learn.htm I put together a table of learning theories to help me fill in the blanks and see how connectivism compares. There has been a lot of talk about the differences and similarities of connectivism and connectionism which has seemed far too geeky for my liking. Might be useful to return to the table at some point and put connectionism in as well.

So, after a week I think I could say I think connectivism has far more background and argument than I had initially thought. The concept of 'emergent properties' is a bit of a challenge for me at the moment. Of what use is 'understanding' or 'knowledge' in a network if it can't be utilised by one or more of the people in the network. If it can be utilised then surely it is in the people and not the network. Hopefully we'll cover that in due course!

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