Thursday, 5 February 2015

Connectivism and the benefits of PLNs.

 (This post is part of the #28daysofwriting blogging challenge. As I am just back from the airport and it is 11:20pm, I am using a previous post I wrote on another blog last year)

Connectivism is also known as the learning theory for the digital age and was introduced by two publications in 2005. George Siemens “Connectivism: learning as network creation” and Stephen Downes “Introduction to Connective Knowledge.”  
The Theory emphasises that knowing WHERE  and HOW to find knowledge, is just as important as knowledge itself.
The theorists argue that knowledge is always evolving, concepts altering or becoming obsolete. Connectivism views learning as a process of creating connections and expanding networks. Networks are usually observed with nodes and connections, as can be seen in the image above. Possible node formations are organisations, information, data, images and feelings.

Principles of Connectivism include:

  • knowledge is distributed, accessible and diverse.
  • learning is more critical than knowing
  • maintaining and nurturing connections is required to facilitate continual learning (PLN: Professional learning networks)
  • deciding what to learn and the if the knowledge is accurate and up to date is key. Discerning knowledge.
Gloabalisation has certainly allowed connectivism to flourish with advances to telecommunication, transport and infastructure. Of course, humans have connected over long distances in the past, however these interactions have been fraught with inconsistencies, lack of speed, reliability and limited resources such as technology.
Allow me to share a story. As a teen, I travelled with my family to Queensland for the World Expo’88 (theme “Leisure in the age of Technology“). The Expo also celebrated the 1988 Bicentennial celebration of European Settlement in Australia. Here I was exposed to many wonderful pavilions from the 36 participating nations. The expo opened my eyes to spaces and cultures, tastes and sights. It was experiential learning at its best. The learning that occurred was far more greater than anything ever gained from my parents prized set of World Book encyclopaedias at home, textbooks or activities at school! The International Penfriends association were present and as an eager and engaged teenager I signed up to be connected with 10 others from around the world. We were asked a number of questions to ascertain hobbies,interests and values. From memory, this was entered into a computer board in the pavilion. Around the globe others had already engaged in the same process. My name was also placed on 10 other lists. I was connected with friends in China, The Netherlands, Estonia and USA. Some letters were never returned. Others flourished into meaningful and long lasting friendships. I am still in contact with Agnes from Estonia and Margo, The Netherlands, who I have fortunately met four times.

We have shared our lives through school, higher education, relationships, the world of work, marriage and family.   
Where we once needed to wait an excruciating 6 weeks for snail mail to receive news of the recent boyfriend saga or acceptance of a new job, we now connect instantaneously via Twitter, FB, SMS or email. The joy of “conversing” through Facebook inbox in real time at midnight in Sydney (afternoon in Europe) with Margo and Agnes for the first time, has always been treasured. I remember posting a USA money note as a souvenir to a Penpal in China who bought a pair of jeans, 4 loaves of bread and a vase for her Mother with the money!  As a coin and note collector, I was sharing a souvenir, not thinking for a moment the value of that note was worth so much to her when it was just small change here. Writing letters and exploring my world via the Penfriends iniative allowed me to improve my literacy, draw upon various stories for inspiration with creative writing and gain a tremendous appreciation of cultures. Without realising, I was practicing skills for the future world where connectivism is now key to engaging and meaningful learning. 
“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. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).”   Karen Stephenson.
Technology has certainly reorganised how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn. It is an exciting and opportunistic time. A time to build capacity in ourselves and our networks. To share and to grow. To explore; play; be challenged and to disrupt. We know that learning is a continual process and that as adults we no longer have the one career throughout our adult life. Connectivism is needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.
Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
George Siemens
Informal learning is now a huge part of the learning landscape. Creating and maintaining networks via social media is an effective means to creating PLNs (Professional Learning Networks).
People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy.
Oliver Goldsmith
Keeping the conversations flowing,
Yours, JJ

Jeannette James

#28daysofwriting #blogpost4 #blogginchallenge

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