SIMNET Weblog

September 18, 2008

CCK08: Am I asking the wrong question?

Filed under: CCK08 — Tags: , — Frank Polster @ 5:10 pm

Dear, CCK08 and SCORM 2.0 Colleagues,

Well we are halfway through week 2 of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge Course and this Wednesday’s forum on Elluminate had a conversation between Stephen, George and Dave Cormier on this weeks readings Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge , Shifting Knowledge (from Knowing Knowledge) , Rhizomatic Knowledge (Dave Cormier). “What is knowledge” and “what is knowledge in connectivism terms” appears to me to be the fundamental thrust of the readings and discussion.

The discussion on objective knowledge and subjective knowledge reminded me of philosophic discussions on what is truth or beauty – interesting but un-resolved. I am beginning to think that trying to understand the theory of connectrivism will fall in to the same category – interesting but unresolved.

Maybe I am asking the wrong question and it is not “What is connectivism? But “Why is this learning theory or others important?”

I ended up watching a keynote address by Chris Dede at the 2007 Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning – “Emerging models of learning/teaching via cyber infrastructure” and he had a story that I thought that was appropriate. His daughter was about to enter college and she asked him what she should major in. He thought it was a gratuitous question since he was paying the bills but he surprised her by saying I don’t care what you major in. He continued to say, that whatever you major in, it ought to be something that machines don’t do well (e.g. history, English)

Chris had earlier discussed the need for literacy’s that provide you with the skills for problem finding (not solving) which are (1) expert decision making and (2) complex communications. His example on expert decision making was taking a car to the dealership and finding that it still doesn’t work after the machines performed all of their diagnostics. That’s where the mechanic/expert decision making came in and the problem finding. The complex communications example for me came from this week’s reading from Stephen. His metaphor was no one person has the knowledge on how to fly an airplane because that knowledge resides in connected network of folks and internet appliances – air craft mechanics, pilots, aircraft engineers avionic databases, etc (it’s distributed on the network). Problem finding will come from a person’s ability to navigate through that connected network of people and appliances. Stephen’s bottom line core assertions for connectivism (the first two) –

  • knowledge is distributed across networks (of people, increasingly aided by technology) and that
  • learning is the act and process of forming and navigating networks.

Now to another connected thought on what machines do well and are increasingly getting better at and the idea of knowledge also residing in internet appliances. In Wired Magazine’s July issue, Chris Anderson had a article, The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete. He suggested an alternative/better way to the scientific methodology (a method used to determine objective knowledge?).

He uses Google’s use of algorithms to find things we search for where massive amounts of data and applied mathematics replace tools like theories of human behavior, linguistics to sociology. “Who knows why people do what they do? The point is that they do it and we can track and measure it with unprecedented fidelity.” For lack of a word for the methodology I call it the petabyte method which “allow us to say: Correlation is enough” Now, I am not trying to equate data and information to knowledge but it is part of the connectivism equation of how we learn.

So after all of this the so what for me came out of Pat Parslow email when she said –

To produce adaptive, flexible problem solvers (which requires education on top of training), it would seem to make sense to use communities to provide a wide-band range of information across a number of topics and let the mind of the learner do what it does best – pattern matching and prioritizing, and resolving confusions.” – Pat Parslow

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1 Comment »

  1. I feel your pain. :). When Stephen specifically mentioned the suggestion I posed of applying the theory to an issue like developing a connectivism based mathematics class for third grade students and with a tone that suggested I don’t get it I could feel myself sliding into the camp of the Skeptic Siren (in every sense of the word.). No, you are asking the right question, the one every educator must pose to every would-be theorist: “So what?”. If connectivism, etc. doesn’t translate into increased learning in a practical way then all of the theorizing in the world is pointless as a generation passes by.

    Comment by arieliondotcom — September 18, 2008 @ 7:01 pm


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