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October 2, 2008

CCK08: How do I Know and How do I Learn?

Filed under: CCK08 — Tags: , , — Frank Polster @ 1:24 pm

Frank Polster, Director Army Training Information Systems

Abstract

As a learning theory, the most compelling and strongest points are Stephen Downes’ first two core assertions for Connectivism –

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

I accept the theory of Connectivism at face value as a condition to testing its validity. Determining it’s validity as a learning theory and it’s applications to produce adaptive, flexible problem solvers is the litmus test that I am seeking to apply to the theory of Connectivism.  Week 3 discussions on networks connected the dots for me by connecting Connectivism to communities of practice (CoP). The nature of the CoPs that I participate in, nurture new knowledge, stimulate innovation, and share explicit and tacit knowledge across virtual networks. CoPs as an application of Connectivism answers the litmus test. These connected networks allow me to dynamically solve/define problems; acquire new patterns by matching and comparing against stored patterns; and then prioritize and resolve the confusions and validity of the information through dialogue within the networks of people and aided by technology.

This is how I know and how I learn or as Stephen would say –

“To ‘know’ something is to be organized in a certain way, to exhibit patterns of connectivity. To ‘learn’ is to acquire certain patterns” (Downes 2005, Section O, ¶ 2).

How do I know I know and How do I Learn?

This paper examines my initial position on Connectvism after the first 4 weeks with the likelihood that the remaining 8 weeks will bring a continued maturity of the position.

“How do I know?” and “How do I learn?” are the questions that most learning theories attempt to address. Part of my understanding of Connectivism is a function of understanding other learning theories, making sense of my own learning experiences, and then placing Connectivism in an applied context.

My understanding of why and what behaviorist, cognitivists or constructivists believe in is cursory at best. As a freshman I was introduced to a “Skinner” box and came to understand how a rat’s behaviors are modified/shaped through rewards and penalties. The jump to how behaviorism applied to knowledge and learning in people was understandable. I got an A in the course with the right amounts of rewards and penalties. That does not mean that I “know” what behaviorism is, it just says I successfully learned the pattern of the maze.

From a theory point of view, I am comfortable with the cognitivists’s situated cognition (Lave, J., Wenger, E. (1991). I’ve seen some evidence from the Games and Learning Society , from Jim Gee’s (Situated Language and Learning (2004) and Steinkuehler’s work on MMOGs (Massively multiplayer online videogaming as participation in a Discourse (2006). The motivating, highly interactive, and immersive nature of “serious games” is compelling as a learning modality. Gee’s works about this modality makes the point that social identity is crucial for learning and that –

Good learning requires participation-however vicarious-in some social group that helpslearners understand and make sense of their experience in certain ways. It helps them understand the nature and purpose of the goals, interpretations, practices, explanations, debriefing, and feedback that are integral to learning. (Gee 2007, page 23)

Steinkuehler reinforces this point on her studies of networked MMOG when she says

Through participation in a Discourse community, an individual comes to understand theworld (and themselves) from the perspective of that community. Thus, semantic interpretation is taken as part of what people do in the lived-in world; it arises through interaction with social and material resources in the context of a community with its own participant structures, values, and goals. (Steinkuehler 2006, page 3)

This form of situated learning within a networked social-wrapper displays some of the same characteristics of Connectivism’s networked knowing and learning.

I have observed constructivists implementations and applauded a more student-centric model with the instructor providing assistance through a variety of scaffolding techniques to aid in problem solving and knowledge acquisition. I have even seen an implementation where networked communities of practice are part of the formal and informal structure of the course where learning is facilitated by the instructor, classmates and the community of practice members.

Connectivism and Other Learning Theories

“For many, the debate of changed modes of learning does not require an explicit statement. They sense it in their work, how they communicate, and how they learn. These individuals are not focused on what, if anything has changed theoretically. They are asking different questions than we are attempting to answer with dated theories.” (Siemens 2006, Conclusions page 38)

I would argue that a learning theory is necessary but not sufficient. It provides a foundation to build on and a framework that describes it’s structural character but it is not sufficient in detail to show where and how the utilities are emplaced or constructed (nor is intended to).  It may be that learning theories are part of a continuum – building on each other and modified based on answers to a new set of questions going through a dialectic process of theses, antitheses and synthesis.

Is it possible and is it likely that Connectivism is an extension of other learning theories like situated cognition? Is it possible that Connectivism has its roots in, Lave and Wenger’s theory of situated cognition (Lave, J., Wenger, E., 1991) and Wenger’s work in the field of communities of practice? (Wenger, E., 1998)

Is it possible that when Stephen says Connectivism is “knowledge distributed across networks” (of people, increasingly aided by technology) and that “learning is the act and process of forming and navigating networks”— is that much different from John Dewey’s description of education as essentially a “social process” where the quality of education (learning) is realized in the, “…degree in which individuals form a community group”? (Dewey 1938, page 58)

In my simple mind, Downes, Wenger, Gee, Steinkuehler and Dewey are describing networked communities of practice (CoP) and how it’s members know and learn.

Connectivism and How I Know and How I Learn

As a learning theory Connectivism’s most compelling and strongest points are Stephen Downes’ first two core assertions –

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

I accept the theory of Connectivism at face value as a condition to testing its validity. Determining it’s validity as a learning theory and it’s applications to produce adaptive, flexible problem solvers is the litmus test that I am seeking to apply to the theory of Connectivism.  Week 3 discussions on networks connected the dots with me by connecting Connectivism to communities of practice (CoP). The nature of the CoPs that I participate in, nurture new knowledge, stimulate innovation, and share explicit and tacit knowledge across virtual networks. CoPs as an application of Connectivism answers the litmus test. These connected networks allow me to dynamically solve/define problems; acquire new patterns by matching and comparing against stored patterns; and then prioritize and resolve the confusions and validity of the information through dialogue within the networks of people and aided by technology.

This is how I know and how I learn or as Stephen would say –

“To ‘know’ something is to be organized in a certain way, to exhibit patterns of connectivity. To ‘learn’ is to acquire certain patterns” (Downes 2005, Section O, ¶ 2).

References

1. Dewey, J. (1938). Experience & Education.

2. Downes, S. (2005, December 12). An introduction to connective knowledge., from http://www.downes.ca/cgi-bin/page.cgi?post=33034

3. Gee, J.P. (2007, The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, Pages 21-40 Posted Online December 3, 2007. (doi:10.1162/dmal.9780262693646.021)

4. Lave, J., Wenger, E. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

5. Siemens, George (2006, November 12) Connectivism: Learning Theory or Pastime of the Sel

Amused?

6. Steinkuehler, C. A. (in press). Cognition and literacy in MMOGs. In J. C. D. Leu, C. Lankshear, &K. Knobel (Eds.), Handbook of research on new literacies. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

8. Wenger, E. (1998) Communities of Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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October 1, 2008

CCK08 -Frank and Mark’s Concept Map

Filed under: CCK08 — Tags: , , — Frank Polster @ 12:38 am

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