Focusing on Network Theory #CCK11

During the last couple of weeks in the CCK11 open course, I’ve looked at Network Theory and Connective Knowledge. The readings from Week 3 about Connective Knowledge made me think about what it is I want from participating in the course. Basically, by my taking this course I aim to develop an understanding of Connectivism in a relatively structured way to feed into my current research in Personal Learning Networks – experiences and approaches to developing one for the new information professional and the value of an PLN to continued professional development. Suffice to say, focusing on applying network theory and concepts to one’s development and maintenance of a PLN seemed more relevant to my learning objectives for CCK11.

In the readings about Network Theory, I came across a number of different frameworks, all to enable analysis, description and determining effectiveness of a network.

Firstly, there are basic elements of a network – entities, connections and signals (or message). “Entities” being people, I assume individuals at this point; “Connections” being the channel or tool used; and “Signals” being the message or a piece of information if you will. From here, the network can vary with the following properties:-

  • Density – “how many other entities each entity is connected to”;
  • Speed – “how quickly a message moves (or is received) by an entity”;
  • Flow  – “how much information an entity processes – sent, received and transferred for other entities”;
  • Plasticity – ‘frequency of connections made’;
  • Degree of connectedness – “a function of density, flow and plasticity”.

Networks which are described as “effective” will exhibit the following elements or characteristics: –

  • Diversity – does the network encompass a wide variety of viewpoints?
  • Autonomy – are people contributing to the network on their own accord and not acting on an agenda of a group of organisation they work for?
  • Interactivity – is the knowledge produced by the network a product of interaction or just “a mere aggregation of perspectives”?
  • Openness – are different perspectives ‘allowed’ into the network, heard and interacted with others?

Relating these elements back to PLNs, a question would be how can we measure these elements to determine if we’re participating in an “effective network”? Can identifying an “effective network” be a strategy or approach to building and maintaining a PLN which will maximise learning opportunities? Network theory has prompted my thinking about the outcomes I’m looking for from participating in my PLN as a continual professional development activity.

Downes’ (2006) paper continues to outline “elements of network semantics”. While another relevant framework, I think there are only so many ways you can describe and interpret the climate of a network. I will need to create a visual to further understand how this other dimension can fit in a practical sense. Off to MindNode…

Now, just quickly on “connective knowledge” – Downes describes how connective knowledge occurs by stating that “a property of one entity must lead to or become a property of another entity….the knowledge that results is “connective knowledge”. For there to be connective knowledge an interaction must take place.  Makes sense, but how does a simple statement require over 30 pages of text? After the readings, I still couldn’t grasp the concept of “connective knowledge”. The readings were too wordy, beyond the depth required to explain it and filled with unnecessary jargon, in my opinion. So I came out of Week 3’s content with no real clue as to what the learning objectives actually were.

In a few weeks CCK11 will cover Personal Learning Networks, to which I’m looking forward to. This post may need to be teased apart to examine network theory and connective knowledge more closely…..

References

Downes, Stephen. 2006. Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge.
Downes, Stephen. 2005. An Introduction to Connective Knowledge.
Downes, Stephen. 2005. Learning Networks: Theory and Practice (Presentation)

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