This is heavy, Doc! …..Understanding Connectivism

The past week has marked my first in the CCK11: Connectivism & Connective Knowledge course. As the post title suggests, in the words of Marty McFly in the Back to the Future trilogy, the theory is “heavy”; that was my first impression as I worked my way through the readings and listened to the Elluminate sessions.

I will admit I am somewhat confused by the theory of Connectivism. When each element was discussed in a reading, it seemed to appear in a different context in order to explain another element or supporting concept. To combat my confusion and in an attempt to make sense of Connectivism, I used the excuse to try out “MindNode” on my new Mac. Surprisingly, it worked well in creating a visual to recognise the relationships between the supporting elements. (If anyone has any tips for embedding my mind map, its saved as a PDF, please let me know. I’d be happy to share it.)

Now at this stage I should probably delve into what I think are the supporting elements/concepts for Connectivism.

Knowledge – Connectivism holds that knowledge is distributed across a “network of connections”; knowledge is a “set of connections formed by actions and experience”.

Learning – the process of “connecting”; creating connections, useful information patterns and developing the ability to “traverse networks of connections” (where knowledge the distributed)

Technology – Connectivism recognises the impact of technology on our ability and ways in which we learn. Technology is an enabler of tools we use to interact with each other and “externalise our thinking”; the information environment we find ourselves in require tools and the ability to navigate (recognise connections and patterns) the complex and rapidly evolving landscape.

Networks – created by “nodes” (people, resources) connecting to one another. The elements of successful networks, as identified by Stephen Downes are: – connectivity, diversity, autonomy and openness. These elements can certainly be related to determining the success of one’s own PLN…but more on that relationship a bit later in the course.

The above mentioned elements (or concepts) of Connectivism set the parameters of my understanding of the theory. I’m not sure if what I’ve outlined is correct, this is only my interpretation of the theory and its supporting elements, so please feel free to correct me where I’m wrong. I’m simply trying to put all these elements, in order if you will, finding their “place” in the broader theory.

Amongst the readings and listening to the sessions, I couldn’t help but wonder…..can the theory of Connectivism be not only a response (and/or an updated learning theory) to the changing information landscape and the circumstances in which we learn, but also a strategy for surviving the information overload – learning “just in time”, rather than learning for “just in case”? Do we only make the connections we need to solve problems “now” or to fill an immediate knowledge gap?

There was a question raised in the Elluminate session – How do we know what knowledge is “official”? Well, my response would be that given knowledge (according to Connectivism) is a “set of connections”, there is no “official” knowledge, only information. We have to remember there’s a difference between information and knowledge. Information is just, well, its information. Knowledge on the other hand is the “connection/s” made between the information we have sought to create it. The only “official” knowledge is the connections we make in a networked way, and also the strengths of those connections (the strength being very important in maintaining the connection).

So there’s my reflection on my first week in CCK11. If there is anything from what I’ve discussed here you wish to see me explore further or clarify, please do not hesitate to let me know. I’ll only be too happy to write a follow up blog post.

There is one question which has arisen from my wonderings. Do librarians and information professionals have a role to play in supporting connectivism? Do we, as information professionals have a role in nurturing another’s development of their ability to make connections? I say, yes we do, perhaps in educating people in the use of tools and technology, at least.

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  1. Do librarians an information professionals have a role to play? The answer is a resounding “YES”. I think that as people who find, structure, and help people retrieve information these professionals *should* have a front row seat (your milage of course may vary).

    As far as “what is official knowledge”, I think that there is official knowledge and unofficial knowledge. For instance things that have been tested over and over again and proven *are* knowledge. That knowledge might be proven wrong by future testing as our understanding and technology are enhanced to test for things we could not test before, but it is knowledge nonetheless. I think that if we decide that “there is no knowledge, just information” we fall into the trap of believing that each persons *opinion* is valid information, and that can (and sometimes does) get us in trouble

    1. The difference between “official” and “unofficial” knowledge would be the degree of strength of connections between information. Each person’s “opinion” on a topic area is valid, however what becomes “proven knowledge”would evolve from the strength of “connections”.

  2. Alisa, the people I know who first started talking about all this technology stuff were information professionals. Certainly it’s about helping people discover and use tools that help them find information; moreover, I think most library and information professionals also have a “connectivist mindset” already. They’re mavens as well as connectors, as well as having a curious disposition. 🙂

    I found and posted on Google Docs a literature review for week 2’s social networks readings; you might be interested because the review is from the perspective of library and information sciences. It’s here:

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