Connectivism, introduced in the mid 2000’s, is an idea based on the premise that knowledge exits within systems and is acquired by individuals who interact collaboratively within activities related to that knowledge. Whether you view connectivism as a learning theory or a “pedagogical view”, the movement has significant connections to behaviorism, congnitivism, and constructivism. Marcy Perkins Discroll, in her book, Psychology of Learning for Instruction, defines learning as “a persisting change in human performance or performance potential…[which] must come about as a result of the learner’s experience and interaction with the world.” Connectivism embodies this definition within it’s core principles.
According to Wikipedia, the eight core principles of connectivisim are:
- Learning and knowledge rest in differences of opinions.
- Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
- Learning may reside in non-human technology.
- Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
- Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continuous learning.
- Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a necessary skill.
- Knowledge that is current is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
- Decision-making is itself a learning process.
Connectivism is not really a new idea, but new technology has given us ways to “connect” or “interact” faster and more easily. Approaches to teaching and learning are changing as a result. Project-based learning and challenged-based learning are two examples. Another example, the Flat Classroom, founded by Vicky Davis and Julie Lindsay, springs from a constructivist approach in which the key component is “lowering the wall” of the classroom through technology so that students are joined virtually to create a more expansive, collaborative learning environment.
From a social studies teacher’s perspective, the benefits of this type of global collaboration for my students are immediately evident:
- Authenticity of learning – activities are engaging and real-world
- Abundance of sources – almost limitless human resources including primary sources
- Interaction within a global community – the world becomes smaller
- Access – opportunity to explore and learn about different cultures first hand
The following infographic, in my opinion, is a good representation of the concept. The words active, relevant, real-world, effective, hands-on, networked, innovative, personal, and transformative are all apt descriptors. An additional word could be added to the “openly networked” heading to read: “connected learning environments link learning in home, school, community, and the world.”
My first project for Course 1 of CoETaIL is a collaborative blog unit that focuses on culture and digital citizenship. It begins as a collaborative class activity and then expands into collaboration on a larger scale. The “tweet” of it’s description would be: ”a project that allows student teams opportunities for research, creativity, and collaboration with students from around the world.” This will be our first project-based activity in the next school year and I’m excited to implement this new unit. Due to its relevance, I’m reposting the unit plan here.
A final thought about connectivisim and global collaboration leads me back to the Education Week article, The Classroom Is Obsolete: It’s Time For Something New. According to the author, Prakash Nair, it is an established scientific fact that the current model of the classroom is obsolete. The author goes on to state the following elements that successful learning environments must have in order to prepare students for success in the 21st century:
- Safe and Secure
- Rigorous and hands-on
- Embodying a culture of excellence and high expectations
- Environmentally conscious
- Connections to local community and businesses
- Globally networked
- Setting the stage for life-long learning
I feel lucky to be able to work in an educational environment that is moving in this direction. A one-to-one laptop environment has availed numerous opportunities and resources to my students that were not as readily available before. They are “connected” to the world in an instant. Some teachers worry that technology will make their jobs obsolete. I disagree. In good schools, teachers are working carefully to engineer effective and appropriate learning opportunities that incorporate many of the 21st century educational elements listed above. “Change is good.” Though cliché, this is a true statement. Unfortunately, change is often hindered by lack of financial resources including those earmarked for technology and professional development. Nonetheless, as Nair points out, good teachers are putting forth their best efforts everyday to overcome the “limitations” of the traditional classroom-based schools. Empowering our students to connect, interact, and collaborate is empowering them for success.