Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements — not entirely under the control of the individual. George Siemens
Several of the learning theories we discussed this week were familiar from previous classes — behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. Connectivism was new… and yet familiar. New in that I had not encountered it as a learning theory before — the idea that having connections and knowing where to go for information is a form of learning. As I have been progressing through this Masters program, I have come to rely more and more on learning from my classmates as much as from the professor, but I still felt as though it was my learning. Connectivism seems to take this one step further in saying that “learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity” (elearningspace.org/Articles/connectivism). We as a class are learning from each other and with each other, tapping into all of our various networks to pull in new information, and relying on our hub — that would be you, Dr. Watwood — to “foster and maintain [the] knowledge flow.”
The familiar part of the theory of connectivism is its relation to chaos theory. I have written about my affinity for the idea that life is not a series of “meant to be” episodes, but rather a continuum of random chaos (see blog post entitled The Spice of Life). Siemens writes that in chaos, “meaning exits — the learner’s challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden.” With connectivism, everything is connected to everything, so one small change will have widespread consequences, much like the Butterfly Effect Siemens references in his blog. This theory makes so much sense to me (is it an oxymoron to say that about chaos?) because with so many decisions being made by so many organisms at any given point, how can the outcome be known ahead of time?
Connectivism also seems to fit with my interest in the teachings of eastern religions. As this excerpt from Thich Nhat Hanh’s Being Peace illustrates, you should be willing to let go of what you think you know today and be open to new learning.
(Thanks to my sister for “randomly” posting this on Facebook earlier this week.) This seems in line with what Siemens cites as one of the principles of connectivism. “Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.”
So, I am feeling validated in that there are foundations for my affinity for chaos. However, the sense of chaos I feel as we head into these next four weeks of class online is causing me trepidation.
Time management has never been one of my strengths. My current nemesis is the vast array of information provided by this connected learning environment. Instead of having just one or two reading assignments from a textbook, I have that plus online articles or blog posts (which often contain related links) plus “additional resources” I can read… next thing I know it’s way past my bedtime. Oh, and don’t forget the course library and my classmates’ blogs! I’ve also become addicted to several daily digests that lead me to find even more things to read. In looking back over the “advice for online learners” offered in our second night of class, I doubt I will have any trouble committing 4-15 hours per week. My problem will be making a schedule and cutting it off somewhere around that maximum time frame.
With a F2F class meeting, I felt a sense of deadline and natural transition to the next topic, but without those, I worry that I will have trouble making my own deadlines. I think I need to go back and take to heart Siemens notion that “the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.” In other words, I need to recognize that I cannot know everything about the topics we’ll cover in these next few weeks, but what I can do is read enough to have a basis of knowledge and to build the necessarily connections to sources of information.
Okay, so now I’m back to feeling validated. This theory of connectivism can keep me sane as I embrace the chaos.