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Thought about Part 4, Draft 4, Point 4

Page history last edited by dustcube 14 years ago

Thoughts about Part 4 Draft 4


I mentioned in Part 4 Draft 4 that I wondered whether we should try and ground our research in a theoretical framework. By chance today - I revisited George's presentation on What is Connectivism - http://elearnspace.org/media/WhatIsConnectivism/player.html


In this he outlines (first 5 slides) 5 principles of learning theory:

1. The need to externalise - to express ourselves to other - through language, artefacts and the arts

2. The need for frameworks and structures for sensemaking - theories, philopsophies, concepts (just what we have been struggling to find here)

3. The need to socialise and negotiate around knowledge - exchange and dialogue with others

4. Our mind is a patterning mind - we need to draw patterns from complex environments

5. We have a desire to extend our humanity - through technology


And then in Slide 19, he talks about learning being a function of


 - depth and diversity of connections (neural, conceptual and socia)

-  frequency of exposure

- integration with exisiting ideas and concepts

- strong and weak


We have already a lot of ideas (gleaned through our personal experiences, our discussion and our reading) about the differences between bloggers and moodlers learning preferences. We have found through our lists and Matthias' Cmap that these differences/similarities are clustered around the themes of personal and conceptual connections. We have tentatively suggested that we might need to explore these in relation to learning styles.


I'm wondering if it would be better to explore these in relation to George's presentation. We could frame our questionnaire questions, not only on the hypotheses that we already have but also against his 5 principles of learning theory. Would this give our research more weight, in that we would also be testing a new learning theory? Or is this just adding an unecessary and confusing level of complexity? What do you think?


I think we can hook into the "depth and diversity" of connections. We are teasing out

  • what type of diversity
    • (multi-facet
    • or initially distant),
  • and what type of depth/ strength
    • (for personal ties:
      • group-like uniformly medium-strong
      • vs. initially weak and strengthening,
    • and for conceptual ties,
      • implicitly preset closeness and synchronicity,
      • vs. initially weak and strengthening).

The similarity between personal and conceptual ties should be fitting in the connectivist framework, right? And other, older frameworks would not cater for such new questions as blogger preferences.


I agree with the above approaches.  When I reflected on George's principles of learning theory, I was questioning the degree of validity in networked learning.  On one hand, most of these principles seem to look at the "why" learning, but when it comes to "how" people learn, we are not sure about the impact of technology on the "nature of learning".  George has cautioned throughout that a change in the tools and technology may have an impact on how people learn and so he tried to avoid mixing technologies in the Connectivism as a learning theory which is driven by technology.  On the other hand, we could still explore "how' people might have learnt differently with the use of technologies or tools - Web 2.0, blogs, forum, facebook, delicious, tweeters etc. (we restrict it to blogs and forum in our research). 

So I support the use of those concepts and models presented above to build a refined model of connectivism.  These are based upon

(a) CMaps

(b) Empirical data (the experiment of this Connectivism course), the comments and impressions from the participants AND instructors (George and Stephen),

(c) the survey research (with some action research by us). and 

(d) literature review  

By John


This approach will surely align with the connectivist approach basing upon those "principles" proposed by George and Stephn. 


I think there are some difficult to address questions to explore in connectivism as a learning theory:

(a)  Is the pipe always more important than the content?  I raised this as a fundamental question, as I found some participants were not yet convinced of the importance of the pipe.  I think many participants who were historians may argue that history (the facts) doesn't change, only people's attitudes or perception change.  If that is the case, is the content (history) more important than the way history is presented or perceived (the pipe) or vice versa?  I don't know! 

So, does it mean that even with an ever changing knowledge society, there are some "facts" or content that should be viewed as more important than the process upon which knowledge is acquired?  Also, what happens if people distort the history using various means (like wikipedia, blogs or mob community)?  Will this invalidate the principle of "pipe" being more important than the content?

Another example refers to the medical profession.  Most medical professionals (doctors) are still viewed as the experts in the medical profession.  To what extent is the pipe more important than the content, in case of medical advice?  Should the advice itself be more important than the way how the advice is given or sought?  And if that is the case, should we trust more on the medical professional advice (content) by the doctor or the internet medical advice (the pipe) or other medical sources of advice?  This may be an extreme case, but I think it deserves some reflection.  Please advice. By John

  • I think there is a big temptation to continue the course questions for a long time (especially the unfortunate pipes-vs-content slogan which... -- no I won't engage in the discussion myself!). But in the context of our questionnaire it is IMO only important how comfortable people were with the various types of pipes and nodes, on personal and conceptual level, no matter how important they were. Or maybe how important the participants found them, no matter if there is an objective importance.
  • Matthias, I agree with your points above.  I have no intention of having the pipes vs content discussion to go any further, IMHO.  How about the development and refinement of questionnaire now? Matthias, Jenny and Roy,  I think this may take 2 weeks to complete.  By early April 09, would we be ready for the dispatch of survey questionnaire?   By John

I am quoting just the above for us to consider in the questionnaire, but you may equally find it useful to examine other principles to see the degree of validity in network learning. 

(b) the 4 properties of network by Stephen - autonomy, openness, diversity and connectedness or interactiveness.  The only one property I think we need to further test is the openness.  If people are just lurking (read and observe), does it mean that without openness, they could still learn by "navigating" over the network?  If people are not being open (this is typical in the corporate business where "fees for service" is important for their business), is opennes critical to learning?  There are many networks which are closed (they required fees and you could only access their service if you are members) and it seems that they have all the "properties" of network, but not being open.

Could we test these in this research?

John 9/3/2009


It is useful in principle to engage with the MOOC definitions of learning. But I think we need to be very careful not to fall into the hole that connectivism seems to have dug itself, namely the idea that a learning theory can described in normative terms.  (The why rather than the how questions, see Matthias, above).


The 5 principles look to me to be a theory of humanist culture: a culture in which people can express themselves, socialise, dialogue, find patterns, and extend their humanity.  Wonderful stuff, but it is not a learning theory. 


Roy, I resonate with your views in that I think the 5 principles are explanation of why we need a NEW learning theory rather than the how learning occurs (differently from the past) at this digital age.  A new learning theory needs to state both the WHY and HOW learning occurs at this digital age


Its not necessary to go into too much detail, but to clarify: A learning theory must include "what causes learning to happen", which is part of "why learning happens".  But it should not include "why we need learning".  Emancipatory and normative issues must inform education, but they cant inform learning theory.  Nice people and nasty people learn, and learning theory must be able to account for both.


The principles involved in how we learn (differently) with ICT/ emerging technologies (in our brains and between our brains and networks etc.) could be based on those conceptual creation and changes, formation and development of new knowledge or ideas (or cognition) as a result of the changes at the 3 levels (neural, conceptual and external/social) etc.  These are the result of connections, re-connections or re-wiring of the connections of the networks and re-configuration of the networks (from a system point of view).  Such connections are based and resided on adaptive, emergent networks. An analogy of such rapid changes would be  that ICT/emergent technologies are acting like catalysts in chemical reactions, which enable learning to occur amongst agents (human, in particular) at a MACRO LEVEL through exploration, multi-channel communication, community collaboration, multi-level exchange and capitalise, and the creation and distribution of cognition under a complex adaptive network ecology (Roy, I borrow yours to elaborate on how learning changes).


ANT does provide an explanation of the HOW networks are formed.  A consideration of the agents and ACTORS(human and non-human), technologies (I renamed it as catalyst), and the environment (the ecology based on digital media, the culture (like our learning and research culture) by itself forms a network, which may be transient, and would be morphing (changing from time to time) in order to "learn" and adapt under the newly transformed ecology - the adaptive digital ecology.  (Roy, please correct me on these, as I am too new to ANT).by John 11/03/2009


And I am afraid that ‘sense-making’ is just another word for learning.  It adds little in the way it is used here.



And even the slide 19 material could be a specification for a theory of ideology, not learning. :(



I use a shorthand formulation for learning, which is framed in terms of affordances (affordances are the ‘capacity for effective action within a dynamic context’):



Learning is the process of exploring, mastering and benchmarking new affordances.



Affordances in turn include skills, information and strategy: i.e. the capacity to carry out complex tasks, informed by data about the task, the materials, the context, (the universe, if you like) in a way that makes strategic sense in the particular context at a particular time.


Roy, I like your definition of learning.  I am still exploring the concepts of ANT before I could form an opinion of the possibility of a hybrid of Connectivism and ANT.  By John 11/03/2009  John, I use quite a bit of ANT, but the affordances stuff is from ecological psychology and complexity theory rather than ANT.   ANT, certainly in Bruno Latour's interpretation, would take a more descriptive approach - sometimes ANT comes across as anti-theoretical, which is unfortunate.


To do all of this we require:

1. Exploration 

A safe environment in which we can explore i.e in which we can make mistakes, and receive feedback, and reflect and meta-reflect on the process.



Therefore we also require:

2.  Communication 

A communication system, to exchange ideas, and build concepts, models, etc: intellectual tools, to go with the physical tools.



3. Community [Benchmark]

A community in which exchange and tool-building (physical and intellectual) can take place.  This needs some agreement on reciprocal exchange of goods, tools, opportunities to interact and so on.  It is desirable that this should be equitable, but that is by no means a necessary condition (Habermas famously based his ‘ideal speech situation’ on this faulty premise).



4. Exchange and Capitalise  [Master]

Basic protocols for exchange of goods, credit, and ideas, so that we accumulate capital in all three, and don’t accumulate them too asymmetrically, as that generally leads to violence and war, and destroys the capital.  (Aesthetic goods and ideas can be included if you can afford them).



The difference between the pre-internet and the ‘connectivist’ /networked society is that we now have a number of unique and unprecedented ways of doing all of these things.


So ...


1.  Exploration

We have a virtual environment, as well as an off-line digital environment in which, in principle, we can explore and make mistakes, and give each other feedback.  (Child pornography and abuse reminds us that we still have a lot to learn here).



2. Communication  [Its more than connecting, no?]

The integrated and globally networked digital ecologies (tools, artefacts/actors, media, social software, MOOCs) we now have allow faster, more efficient and effective communication.



3. Community

The same digital ecology broadens the community and allows more access and more imaginative uses (including Al-Quaida networks, and junk-security financing, so lots of work still to do there too).



4. Exchange / Share / Capitalise

The same digital ecology (pipes and bytes) improves our ability to produce and accumulate capital in all three areas (good, credit, and ideas) by radically increasing our ability to share, contest, and create protocols for capital formation, including capital formation in the network that allows this to happen (recursive capital formation, if you get my drift). (And ... new dilemmas such as whether the genome for Anthrax should be published in scientific journals reminds us of the work we have to do here, too).



5a. Distributed Cognition #2

What’s new (we must give connectivism its due, no?) is that knowledge / cognition is distributed in unprecedented ways, and resides more then ever in the network [not “in the pipes”, but in the relationships and the bytes between the nodes, many of whom are, crucially, human].  Language has always been distributed cognition by definition (#1), but up to now its never been possible to hear what someone else is saying on the other side of the planet (or in a moon capsule, if you must).



5b.  What’s also new is that ‘distributed’ media no longer just means ‘consumed’ media, or ‘read only’ media, it also means ‘writeable media’ / ‘punk production’ / mashups, and even further [5c?] it means executable social software that you can download, apply, and customise.



This in turn provides new opportunities for exploring and making virtual (?) mistakes, and entering the digital ecology as a full member, i.e. a fully two-way ecological relationship, not just a mass media / mass market consumer relationship.   


As most participants haven't been exposed to these concepts presented by Roy (and the ANT), would it be necessary to share such concepts here on our Ning Network?  Roy, Matthias and Jenny, Comments?  Roy - how are we going to incorporate these under the Connectivism banner?  Or do you think we need a separate discussion on this just like that post posted by Frances?

Roy: What questions would you like to incorporate in the survey?

by John 11/03/2009 


John, I am happy to post a version of this on the Ning. 

How do we incorporate this with connectivism?  I am not sure.  I would love to engage with connectivism's theory of learning, as opposed to connectivism's theory of connections and networks.  From IT practice we know that many large computer networks are really dumb - they can get more stupid as they grow, so we have to be a bit careful about equating: more networking = more intelligent, which is an aspect of connectivism which I think still needs some work.  Its like the pipes-yes/bytes-no distinction - its too simple to be useful.  


What questions? 

 I will have a look, and make some suggestions.  I just needed to let you all know, and to clarify for myself, the framework within which I would think about which questions to ask.  I accept that the focus is on blogs, and that's fine.  I would just like to tease out some questions on the borderlines between blogs/forums etc. 


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