Jeong’s Final Research Project: Connectivism

What is Social Networking and Where We Are with Technology

The term, social networking, can be defined as an act of individual’s subdividing activity with specific groups on-line. Examples can be fans of Paulo Coelho’s books, Starbucks Coffee lovers, Asian Museum in San Francisco, or Discovery Channel watchers. Also, it can be defined as software utilization which enables people to get together with similar idea, interests, or objectives according to an on-line dictionary, If this concept is accepted and taken seriously by teachers of writing, the possible utilization of the concept into classroom is immense. Not only Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, Friendster, LiveJournal, Livemocha, Ning, Twitter, etc., there are new social networking sites being created online everyday and exponentially people are using them. If google the word, “social networking sites,” for example, one can get the result of 39,500,000 hits as of November, 2009. A teacher can choose any of the social networking sites for a writing class to make the class more interactive as well. If the teacher is comfortable with using technology, s/he can set up a blog site only for the class to motivate students to interact with each other. Any topic can be discovered; subject matters, social issues, hobbies, interests, career plans, fashion trend or music, technology, politics, or relationships.

As a matter of fact, Internet offers new possibilities for writing classroom with the potentials of social network. As we all agree, classroom setting can be made more powerful, more realistic, and more interesting using the real world application, and the Web is a powerful tool for creating the social environment. Since the digital native generation who are accustomed to use as a tool to do every aspect of their lives is engaged with technology, the value of social networks within a school must be highly valued.

The Internet generation is engaged with technology. The data overwhelmingly supports that. In a recent study 96% of students reported using social networks and 60% reported using them to talk about educational subjects. Half reported using social networks for school work. And yet 62% of schools in that survey prohibited blogging or online discussion boards at school. 52% prohibited any social networking sites at school. In that same study, 76% of parents felt that social networks could conceivably improve their children’s reading and writing. This is evidence of disconnect among the participants in education, teachers, students and parents (Lenhart, Madden, Hlitlin, 2005).

However, this study somehow reveals that there is broadening disconnection among the participants in education, teachers, students and parents. Majority of people, not only outside, but also inside of the school system know that technology is like a breathing equipment to function if one wants to catch up the current technology. Nonetheless, our school system appeared to be that the leaders from the area had not chosen to consider that implementation of internet use is not a priority to adjust.

Like many others, Leigh Blackall (2009) too notices that Internet technologies are socially gaining more acceptances and being widely used compared with other computer related applications. He suggests that the effect of this extensive implementation and popular use of Internet provides us a substantial indication of multi-formats of informal research and learning. In addition, the promising use of this Internet application has implications for formalized education. For example, possible outlook of how we observe, analyze and measure learning, how it can create new form of educational services, how it provides more insights on existing topics, i.e., recognition of prior knowledge and learning. Also, there is an immense possibility on how it can lead to open access education.

However, there is a serious problem with the possibilities of combination between Internet and learning. While he enthuses about learning, he points out that effort from our educational system have not shown any sign of supporting this stimulating trend in learning even when there is clearly predictable possibility that learning outcome will be considerably improved by this technology. In fact, almost none from educational voices are noticeable claiming that educational system has to reset the focus. According to Kathy Sierra, the amount of money spent in the U.S. each year on marketing research is orders of magnitude compare with the amount spent on learning theory research. Big business spends more in a week on brain research than the U.S. Department of Education spends in a year (2009).

A noticeable point from Sierra and Blackall is that there has been a long and baron relationship between education and popular media and culture for over a century (Blackall, 2009). Education has been remote from reality for long. For example, while clearly visible that Social Media is being penetrated not only in our youth society but also in social circles in adult society, yet education sector has not figured out how to define its use to the rhetoric of educational practice. Why? Due to its relational disconnection between the media and education, it has been difficult to even notice the significance of issue. In addition, even if they knew about this, it was hard to put things together in such a short time. Not to mention, educational articles related to Social Media has seldom reference to education. Rather, they are mostly associated with marketing or media concept.

So, what is so important about social networking relating to learning? It seems to me that historically in academia; most learning theories do not recognize emotion as a subject to a critical thought. Nor do they appeal directly to our emotions. However, since the explosion of Internet as well as other multi-media applications, learners and teachers all became more comfortable with using multiple intelligences when they teach and learn. Therefore, teachers can use a lot more by utilizing the content from entertainment industry.  As a matter of fact, emotions do appeal to our primal brains which they can be an effective ways to promote a structural concept into our brain. According to the study conducted by Kellermann (1985), memory mediates the effects of media on the individual. The nature of memory related to semantic, such as thematic, procedural, structural information retention is often promoted by the media. Then we can use it to enhance learning. For example, emotions of excitement, pleasure, thrill, curiosity, fun, etc. are often experienced while we interact with people. Using social networking site into our classroom can create the actual social interacting environment, and individuals can simulate the atmosphere while interacting.

Although there are endless possibilities in using social network as a learning tool, some people argue otherwise that the use of social networking site is in fact an inappropriate approach towards improved educational future. For example, some concerned citizens tend to fear when a student posts their identities on-line, saying that they might put up incorrect information to portrait a better appearance of their identity. As one example of fast growth in social networking sites, Facebook users have reached 350,000,000 in early December, 2009. More or less, there are many more sites that indicate a similar amount of users.  If majority of users who are using those social networking site use their fabricated identity, as the concerned citizen cried out, we would indeed have a problem as an entire society. However, according to a recent study, it is not a dominating fact. In other words, the alarming opinions about fake identity are not shared by many.  The study shows that on the social networking site, people tend to reveal their personality and status as really are. According to the study which will be soon included in the Journal Psychological Science, a psychologist Sam Gosling analyzed the Facebook profiles of 236 college-aged people. The study method was conducted with the qualitative personality questionnaires. The content of the measurement were about how study participants considered themselves in real life, as well as what their personalities would be like if they possessed all of their desired traits, such as openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion and neuroticism. When they compared the survey results with participants’ Facebook profiles, it had shown that, people’s online profiles were similar to what they were really like in real life (O’Callaghan, Tiffany, 2009). Therefore, the negative possibility that students might promote their untrustworthy profile appeared to be a fret.

Then we can now focus on our rationale that indeed our educational system must help promote classroom environment where using real world application such as online social networking site is so common. Without a doubt, it makes a perfect sense that any learner would love to enjoy classroom environment where it reflects the current atmosphere of world we live in.  Also, we cannot avoid the fact that human beings are social creatures which means that we need to learn how to live with people around us. Consequently, we need to teach our students how to collaborate with each other, how to connect with people, and how to be informed in this ever changing century. Also, we need to teach students the ways that networking can change their existing perception about things: education, values, beliefs, career, and/or life styles. We tend to take for grant about the fact that technology is ubiquitous around us, undermining the fact that we can actually utilize it every moment to educate our students.

To be more specific, a writing class can be greatly benefited by an element of social networking, especially with technology enhanced learning environment. If we consider articulation as an important goal in a writing class, we have one more convincing reason to utilize the social networking in the writing class. For example, the Principle of Articulation involves both the act of paraphrasing newly acquired knowledge as well as the process of interrelating this knowledge to prior learning. As Kjell S. Johannessen (1990), a Norwegian philosopher points out, “Knowledge and language are woven together in an indissoluble bond. The requirement that knowledge should have a linguistic articulation becomes an unconditional demand.” Practice through a social network can foster articulation among writing students who can be assured that their learning will be appropriately recognized. For example, when students are introduced to a new concept of a learning theory, they can examine their prior knowledge, how to combine it to other theory, and find ways to apply it into real life learning and teaching since virtual environment allows them to participate at their convenient time. Putting those ideas into a simulated discussion might reduce presumable inhabitation in a real communication setting. Also, using social networking allows the students to involve the students in collaborative activities (Trentin, 2004). In other words, they can learn what collaborated work means, even at a distance, through the use of technology. They can also learn a skill that must be acquired quickly for a co-operation process to be really effective is that of the negotiation of ideas and suggestions in the group.  In addition, building capacity to relate to the world outside of the class is another merit of social networking use. Working in a network, one can quickly locate external entities to relate to the subject, such as the professors from other classes, experts in the field, documentation sources, etc.

So how much do current writing teachers use social networking application? I believe that most writing teachers would love to utilize the social working site as a teaching tool. In fact, composition scholars view teaching literacy with a digital tool as a matter of relevance. Selber argues that if reading and writing is going digital, then we must incorporate digital literacy into our classrooms and help students think critically about it to remain significant as a field (12). Other scholars take it as a social responsibility stance. For example, Cynthia Selfe studied the links between technology, poverty, and racism in the United States in her book Technology and Literacy in the 21st Century: The Importance of Paying Attention. According to her, ignoring technology, or refusing to bring it into our classrooms means that we potentially fail our students who might not otherwise have access to the access to the knowledge. She also argues that our responsibility as educators is to inquire the connections among literacy, technology, and the social agendas that support technology.

Both ideas, relevance and social responsibility, support when Selfe and Hawisher affirm in Literate Lives in the Information Age that if literacy educators continue to characterize literacy merely as a typical practice only, it means that they in a way ignore, exclude, or devalue new media texts. Not only do they abandon professional responsibility to describe the ways humans communicate and create meaning, but they also abdicate the relevance of their curriculum for students who interact and communicate in gradually expansive networked environments (233). Utilizing a digital network is about giving all students the chance to take part in the new literacy that is current in our world as well as sustaining the relevancy as a field. Digital spaces are quickly becoming part of our composition curricula. Our students can think and write critically in these digitally networked spaces, and the combination of narrative and discourse can help them achieve the goals in academic writing.

Like in the traditional writing classroom, communicating in digital spaces will also enable them to think critically about what they are saying. In addition, students will be aware about audience and purpose, so the familiar skills required in a typical writing class will also apply to these digital spaces. Rhetoric and composition scholars have already seen the significance of digital spaces such as social networking sites in the classroom. Stephanie Vie’s 2008 article, “Digital Divide2.0: “Generation M and Online Social Networking Sites in the composition Classroom,” notices the obstacles such sites face. She also notice that the numerous opportunities for teachers to “converse with students about audience, discourse communities, intellectual property, and the tensions between public and private writing” (21). Within these spaces, students are already writing and thinking without the teachers, and teachers certainly can parallel these spaces for composition instruction.

Growing Issues in Educational System on Technology Use

As we have discussed above writing classroom should produce individuals who have a sound working skills about writing, who can use that skill when called on to do so, and who are willing and able to continue the learning process after schooling. However, it is questionable that our educational system supports such a writing classroom. There are not many writing teachers fully exploit the benefits of technology aspects of social networking site. In fact, there has been increasing concern about the ability of the American education system in general, elementary through postgraduate, to produce such individuals (Panel on the General Professional Education Physician [PGEP], 1984; National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983; National Science Foundation, 1982; Porter, 1989). Students at all levels demonstrate significant errors in their knowledge (e.g., Brown & Burton, 1978; Coulson, Feltovich, & Spiro, 1989; Perkins & Simmons, 1989); they do not recall what they have learned (e.g., Farr, 1987; Levine & Forman, 1973); nor can they productively use what they do remember (e.g., Feltovich, Johnson, Moller, & Swanson, 1984; Wason & Johnson-Laird, 1972; Whitehead, 1929). Moreover, they often do not recognize, know, or accept when they do not know; even when they are aware of their lack of knowledge, they do not know what to do about it (e.g., Bransford, Stein, Shelton, & Owings, 1982; Chi, Bassok, Lewis, Reimann, & Glaser, 1989). Briefly, current educational systems educate individuals who lack skills to develop an applicable and practical knowledge, who have insufficient reasoning skills to apply appropriate knowledge, and who lack the skills to reflect on their performance, and who have ability to continue the process of learning.

Along with the already raised concerns, a concept of abundance joins as a next issue. We have too much information while we can’t make meanings of it all. It changes too quickly. Many universities had relied on a concept that “design today, use for three years” course design model. It worked well previously. But now, in 2009, it does not make sense too much any longer. A greater attention to whether the content is valuable to learn is required. For example, learning resources should be categorized as with a “best before date” so we’re not teaching information that is no longer accurate. LMS’ perpetuate the course model. And that is their greatest flaw (Siemens, 2009).

In addition, complexity is becoming a concept that all members of society should be familiar with. So far, we have learned that when something has been complicated, every piece has to have a place and a right answer to solve the problem should exist. Our education model had been designed according to this view; they have been trying to produce the experts to tell us what the answers are. As a result, designing curriculum to reflect those answers was integral part of education and it was supposed to be all distinguishable and knowable. Complexity, however, pays attention to a different concept. It recognizes the “chaos” as various interacting elements which will figure and configure to produce patterns that we can’t anticipate in advance. Those challenges mean that managing abundant information and complexity requires a different view of teaching and learning from the current forms of education (Siemens, 2009).

Learning Theories: Behaviorism, Cognitivism, Constructivism VS. Connectivism

So, how do learning theories reflect these challenges of the information era? Does any existing theory recognizes and explains the characteristics of massive information we input everyday? Can they rationalize how we take, process, learn, and apply knowledge in the ever changing society into real life? Which line of a learning theory juxtaposes to technology integrated application? Will the learning theory sufficient to help necessary prediction for future learning?

Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are the three well known learning theories which often utilized in the formation of instructional environments. These theories, however, were developed in a time when learning was not significantly influenced by technology. Over the last two decades, technology has reshaped ways how we live in this world, how we interrelate, and how we learn.

Learning theories that depict learning principles and processes should mirror fundamental social settings. Vaill put emphasis on “learning must be a way of being…an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast o the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive, recurring events…” (1996, p.42).

Not even forty years ago, any learners who acquired a fair amount of schooling could gain a lifelong career. Information development took time. The life of knowledge was considered to be valued for decades. These presumable principles have been changed. Knowledge is on the rise explosively. In most areas the cycle of knowledge is now measured in few years, if not in few months. Gonzalez (2004) illustrates the short span of knowledge life:

“One of the most persuasive factors is the shrinking half-life of knowledge. According to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD), the “half-life of knowledge” is the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete.” Fifty percent of what we know now was not the case 10 years ago. The sum of knowledge on earth has coupled in the past 10 years and is coupling every 18 months. “To combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.”

There are some considerably noticeable trends in areas of learning. Many learners will learn a variety of different or unrelated areas during the course of their lifetime. Informal learning becomes an important characteristic of our learning experience. Official education can no longer include the major sources of our learning. Learning takes place in a variety of ways – through community interaction, personal networking, and throughout until finishing point of work-related tasks. Learning is a constant reorganizing process, spanning out for our life time. Learning and work related activities are becoming increasingly interconnected. In many situations, they become inseparably one. Technology is changing the way our brain functions and it influences to makes decisions on certain topics. By that what I mean that the technology equipment and tools we exercise formulate and configure our thinking. The group, association, or organization and the individual all become learning organisms. Intense concentration to knowledge management emphasizes the necessity for a theory that gives effort to explain the connection between group, association, individual and organizational learning. Many procedures formerly managed by learning theories can now be explained or supported by technology. Know-how and know-what is being complemented with know-where which means that the understanding of where to find knowledge is required.

Driscoll (2000) 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” (p.11). The meaning the word, “learning” encapsulates many of the elements generally associated with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. To be more specific, learning was viewed as a long-lastingly altered emotional, mental, physiological state, such as certain recognition skills, result from experiences and interactions with content or other people. Driscoll (2000, p14-17) further examines the complexities to define what learning is. Questions especially arise when learning tries to focus on valid sources of knowledge. For example, do we acquire knowledge through experiences? Or is it something that we inherited or innate? In other words, do we currently possess from the birth and we just pull it out when it comes to learning? Or do we acquire it in the course of thought process, reflections and interpretation on topics? Also, he gives a notice to the nature of content of knowledge. Is knowledge in fact evident? Is it straightforwardly obvious and noticeable through human experience? And his final contemplation arrives on three epistemological customs with regard to learning. They are Objectivism, Pragmatism, and Interpretivism. Objectivism is similar to behaviorism, and it portrays that reality exists outside of our body and is objective, and knowledge is acquired by experiences. Pragmatism is comparable with cognitivism, and it declares that reality is construed. Here, knowledge is conferred with experience as well as reflections and thinking. Interpretivism which is related to constructivism affirms that reality exists inwardly, and knowledge is something that we built in and is constructed.

All of the three learning theories advocate the concept that knowledge is an objective or a condition that is achievable, if that is not already existed, through either thinking, reasoning, or experiences. They, including Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism which are based on the epistemological customs, attempt to explain how a person learns. If we go little further, Behaviorism declares that learning is largely hidden and unknowable, which means that we can’t assume what a person thinks, which is like an analogy to “black box theory.” Gredler (2001) conveys behaviorism as inclusion of several theories that assume three things about learning: observable behavior is more important than understanding internal activities. Behavior should be focused on simple elements, such as specific stimuli and responses. Learning is about behavior change. Cognitivism takes a stance as that of a computer information processing model. Learning is considered as a development of inputs, handled in short term memory, and systemized for long-term recollection. Cindy Buell specifies this progression: “In cognitive theories, knowledge is viewed as symbolic mental constructs in the learner’s mind, and the learning process is the means by which these symbolic representations are committed to memory.” On the other hand, Constructivism supposes that learners construct their own knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences through activities (Driscoll, 2000, p. 376). Behaviorism and cognitivism consider knowledge exist as exterior to the learner and the course of learning as the act of internalizing knowledge. Constructivism presupposes that learners are not born with a blank slate to be filled with inscribed knowledge. Instead, learners engage in activities in attempt to create meaning. According to the theory, more often than not, learners choose and track their own process of learning. Constructivist principles do concede that real-life learning is disorganized and compound. Classrooms which reproduce the “uncertainty” of this type of learning will be more successful in training learners for life-long learning.

There are several limitations of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism (Siemens, 2009). An integral principle of the majority in learning theories is that learning takes place within a person’s consciousness. This is the same case from the claim of social constructivist, which is, learning is a socially performed course of action, motivating the domain of the individual’s boundary as well as her/his physical presence, i.e., brain-based, in learning. All three of these theories do not consider learning as a state that takes place outside of a person, i.e., learning that is compiled and controlled by technology. They also fall short to explain how learning happens within groups, associations, and organizations. In addition, these learning theories deal with the concrete process of learning, not with the importance of what is being learned. In a networked field, the exact matter of information that we retain is valuable to investigate.

Also, there is need to measure the value of learning something which is a higher-order skill that can be applied before the actual learning itself begins. When knowledge is rare, the process of evaluating the value can be essential to learning. When knowledge is plentiful, however, the quick evaluation of knowledge is critical. In addition, additional concerns come up from the fast amplification of information. In current circumstance in our societal environment, action is often required without personal understanding or learning, meaning that we must act by drawing decisions from information beyond the boundary of our knowledge (Siemens, 2009). In relation to that, the capability to combine and recognize connections and patterns is a valuable skill. Indeed, many critical inquiries should be considered and raised when established learning theories marry the learning and practices being done through technology. So far, it has been appeared that the existing theorists try to revise the old principles into evolving theories as learning conditions change. However, the fundamental conditions have altered too extensive to adjust in order to be reasonable. Therefore, an entirely new approach is needed.

There are some questions to ponder with regard to learning theories, the influence of technology, new concept of chaos, and dynamics of social networks on learning: How can learning theories still accurately interpret their principles when knowledge is acquired in a complex manner other than linear? What modification can learning theories formulate when technology carries out the cognitive operations formerly performed by individual learners, such as information storage and retrieval? How can we continually show answers in speedily advancing information ecology? How do learning theories deal with the time of necessity in quick learning without complete understanding which requires immediate performance? What is the significance of social networks and complexity theories on learning? (Siemens, 2009) What is the significance of chaos as a complex pattern detection process on learning? With amplified appreciation of interconnections in various fields of knowledge, how do learning theories reflect on the concept?

Including technology and connection making with social network as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer rely on our personal experience and learning. They take too much time; technology driven society requires us to act promptly. An alternative for the issue is that we obtain our capability from forming connections. Karen Stephenson declares, “Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other people’s experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. ‘I store my knowledge in my friends’ is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).” With regard to the concept of storing information in others, accepting the concept of, “Chaos theory” is a necessity for people who work related to knowledge. According to the definition from (2009), it refers to chaos theory which means that even there is an apparent lack of order in a system nevertheless it obeys particular laws or rules. Chaos theory does not recognize the value of traditional predictability. Rather, it indicates that predictability is somehow manifested in arrangements that are initially disorderly as a challenging order. While Constructivism infers that learners foster understanding by creating and delivering tasks that are meaningful to them, Chaos theory states that the meaning resides in a complex pattern. The learner’s challenge, then, is to identify the patterns which are not apparently noticeable. Not only meaning-making activities, but also formulating connections between particular communities become critical activities.

Chaos theory in a science field specifies that the amount of difference in the starting points of the two curves is so small that it is comparable to a butterfly flapping its wings.

The flapping of a single butterfly’s wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month’s time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn’t happen. Or maybe one that wasn’t going to happen, does. (Stewart, I. 1990. p.141).

This phenomenon, common to chaos theory, is also known as sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Just a small change in the initial conditions can drastically change the long-term behavior of a system (Rae, 2008). Similarly, Gleick (1987) states: “In weather, for example, this translates into what is known as the Butterfly Effect which refers to a concept that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York” (p. 8). This analogy reveals that we have a real challenge in technology era: “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” deeply impacts what we learn and how we act based on our learning. Decision making is one of examples of this analogy. For example, if the fundamental conditions, which are often used to make decisions, change, the decision cannot be considered as appropriate as it was at the time it was made. As a result, the ability to recognize and adjust to pattern which shifts rapidly is a key learning task.

In the theory, a network can be defined as connections between different bodies. networks forms through different jobs, computer networks, power circles, and social networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create an integrated whole. Alterations within the network have synergy effects as a whole. Albert-László Barabási argues that “nodes always fight for connections because links represent survival in an interconnected world” (2002, p.106). If we use the Chaos theory again, it is “sensitive dependence on initial conditions” matters greatly. This competitive tendency is largely decreased within a personal learning network, but the placing high value or preference on particular nodes over others become an inevitable choices that individual have to face as reality. For example, nodes that liked to higher quality profiles will reflect on the fact that a concept of learning will be linked depend on how effective linked nodes the parson has. The nodes which are an initiating point of information consist of fields, ideas, communities, that specialize and acquire recognition for their competence. If they have higher quality links, then their chances of being recognized increase throughout multi-layered nodes, thus resulting in cross-distribution of learning communities. While delivering, connections or bridges that are established in a short time between information are called, “weak ties.” Another term they use is “small world networks,” which means that they generally draw together with people whose interests and knowledge are similar to each other. Finding a new job, for example, often happens through weak ties. This principle has great merit in the notion of serendipity, innovation, and creativity.

The connecting points between disparate ideas and fields can create new innovations. Particularly, Connectivism is the integration of principles, such as Chaos theory, social network theory, and complexity theory. According to Connectivism, learning is a process which occurs within vague environments of altering core elements, rather than entirely under the control of the individual (Siemens, 2009). Learning which is defined as actionable knowledge can exist outside of human’s consciousness, such as within an organization or a database. Also, its full concentration is on connecting particular information sets, capability of know more, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Connectivism is designed with the perception that decisions are based on rapidly shifting foundations. New information, therefore, is constantly being acquired. The ability of a node (individual) to evaluate dissimilarity between important and unimportant information is critical. Also, the ability to recognize when new information changes the existing nature of the information based on decisions made previously is also crucial (Siemens).

Principles of connectivism

In Connectivism, learning and knowledge coexists in diversity of opinions. Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. Learning may take place in non-human appliances. Capacity to know more is more critical than what a person currently know. Cultivating and preserving connections are necessitated to assist on-going learning. Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. Currency which refers to accurate and up-to-date knowledge is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.  Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to possible changes in the nature of the information which could affect the decision. Connectivism also attempts to solve the challenges that many corporations face in knowledge management activities. Knowledge that being ready to explore in a database needs to be connected with the people who needs the most in the right context to be categorized as learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism have not attempted to aid the difficulties` of organizational knowledge and transference (Simens, 2009).

How to manage Information flow within an organization is an important component in determining organizational effectiveness. As a knowledge economy becomes more prominent in the society, the flow of information is comparable to the pipe in an industrial economy. Generating, saving, and employing information flow should become a key organizational activity. Knowledge flow can be considered as a river that travels through the ecology of an organization. In certain areas, the river pools and in other areas it ebbs. The efficiency of the learning ecology of the organization rely heavily on successful development of information flow (Siemens, 2009).

Social network analysis is an accompanying factor in understanding learning mechanisms in a digital era. Art Kleiner (2002) employs Karen Stephenson’s “quantum theory of trust” which “explains not just how to recognize the collective cognitive capability of an organization, but how to cultivate and increase it”. Inside of social networks, hubs are successfully connected people who have capacity to and are able to promote and retain knowledge flow. Their dependence on each other will affect the end result depending on the effectiveness of knowledge flow in the organization which in return will enable the person to perceive the state of activities related to the organization.

The first point of connectivism starts with the node, meaning individual. Personal knowledge is stored in a network, which distributes into organizations and institutions. It then returns back into the network while delivering the information, and then it continue to contribute it into individual’s learning. This sequence of knowledge development, which are three sequential cycle from personal to network to organization, enables learners to retain up-to-date and relevant information in their line of work field through the links they have formed to connect.

Landauer and Dumais (1997) pay attention to the patterns of expressions human convey, “…people have much more knowledge than appears to be present in the information to which they have been exposed”. They suggest a center of attention to from the view point of connectivist, stating, “the simple notion that some domains of knowledge contain vast numbers of weak interrelations that, if properly exploited, can greatly amplify learning by a process of inference. The value of pattern recognition and connecting our own “small worlds of knowledge” are apparent in the exponential impact provided to our personal learning.  John Seely Brown pust forward an interesting notion that the Internet, especially social network controls the small efforts of many with the large efforts of few. His main assertion is that connections created with unusual nodes supports and intensifies existing large effort activities. Brown provides the example of the case from a Maricopa County Community College system project that made connections with senior citizens and elementary school students in a mentor program. According to his observation, the children listened to what these grandparents’ figures told them better than they did what their own parents did. I helped out the mentoring program effectively as well as the teachers. The interpretation here is that the small efforts of the many seniors complemented the large efforts of the few teachers.” (2002). This type of strengthening the nature of learning, knowledge and understanding through the correlation of a personal network is the essence of connectivism.

What can be implications for Connectivism? It has implications in all aspects of learning in general. Becoming conscious that comprehensive knowledge cannot reside in the body and the mind of one person necessitates a different method to reach an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are a critical structure for completely exploring ideas. Velocity of “from an idea to implementation” is also improved in this systematic type of view in learning.

To conclude, according to the theory, the pipe, being social network, is more significant than the content, being learning content materials, within the pipe. In other words, our capacity to learn what we need is more significant than what we currently understand. If we can say that a crux for a learning theory is to realize known knowledge into a real situation. However, when knowledge rotates so fast and there is a need to a decision making, the ability to connect with right sources to find solutions and to meet the requirements becomes an integral skill of learning. Also, as knowledge continues to expand and progress, accessibility for what kind of information is desired is more imperative than what the learner currently perceives. Connectivism suggests a learning model that acknowledges the tectonic shifts of a paradigm in society where learning can no longer be viewed an interior and individualistic activity. How people work and function directly affects the reality when new learning tools are utilized. The field of education has been sluggish to be aware of the power of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. Connectivism sheds some insight on areas of learning theory for help learners gain skills, understanding, and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.

* Note: the new learning theory, Connectivism was proposed by George Siemens who is teaching at University of Manitoba in Canada. The work was licensed under a Creative Commons License.For the citation, click here, for this research project.

2 comments for “Jeong’s Final Research Project: Connectivism

  1. December 10, 2009 at 10:25 am

    I found this to be an interesting and insightful read. This directly relates to what my class is working on. We have been challenged to create blogs and explore the web for relatable information. This is all very new to me, but I am beginning to enjoy the information access. I been recieving Google alerts on Constructivism, Connectivism, elearning, adult learning, and learning theories in search of information for assignments. This is how I cam across your final project. I have been seeing a lot hearing a lot about teachers/educators using the web to engage learners and it is seems to be working. I can see how the use of technology could make a classrom setting more powerful, realistic and interesting – these students are the “internet generation”
    You mentioned that your study showed a broadening disconnection among educators, teachers, stuents and parents, and that the school system has chosen not to see internet use as a priority. This surprised me; as I am seeing and hearing more often that it is being used in both traditional and non traditional settings. How could they not acknowledge and prepare for what is happening? – The advancements of technology is increasing daily, and not allowing learners to grow with it is what keeps this countries students trailing far behind students of other countries.

  2. Jeong Kinser
    December 11, 2009 at 2:13 am

    Hello Iris,

    Thank you for the comment on my post.

    Prior to this research, I wrote a thesis related to our school system’s belief system and practices relating to technology use. According to my understanding the divide among teachers, parents, and students mostly come from the budget, politics, and educational agenda from top-down applications of technology use in our society.

    And you are so right when you said, “How could they not acknowledge and prepare for what is happening? – The advancements of technology is increasing daily, and not allowing learners to grow with it is what keeps this countries students trailing far behind students of other countries.” And I am too very frustrated by the unwise decisions regarding the implementation of technology use in our school.

    I think we, as researchers and students who know more about the importance of technology utilization for preparing students for the future, have to inform people more. We will have to find ways to shift people’s attitude, belief systems, and most importantly, their practices on the matter…

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