I have been catching up on the readings from the first couple of weeks of the CCK11 open course in addition to doing all of my readings for the Walden class that I am currently taking about learning theories and educational technology. One of the goals is to try and wrap my brain around the various learning theories that are out there and explore how they may be applied in various educational settings. Another goal is to assess how connectivism fits into the scheme of how we learn and how we educate.
In looking at the various “accepted” or prominent learning theories that are out there, it seems as though their enduring applicability is what allows us to feel a little more comfortable in calling them theories. Behaviorism, for example, may no longer be viewed as an all-encompassing theory that describes how we learn, but we can easily pick out examples where fundamental behaviorist principles are driving teaching and learning. I think that similar things can be said about constructivism or cognitivism.
With connectivism, there is obviously the debate about whether or not it can stand as an independent learning theory. Is this because it has not been around long enough to demonstrate its enduring applications?
Another key aspect of connectivism is link to technology and the role that technology plays in the learning process and in the process of building connections. Today’s technology has significantly changed how we function as a whole; this impact leads to need to rethink (as George Siemens mentioned in a video at http://www.youtube.com/user/gregaloha#p/c/0/a5-Wk2cwb68) how we go about the educational process.
So, I guess that this leads me to my main question: Is connectivism retroactive? Can we take the underlying principles and apply them to earlier contexts? Even though there is a significant tie to the technologies that we have today and illustrating how connective networks can be established and maintained, technology is simply a general term for any tool that we have created to assist us in completing a task. A basic definition, developed by Heinrich (as cited in Saettler, 2004), of educational technology is “…the application of our scientific knowledge about human learning to the practical task of teaching and learning” (p. 5). Could we use connectivist principles to explain how the chalkboard influenced learning? Could we use connectivist principles to explain how graphing calculators influenced network creation?
Just as more “classic” learning theories can be brought forward and applied, could we use the current model of connectivism to explain prior learning contexts or prior influences of other technologies? If, in fact, we can, would these provide more substance for promoting connectivism as a unique learning theory? These are just some thoughts that popped up for me in my own learning process. I am really curious to hear what others think about this…
Saettler, P. (2004). The evolution of American educational technology. Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing.