CCK11 Is connectivism retroactive?

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 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.


About Mike Dillon

High School Math/Physics Teacher Online Instructor for Axia College Ph.D. Candidate at Walden University.
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4 Responses to CCK11 Is connectivism retroactive?

  1. Think there was a lot of connectivism type learning at the dawn of history –
    paintings of the hunt on cave walls
    smoke signals
    primitive semaphore
    signalling to co-ordinating attacks in war or during a hunt whether with bird calls or gestures.
    the sharing of culture that happens at junctures of rivers and then spreads along trade routes.

  2. Pingback: #cck11 Connectivism is a Retroactive Theory to Previous Learning Theories | A Chronicle of a Learning Journey

  3. Howard says:

    I do find that Connectivism is retroactive (mostly, an update on Vygotsky), but it or something very similar that should also exist on its own. I’ve elaborative more here:

  4. mrsdurff says:

    I have to agree with Ruth, learning theories are applicable from the dawn of history to the present. Just because there is a new learning theory in town, does that mean other learning theories suddenly cease to apply? Driscoll says, “…learning is a persisting change …” (p.1) and that the purpose of the learning theory is to explain phenomena and to “…predict its occurrence in the future: (p.4). Don’t all the theories do this, albeit in different ways and with different emphases.

    Driscoll, M. P. (2005). Psychology of learning for instruction (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson Education, Inc.

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