George Siemens and Steven Downes developed the theory of Connectivism; a theory for the digital age. There has been much debate over the years whether connectivism is a learning theory, instructional theory, or simply a pedagogical view; this, however, is a discussion for another blog. Due to the advancements in technology, learning has changed over the last few decades. The theories of behaviourism, cognitivism, and constuctivism do not seem sufficient as learning moves into the realm of an informal, networked era (Duke, Harper, & Johnson, 2005).
The learner is the starting point in connectivism. The knowledge of the individual is based on his/her network. Simply put, a network can be defined as connections between units such as other people and groups. For example, in a social network, individuals are connected in order to advance and further their learning. They learn from each other and keep the flow of information and knowledge (Siemens, 2005).
Siemens discussed three elements of distance education that are creating more effective learning experiences than a face to face environment: (a) global diversity, (b) communication, and (c) collaborative interaction. For the purpose of this blog, I will focus on collaborative interaction.
Advances in technology has led to the integration of socialization tools for conversations and dialogues. We can communicate with others from around the world using tools such as Skype, Twitter, and online meeting applications, such as GoTo Meeting. When I first joined Twitter, I connected with others who had the same interests as me, such as sports, working out, and cooking/baking. It is human nature to connect with others who have similar interests and views with you. These collaborative tools allow individuals to discuss their interests and passions and even learn new things about these shared hobbies. However, individuals are missing an integral component to the application of these tools. In order to challenge ourselves and grow, we must connect with people who have different viewpoints than ourselves. This collaborative interaction is one way for each of us to challenge our thinking and to examine issues from different perspectives; it enhances and develops our critical thinking skills.
These tools allow everyone to have a voice and provide their thoughts, opinions, and insights on a myriad of topics from current news events, to scientific discoveries, to the latest educational trends. We need to take advantage of these tools in a more effective manner in order to diversify our thinking. A collaborative interaction approach in which we interact with individuals from around the world who have different experience and perspectives can only enhance our way of looking at issues.
In my opinion, this is a win-win. If we want to see a better future, we need to take it upon ourselves to interact, dialogue, and converse with a variety of people for a better and stronger understanding of ourselves and the world.
Duke, B., Harper, G., & Johnston, M. (2005). Connectivism as learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from https://www.hetl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/HETLReview2013SpecialIssueArticle1.pdf
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivsm: A theory for the digital age. Elearn space. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm