What is Connectivism?

This presentation by George Siemens was on our reading list. First an overview, than my interpretation and thoughts:

5 principles that can form the foundation of any learning theory:

  • our need to externalize to make sense (language, art, etc.)
  • our need for frameworks and structures for sensemaking
  • our need to socialize and negotiate around knowledge (to dialogue with others)
  • our mind is a patterning mind (note, recognize and draw patterns)
  • our desire to extend our humanity through technology (overcomming limitations)
  • knowledge is networked and distributed in nature
  • knowing is being in a manner of connectedness
  • learning is forming new neural conceptual and external networks
  • occurs in complex, chaotic spaces
  • aided by technology

We must better understand how and why connections form, things about their nature and use that to design the classroom, create the curriculum and how to teach that curriculum!

Types of learning networks:
  1. neural/biological: learning is formation of new connections
  2. conceptual: deep understanding is related to the relationships between concepts and ideas that learners have formed (concept mapping tools), student’s ability to learn new information is related to their existing knowledge
  3. external/social: how we are related or connected to others and information

How does learning occur?

  • the depth and diversity of connections determines understanding
  • the frequency of exposure
  • the integration with existing ideas/concepts
  • the strong and weak ties

different types of networks will serve different types of needs

create/share content (abundance of information)
dialogue with others (complexification of opinion)
simulate experiences (enlargement/expansion of our world)

The informationworld has become so complex that the networks become increasingly prominent because we are using them as the very things of surviving in our complex information climate.


It’s a very clear view on what connectivism actually is! One of the things I find appealing is that depth of knowledge is achieved by letting the student “work with the information”. The fact that he or she has to interpret the information in the network, think about it and then reflect on it, ensures a deeper form of knowledge, which is great! It’s hard sometimes not to think of knowledge as stuff you can put in someone’s head. Instead it’s the connection between sources. A revolutionary idea!

Technology makes it so much easier for us to share, reflect,… the knowledge we gain. This means technology becomes more important in the classroom. Not as an instrument to adopt some of the tasks of a teacher, but to add value to the content of the class. A computer, iPads, cellphones, webcams, etc. are a medium, not the goal itself! A lot of the times, an LMS is used to store data, a place where the student can find a syllabus, exercises, etc., while it could do so much more! The adventure lies beyond that stage of using technology. It’s about letting students gather, interact, be free and learn by seeking new connections.

Another difficulty to achieve this is finding the funds to be able to give students the means to interact! Can you force students (parents) to buy a laptop, an iDevice? I’m not sure!? We let them buy the books they need in class, a calculator, paper for assignments, we even ask that they make certain task on a computer at home! So why can’t we ask them to do all this with some form of technology? Too expensive? Or can we cut other expenses so new and modern ways of teaching are enabled? Enough stuff to debate!


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