Connectivism “Paper” #1


One of the issues surrounding connectivism as a theory of learning is whether or not it is a new theory of learning. One could argue that connectivism is merely learning from those who you have networked with, which has been done since the early days of the human race. The difficult concept that the learning resides in the network (Siemens, 2008) not necessarily in the interaction between the two parties (although that can occur in a connectivist manner as well). This networked approach to learning is what I believe to be a new development and advancement from constructivism and a constructivist approach to learning.

Weaknesses of connectivism

While Siemens does debunk some initial criticisms of Connectivism in a 2007 response, he states “[a]s knowledge complexifies, patterns—not individual elements—become of greatest importance in gaining understanding.” (Siemens, 2007) One worrying aspect of the phenomenon of knowledge complexification is that there is a possibility that as knowledge becomes more complex that the patterns sought to understand knowledge will also be so complex that it renders both the pattern and knowledge unknowable. As we have seen in the case of the irrational number pi, there is no discernable pattern in the remainder. Does this mean that at some point we will reach such a similarly complex pattern of connections that we will be unable to comprehend the meaning of such a web? Certainly, this may not be concern in the near future, but as information grows at what seems an exponential rate, this may be an issue In the future.

Strengths of connectivism

One of the great strengths of connectivism is that it recognizes and highly values the context of information and that it is flexible enough to adapt or add new information as it becomes available. Downes (2006) uses the analogy of a red apple looking different under different conditions to illustrate interpretation. Downes then goes on to say “emergence is interpretation applied to connections.” So our contextual understanding of something is inherently connected to something else. Under previous learning theories context may have played a role (certainly in constructivism, much less so in a behaviourist model) but never has there been such an emphasis on context. As individuals begin to publish information on the web, I believe that understanding the context of the information being published is of utmost importance to the learner.

Personal observations

An important point to note is I have witnessed the way many people (not just younger generations who have grown up with internet access and the web) interact with information today rather than a decade ago. The immediacy and convenience of information has forced many people to rethink how they deal with information. In this process many find using the internet for information frustrating and confusing. This frustration and confusion is a sure sign that there is a shift underway. I believe that connectivism does address many of the problems in this paradigm shift.


Downes, S. (2005, December 12). An introduction to connective knowledge. Retrieved on October 3, 2008, from

Siemens, G. (2007, November 12). Connectivism: learning theory or pastime of the self-amused?. Retrieved on October 4, 2008, from

Siemens, G. (2008, September 8). What is connectivism? Retrieve on October 5, 2008, from

Relfections on Networked Learning – Week 3

CCK08 – I think I’ve attempted some sort of distillation of the concepts for my own blog-notes and all I can say is “what a mess”. I guess that’s my network for ya. Despite having a sense of networks through a bunch of different lens’ (social organizing close to 15 years ago, network design courses close to 5 years ago) I’m not sure I can comment on this weeks events (not just readings). This is the disequalibrium that every normal course seems to inflict on people.

Of course, having real life interfere on a number of levels didn’t help either. Never mind that I wanted to have this done on Sunday. The best laid plans, neh? So, back to a Brookfield technique, what was the one thing I learned this week?

Well, the one idea that resonated with me was that networks need to continually be nourished. Weak nodes need to be used to be stronger, good connections need to be maintained to be useful. In that sense, Connectivism seems to be very organic – much like how networks are when they are not artificially created. I imagine this is how neural networks look – although my only fleeting moment of biology schooling was helping my wife study for the RN exam. Of course, to many people this may have been a self-evident idea, but I hadn’t grasped that the network that Downes and Siemens were speaking of were not only the ones made of fibre. As Mike Watt would say, “Baka!”

It’s also been interesting seeing the Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing dynamic that I’ve been reading about in the Bens text “Facilitation with Ease” for the facilitation course, and then to have a forum post about it – brilliant timing. It’s uncanny that my sense of timing is so good.

Reflections on the Connected Nature – Week 2

CCK08 – This week’s readings were still a little dense in my brain after a second reading, mainly because I am lacking in background knowledge in Wittgenstein and several of the other philosophers/theorists that are being name-dropped in both the readings and the conversation. I guess that boils down to I’ve been a bit quiet this week.

I really found Dave Cormier’s article on Rhizomatic Knowledge easy to read and imminently understandable – the concepts were well laid out. I guess that leaves the “so what” part of this post. I’m not sure exactly what, so we have this theory, connectivism, which is very well laid out and in a great way makes a lot of sense, not only in the way I learn, but the way I’ve seen many students learn (and behave). From a social sciences perspective, I have witness the social networking work exactly as connectivism described. So I feel fairly comfortable that this theory has been “proven”, for what it’s worth. So because knowledge is out there, in the network connections between ourselves and our brains, we just have to navigate the connections to “get it”. The challenge as an instructor is getting everyone to “get it” (whatever that it is). It’s nice to put a name to the beliefs I’ve espoused after years (your truth is different from my truth, is a big one I’ve always said, usually in response to a difference of opinions politically).

With all that in mind, yes, I should probably link more video, songs etc to my postings, they are on the web after all. Maybe if I find some good things to embed/link I will.

Responding to Facilitator: Contexts, Roles, Responsibilities, Competencies, Knowledge, Skills and Attitudes

1. What influenced your perceptions and beliefs about faciliation roles and responsiblities in relation to context?

Well, simply, roles of facilitators will change depending on the context they are facilitating. For instance, if a facilitator faces a particularly acrimonious setting, they will need to take a different role on than one who is going into a meeting to push forward a stalled project that has no acrimonious tone.

2. How aware were you / are you about the affect of these influences?

I am usually very aware of external influences on how you approach situations. Working in a political environment, one has to be aware of their audience, and how to approach them with suggestions and constructive criticism. I expected that a poor facilitator would be able to miss many of these points when dealing with a group; whereas a good facilitator would be able to innately sense them, and capitalize on their existence.

3. What do you suppose is the basis for your perception?

I would further the theory that knowing how emotional people can get when things involve their personal work is the basis for my understanding of how facilitators work well.

4. What new learning do you take from this exercise?

I am taking a few new methods of dealing with different situations as a facilitator.

5. How might you apply your learning?

I will take some of the scenarios that were played out as good and bad examples of facilitation – especially how one facilitator ensured that all parties had an opportunity to speak and kept everyone involved. He was particularly aware of body language and facial expressions as cues to encourage people to speak.

Reflections on the Nature of Connectivism (Week 1)

CCK08 – Hmm. After reading, and re-reading the articles from last week to sum up my thoughts on the dialogue so far and what I imagine is the dialogue to come, I have to say that I see a few parrallels between Connectivism and Anarcho-syndicalism. For those of you who don’t know me a little side bar is in order:

I grew up a punk. I’m still a punk, although I do clean up awfully well, as most people say when they see me in more professional attire. Deep down, I believe in a form of anarchy, although I recognize the impractical nature of it. I do think doing it yourself is the best way, and love the music. I also spent much of my youth trying to explain the concept of anarchy as not one of molotov cocktails and chaos, but of taking responsibility for one’s actions. I haven’t studied anarchism academically, and it’s been at least fifteen years since I’ve cracked any Bakunin or Proudhon, so I may be rusty at drawing some parallels (and certainly don’t have any specific examples to cross-reference readings with). With that caveat here goes.

Connectivism is like Anarcho-syndicalism in that the central authority rests with the individual.The individual decides what to do with the information, which of their networks to access, which of the multitudes of information bits to integrate, pass on or reject.

Connectivism (unlike Behaviourism – which the authority figure then says what is good information) also does not impose a hierarchical value on the members of the network, so the value of what is transmitted in the network is given and taken carte blanche. That leaves an awful lot of power in the hands of the individual to decide what is good information. Of course that speaks to the issue of truth, which as a couple of threads in the course area on Moodle has brought up, is contextual. The reality of my truth is not the same as yours, or my friends or my co-workers.

Connectivism values critical thinking highly – this is the only way to make sense of the vast array of information that is pushed through the network each second.

Week 1 Thoughts

1. Think about your teaching practise, what are you passionate about?

I really love those moments where you can see the learner just grasping the material and taking it somewhere that you never envisioned. That moment where they realize they get it, and you in turn can give yourself a short little pat on the back (which is a bit higher than one probably deserves).

2. How is that evidenced in your practise?

Well, I try to build in those a-ha moments and allow learners to run with the ball I’ve tossed them. I’m not locked into my material, and we have plenty of time to deviate from what I bring to class. In fact, I’m liable to be short when we don’t deviate from the planned course of action, which is why I’ve always brought in some sort of back up “oh, this is an interesting sidebar to the topic tonight” kind of moments.

3. Where do you hope this will all lead?

I’m kind of fortunate in that I get to teach computer skills that are probably going to be life skills. Searching the Internet is a very fundamental skill to have in a modern society, so it’s important to understand what you’re doing when you’re searching and what you’ve got when you find it. It’s very open ended. I hope my introduction to this huge topic begins their journey to being able to discover whatever information they need to that’s out there, and to have some level of confidence in the information that they’ve found. Hopefully, when things change in the future, they won’t have to take a class to figure out the new way of doing things, they can discover it themselves.

A Brief Introduction

Heh, here I was believing that I could get away without blogging in my life. Anyways, my name is Jon and I work in some ways with e-learning (whatever that means…) at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. I also teach web based technologies (searching techniques, Fireworks, XML) through Continuing Education at the college. The purpose of this blog is to collect my thoughts about Connectivism and the course that is being facilitated by Stephen Downs and George Siemens. Some of those thoughts will be required course work (like this introduction piece), some of them will be personal observations of what the course and the learning means to me.

At the college I assist professors using several different e-learning platforms, including First Class (known locally as FRED), Blackboard and Can8. I also dig up nuggets of information that might be useful to teachers using technology. As a student at Brock University in their Bachelor of Education (Adult Education) course, I’ve used Sakai and WebCT so far, and I’m sure I’ll use many more as we move forward.

On a personal level, I think I’ve situated myself well for this e-learning thing – I graduated from Sheridan College with a diploma in Media Arts and continued my education at Mohawk College for computer programming. Both taught me skills that I use today and most days, so I guess that is the definition of a useful education. I also chuckle at the notion of edupunk, as I’ve been involved in punk rock for most of my adolescent (and adult – whatever that is!) life.

I’m interested in the Connectivism course as I’m interested in the ways people learn. Aside from that, I’m very intrigued by the decentralized notion of learning – Paolo Freire’s beliefs certainly come into play here – and the relationship between connectivism, common knowledge and authorities in subject matter.

My requirements for a successful course is a difficult question to answer – certainly gaining knowledge and a greater understanding of connectivism is the ultimate goal. Some lively discussion will have to take place; I’ll certainly be interested to see how the course plays out as the sheer numbers seem staggering to me.