Reflections on Chaos and Complexity – Week 6

CCK08 – This week was interesting in that the ideas put forth have been things I’ve been saying for a while. Life is complex. Nothing is simple. Chaos and complexity is illustrated  well by the everyday classroom, and the things that can occur in it. The same material taught the same (and it could be argued that it’s never exactly the same) way has different outcomes depending on the contextual.

Complexity. It’s funny how the two courses I’m currently taking and the myriad of stuff I’m doing outside of schoolwork has a way of intertwining. I’m applying some of the things that the Connectivism course is doing to my Distance Ed course I’m teaching. The stuff that the Brock facilitation course talked about this week was context-heavy: that’s a big piece of the Connectivism course. Serendipity? Maybe. I don’t want to believe that anything is that mystical. Might as well start believing in unicorns and pegasii too. It does, however, speak to the idea that things are interconnected in ways that we don’t always see. Could that be the real-world application of connectivism?

Reflections on Networks and Groups – Week 5

CCK08 – Well, I’ve taken a couple days off to rest my weary brain, and come back to work and still have a pile of things to do. One of the questions (that I haven’t ventured forth) that I have is that if groups behave as one cohesive body (much like an individual) can groups be networked? I suppose the easy answer is yes, that in both the real and virtual worlds that groups act together to leverage legislation, work together to complete game objectives and other acts. The devil’s advocate might say that they are just acting as a larger group – for a common goal. Then the question becomes more about when groups act together do they become a larger group or a network? And if the larger groups goal is accomplished, does this larger group then become splintered to be two smaller groups networked as each group reverts to their original (and different) purposes?

I don’t have neat answers for that. I guess that’s the nature of what we’re doing here.

The second point I’m going back and forth on is information overload – specifically connections overload. I’ve seen quite a few things surfacing (namely at Lisa Lane’s blog, the readings this week, a post from Fake Plastic Fish, a couple of blurbs on TV…) about basic information overload, and how it’s a bad thing. I don’t see it as a bad thing, but as  a good thing. What you take out of the information dump defines who you are, it says a lot about you. Now certainly, you could end up at the bottom of the heap burried under all those bits. More often than not, humans find a way to deal with it (some by going out into the woods and sending letter bombs to academics… not the best way to channel it). I think dealing with all this information you find a way to conceptually handle it and sort out the wheat from the chaff. You have to prioritize. I know, I know not eath shocking. I guess I’ll be able to better understand some of these concepts after the readings this week.

Reflections on the History of Networked Learning – Week 4

I discovered this week that the discussions that happen on Friday for this course are really what people should be tuning into. They’re great conversations and are the stuff of good discourse. As for the historical perspective on last week, well, meh. I didn’t get much out of it, and I suppose the point was that one should know how we got to where we are to know where we can go. Again, the Moodle forums were much more interesting than either of the readings and I did try to keep my toe in the water there, so to speak. I think things are settling in the course, with people finding their roles and hopefully I’ll be able to attend one of the two video sessions on Wednesday or actually chat at noon on Friday (coincidentally when we have a meeting here at the college regarding online courses).

So, to further a thought that I had while reading and commenting on one of the other participants statements that SARS was the most successful network, I responded that connectivism could be the virus that SARS contained. The meaning I was driving at was similar to the McLuhan quote I posted back in early September (that a couple people either coincidentally started using or read here and liked the analogy), was that networks are organic and created by humans, so in some essense they will be reflective of what we do, see and feel. The information carried by the network can be all sorts of things, so the way it is accessed is important because that’s what provides context (and to borrow from constructivists, that’s how we create meaning for ourselves, context).

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.

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.