Walking Stick Blogger

A Learning Space for Literacy and English Language Learners

Thoughts on EduBlogging, Connectivism and Constructivism

Bradley Ackroyd, an MDE student at Athabasca University, asked an important question about assessment and mechanisms of socialization:
Should courses, online or otherwise, seek to socialize students? Social learning theory (Bandura, 1977) would suggest that all learning occurs within a social context and that socialization is an integral part of the educational process. While I agree that society’s current body of knowledge is transmitted through social mechanisms, I wonder if the flexible learning options provided to distance education students could be extended to social aspects of learning. Should social interaction be mandatory based on course evaluation guidelines?

My tentative reply on this, Bradley, is that social interaction plays only a modest part of the actual learning that occurs for learners taking online courses. It should not be considered a significant part of the learning activities of individual leaners. It should be encouraged, however, and it should be voluntary, but it should not play as large a part of assessment as it has, particularly when the act of connecting with the content of others is, for me, not necessarily a social act. It is an individual one, based largely on a learners’ own learning needs and goals, consuming the content to glean value from it, not necessarily to make a connection with the poster.

…all learning occurs within a social context and that socialization is an integral part of the educational process.

Though the majority of theorists and many learning theories devote most of their efforts examining the social mechanisms of learning, socialization in fact plays a very small part in the actual work learners engage in when engaging in learning. The argument I am putting forth is that learning does not always occur within a social context. Current learning theory contributes little to facilitating learners engaging in acts of learning in solitude, acts that that constitute the overwhelming majority of the real learning that occurs. In my view, society’s current body of knowledge is not transmitted through social mechanisms.

According to connectivist theory, however, learning occurs through a distributed network, and transfer of learning occurs through the act of connection of nodes in response to adaptation of individual learners. In cases of complex learning spaces such as clusters of individual edublogs, where there are diverse knowledge sources, there is indeed some instances of socialization based on social learning theory and constructivist theory. However, meaning-making and sense-making is predominantly done independently by each learner as individuals, not conducted as an organized activity in groups.

George Siemens described De Jaeger and DiPaulo’s conception of participatory sense-making, where individuals inform and are informed by interaction (2007). He also cited Darken and Sibert (1996), and asserted the importance of learner-controlled way-finding, defined as “how participants orient themselves in their environments in order to accomplish certain tasks or arrive at certain locations.” (Siemens, 2009, pg. 13).

From my own perspective based on a combination of constructivist and connectivist theories, significant learning occurs due to the sustained, persistent self-development of autonomous individuals who enjoy social interaction, but can operate remarkably well independently, in solitude. These self-regulated learners do not require (but invite) direct tutorial support, and instead tend to draw their ideas from a wide number of sources. They set their goals, and engage in self-monitoring and adapt their strategies, often without significant direct interpersonal feedback from others.

In conclusion, as the most significant learning, in my view, occurs as often in isolation than in groups, assessment needs to be more balanced to account for more individualistic learning, and provide learners to choose between the method for assessment.

George Siemens (2009) explained that connectivism involves the act of learning as the process of “forming and navigating networks”.

annotations on sources referred to this post are pending – consider this post as a working draft to be revised.


Title: What is Connectivism? Week 1: CCK09 Course, Date: September 2009
Retrieved October 26, 2009
Author: George Siemens
URL: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=anw8wkk6fjc_14gpbqc2dt

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netizenship • October 27, 2009

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