This week’s Connectivism and Connective Knowledge readings were particularly challenging as they prompted me to reflect on my own epistemological beliefs and assumptions considering knowledge and learning in general.  Consider what you think intelligence means?  What constitutes knowledge and truth; or is there even such a thing?  What about the fact that we are increasingly learning and interpreting things in new ways which challenge what we already know?

A few weeks ago I attended a lecture by George Ellis from UCT discussing the book ‘The Nature of the Physical World’ by Arthur S. Eddington.  From what I gathered, the book discusses the limitation of what can be explained by science alone and attempts to distinguish cultural psychology (that which is constantly evolving) from physical fact.  I see the things that remain ‘constant’ throughout my life diminishing.  Although the fact that my mug sits atop my desk because of physics hopefully will never change!  Where science stops and psychology takes over, something physical becomes something interpreted which changes over time.  But is there a fine line between science and psychology?  Or does the human mind only know what the human mind has made?

In everyday living we don’t risk much if we continue to speak of lovely sunsets and say that tomorrow the sun will rise at such and such a time − even though we now hold that it is the earth that moves and not the sun. Similarly, there is no harm in speaking of knowledge, mathematical and other, as though it had ontological status and could be “objective” in that sense; as a way of speaking this is virtually inevitable in the social interactions of everyday life. But when we let scientific knowledge turn into belief and begin to think of it as unquestionable dogma, we are on a dangerous slope.

Glasersfeld, 1989

I believe connectivism fits well into our current landscape.  Historically, knowledge has been scarce, difficult to record, and difficult to verify. Knowledge could be in a sense owned and commodified due to limited technology-eg. Limitation of the printing press. Today, scarcity is no longer an issue as information is easy to locate, track and compare using today’s technologies.  We employ new tools which allow us to create networks which connect us to anyone, any node, any source of information regardless of time and space.  The widespread adoption of computers and the internet signified the introduction of new cultural tools in society.  When a new tool becomes part of the process of activity it has the potential to modify the “entire course and structure of mental functions by determining the structure of the new instrumental act.”  (Vygotsky, 1930)

Currently we are challenged by an ever increasing and seemingly relentless fountain of information.  Connectivist learning relies on the quality of our networks – where we access information and construct our understanding, what we decide to retain – quality control, our access to current information – currency and value of information, and our ability to nurture and understand the relationships between available nodes.

I think the greatest stumbling block in adopting a connectivist ideology is accepting the fact that knowledge is not stored in any one place and transferred or transacted to others via teaching.  Knowledge and learning occur in the “network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community.”  (Downes, 2006)  I have always found that being in the company of experts is a good way to learn, a community of practice develops and shared knowledge helps the group be productive.

Cormier, D. (2008) Rhizomatic Knowledge: Community as Curriculum.  Innovate: Journal of Online Education.  The Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University.

Downes, S. (2006) Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge.  Unpublished but online.

Glasersfeld, E. (1989) An Exposition of Constructivism: Why Some Like it Radical. Scientific Reasoning Research Institute, University of Massachusetts.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1930) The Instrumental Method In Psychology. Text of a talk given in 1930 at the Krupskaya Academy of Communist Education.

Diagram above uses flickr images from  wilhei55 and Thomas Hawk shared under a Creative Commons license and inspiration from Dr. Dick N’gambi.

On Connective Knowledge

CC BY 4.0 On Connective Knowledge by Michael Paskevicius is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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