Connectivism is All About Connecting

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All rights reserved James Braun used with permission from Creative Commons.

I have been doing a fair amount of reading about Connectivist Theory.  Until recently I did not know very much at all about this theory at all.  I have to say that I’m still a little unsure exactly what it all means, but I this is what I have come to understand so far.  The theory of Connectivism indicates the way in which we acquire, interpret, use and share knowledge.  George Siemens believes the method in which we learn is more important than what we learn.  Learning happens when we recognize that there is a connection.  Under this theory, knowledge or information is not like a solid object you can own.  It is viewed as a series of connections, each piece of knowledge relating to another which will likely connect further. It is for all intents and purposes endless.  In An Introduction to Connected Knowledge, Stephen Downes illustrates the theory in a way that made a lot of sense to me.  He uses the following example.

A poll, for example, gives us
probabilistic information; it tells us how many people would vote today, and by inference,
would vote tomorrow. But the fact that Janet would vote one way, and I would vote one
way, tells us nothing about how Janet and I interact.
Connective knowledge requires an interaction. More to the point, connective knowledge
is knowledge of the connection. If Janet votes a certain way because I told her to, an
interaction has taken place and a connection has been established. The knowledge thus
observed consists not in how Janet and I will vote, nor in how many of us will vote, but
rather, in the observation that there is this type of connection between myself and Janet.

This example helped me to better understand this rather intimidating theory and now I’m beginning to see that it isn’t something new at all, but rather how we instinctively go about gathering new information in a world where information is just a click away.   This example brought to mind the blog I read also by Stephen Downes Seven Habits of Highly Connected People. His Seven Habits are 

1. Be Reative

2. Go with the Flow

3. Connection Comes First

4. Share

5. RTFM (Read the Fine Manual)

6. Cooperate

7. Be Yourself

These speak to the way in which many of us already interact in many social media venues.  Listening, understanding the rules of the group, sharing thoughts, and being authentic are key to being accepted in an online social group.  These same habits easily apply to learning of all types. Whether it be a facebook, google+ or LinkedIn group, a MOOC or a formal online course, the opportunities to gain knowledge are endless.  The more you connect to other people, the greater the opportunity for recognizing connections between the information that is shared.

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