Summary: Revolutions is sweeping the Arab world. They are all tagged as the FaceBook revolutions. I agree. FaceBook was a key instrument that created the critical mass required to make the change. in Tunisia, Libya, Yemen and Syria. But not in Egypt. The Egyptian revolution is a Wikipedia Revolution on FaceBook. This is the first part of the story.
First, let me brag: I am proud that I have had direct contact with Wael Ghoneim, the leader of the young revolution.
Last year, I was part of Google’s Health Speaksproject that donates to charity based on translating Wikipedia Health articles from English to another language. I joined the Arabic project. Except for me, all the participants were Egyptians. I was amazed how chaotically organized they were. I say it is a positive note. You could not figure out who is who. People come and go. One person start an article yet someone else would finish it. In any academic book, this is chaotic. Yet, they were able to score the highest charity donation. Through chaos, they mobilized each other to successfully achieve their goal .Just like I imagine the bees work. A lot of chaotic incomprehensible buzz that results in the sweetest honey.
Later, during the revolution, I had a sense that the young faction leading the revolution were working in a similar spirit. I did not relate my sense to reality until Wael made his TED speech and mentioned “Like Wikipedia”. It stroke me. Wikipedians have a different “mental paradigm” that make them so chaotic, yet so productive. That is when my thesis on “Wikipedian Controlling Instincts” came from! Later about this, for now, let me focus on my brag.
When the relationship between my sense and reality established, I jumped to my Gmail to see if Wael was involved in the Google Health Speaks projects. I did a quick search on the name, and found our 5 threads from Wael in my gmail archive. Unfortunately, I used to delete the old email, if I did not, I would have found more. But the important thing is that I had interactions with him… I had interactions with the Wael… it is a starnge feeling! Feel or pride… it is like saying I shock the hand of Martin Luther King… not once, but five times… even more!
Back to reality. My ego is full enough. When I made this discovery, I went back to the surviving Google Health Speak emails and went throught them. I was amazed to discover that most of the participants in the project were active in inducing and participating the revolution! Amazing. The spirit of working in a google-wikipedia environment is the same spirit that prevailed among the youth of the Egyptian revolution. Not necessarily the same spirit that has driven the other revolution. Somehow different. I will address my observations in another blog. For now, let me enjoy the feeling that I had an interaction with Wael Ghoneim and the other young Egyptian revolutionaries, through a connectivist-like approach.
Is it a new theory of learning? Or is the concept of theory distracting?
Connectivism is a theory framework. It relates to learning. But it is not a “theory of learning” in the traditional academic definition. It is more than that.
“Learning Theories”, in its psychological context, tends to address the learning that happens in biological entities. In its “machine learning” context, it is the study of algorithms1. Connectivism addresses the knowledge that exists at a universal level which includes all existing matters and not limited to human learning alone. It could be classified as a “Theory of Knowledge” and its application in “human learning” is a small subset.
In my opinion, the way connectivism is presented in the Siemen’s-Downes model is confusing, for the following reasons:
(1) It tries to encompass three concepts in one:
a- Defining learning as a function of networks;
b- Learning and knowledge building happens with machines as well; and
c- Connectivism is a suitable educational paradigm for the knowledge age.
Each of these concepts has a merit on its own. The first two could be easily demonstrated in empirical scholarship. It fails miserably in the third one. Connectivism cannot be applied in a traditional scholarship environment (see the “weakness section” for details). Connectivism creates a new learning paradigm, not a new educational paradigm, that contradicts many of the basics of educational system. It is a quantum leap, not an evolution of education, for the creation of universal knowledge. It is a “Noo Theory”, theory of global awareness! What are the weaknesses of connectivism as formulated in this course? What are the strengths?
Note: I interpreted the question to mean the weaknesses/strengths of MOOC as a representation of Connectivism and not as a critique of connectivism itself. I hope I am not wrong!
MOOC as a massive course has its merits. But it is extremely weak as a credited course because, as mentioned above, connectivism does not work in a traditional educational setting. For example:
This assignment is designed to meet scholarship grading requirements. However, its assessment rubric does not match the objectives of the course (it does not assess if I have built a strong network of knowledge). I think connectivism deserves a new assessment model that measures the strength of links created due to participation in the course.
The format of the assignment defies connectivism itself where I am supposed to refer to academic references while my knowledge was built through connection to “lay-individuals” through the Internet.
The expectation is that my answers are supposed to be at a “Master’s Level” while the course is at a certificate level.
Clearly the credited part of MOOC has been designed hastily and needs thoughtful redesign. It is worth mentioning at this stage is that I am learning a tremendous deal from the non-credited MOOC activity but minimally through the MOOC credited model.
The MOOC, as a non-academic model, is a powerful concept:
It allows the participants to learn based on their learning preference.
Since it is not graded, it allows participants to determine what they want to learn then indulge in the learning process through connecting to other individuals.
It offers a safe environment to allow participants to experience connectivism in a non-threatening environment; consequently, they can develop themselves to “survive” the connective age.
The course encourages “continuous learning” where knowledge is expected to be continuously created and recreated.
It offers an excellent environment to get immersed in the new overload of information we experience and train us on developing our own selection process.
Does connectivism resonate with your learning experiences? If so, how?
Yes, it definitely resonates with my learning experience. For the last 10 years, I lived in the “knowledge-on-demand” domain where I learn about something just when I need the information and limit my learning to just what is required rather than mastering the whole related body of knowledge. Connectivism puts words to this learning approach. At the same time, I am immersed with gadgets around me that facilitate my knowledge-on-demand concept. Connectivism is helping me to go further and accept that “knowledge resides in machines” as well, which means they are add-on to my knowledge. Finally, connectivism gives me many tools to understand the theories and ideas of De Chardin that fascinates me.
What are your outstanding questions?
Why connectivism is a learning theory and not a knowledge theory.
Why is it essential that connectivism conform under the traditional educational system and not consider it as a new learning/knowledge paradigm that does not fall under the scholarship umbrella?
What are the set of knowledge, skills and value sets that need to be developed by a person to become a connected person?
Aitken, R. (2007). Surviving the New Learning Landscape: A Guide for E-Learners, p15, Lulu Publishing.
Lee, M., Gaffney, M. (2008). Leading a digital school: principles and practice, New Learning Though Technology -Connectivism, pp 57 – 200.
I am confident, so far, that I am not a real connectivist… the real connectivists are now changing governments (like in Egypt and Tunisia), they are changing the meaning of diplomacy, dignity and conspiracy (like in Wikileaks), they are creating knowledge (like Wikipedia), writing phenomenal apps (Open Source) and so on… they live connectivism naturally. They do not need MOOC to become connectivists.
They developed skills that our generation strives on eradicating… for example: they utilize their idle time, they change their values when needed, they are not afraid about their identity, they are not afraid if someone else use their information, they do not believe retaining information themselves is essential, they can work with massive knowledge add-ons (like knowledge on machines), they do NOT plan for the deep future, they do not have worries (although we push them to develop theirs), they believe EVERYTHING can supply knowledge (whether friend or enemy, genius or ignorant, machine or ??), they are not worried if the information is correct or not, their friends and community is on constant change, their friend-set changes based on the issue they are addressing… They do not worry about respect or trust … and few other skills that I do not own… yet!
Who among us have these skills? not me so far!
Don’t get me wrong: I am connected, I have a huge PLN that helps me with my day to day learning and decision making, I believe that knowledge resides in machines and I make a good use of these tools. But all of these are “simulated connectivism”. They are not natural traits. When I compare my connectivism with my son, I still find huge gaps between how my brain is connected and how his brain is connected. Adopting the famous phrase: I am an emigrant to the connectivim and not a naturalized connectvist!
For few weeks now, I have been immersed in the connective learning. Although my connections and nodes are not strong, and they are unidirectional (from me out, and I rarely get feedback), I have to admit that I am learning. So, I am convinced it has a merit.
One thing I have noticed is that “I” need to change to survive this new learning paradigm. After considerable reflections, though I was hoping connections :(, I found few things I had to “rewire” in the infrastructure of my brain. I will use the computer as an analogy (so, I apologize to those who are not familiar with the terms that I will use):
1) Storage Vs Connectivity: I need to move from relying on “large hard disk storage” to a system that has “a super smart network switch”. The core “technology” my brain need to invest in is high connectivity and not storage. Education and my upbringing forced me to rely on investing in “huge long term storage” systems and they did not train me or prepare me to handle large influx of information. To the contrary, I was trained to reject influxes because it means distraction, and to accept focusing on one thing at a time as a virtue!
2) Memory: Does this mean that I need to get rid of all memory to be effective in the connective world? No. I just need to move from a “hard disk” system that keeps all information stored to a new storage system that allow us to get information when needed, store what need to be stored and purge the obsolete information. Sticking to the computer analogy: we need to replace the hard disk storage with a ROM (to store the basic skills, knowledge and habits we need to function, like communication, logic) and a fast RAM that is used to manipulate the information we need and get rid of them when they become obsolete. In none computer terms: I need to practice to prevent my previous knowledge, habits, values and habits to influence the new knowledge. I should be ready to accept new knowledge without allowing my previous knowledge to distort it.
3) Scripts: For the Switch-RAM-ROM to work together, I need to put right scripts in place that allows the right information to be processed and converted to knowledge. In a non-computer terms this means I need to develop the right habits, attitudes and value sets that facilitate the process. In addition, I need to rely on technology to filter the information and ensure I get the maximum information I need in the smallest junks possible. This needs more in-depth thinking and analysis.
Then it hit me. The disparity between formal education and connectivism is: Education promotes “increasing the capacities and contents of the long term storage” while connectivism advocates “increasing the power of the network switches, put the basic knowledge in ROM’s and replacing the hard disks with volatile RAM”!
Now I understand why education will resist the connectivism. Now I understand why some critics argue that connectivism is a twisted mirror for older learning theories. Now I understand why many individuals are not comfortable with the experience: they still use hubs which cannot handle the huge information influx and they feel connectivism does fill their hard disk is still empty…
Even more, I recognized that my education did not prepare me for this new way of management of knowledge. Since I work in international education, I am confident that education, anywhere (except in a small committee in Europe), is designed for “hub/hard disk” individuals and not for the “Switch/RAM” individuals. But, hey, does the Switch/RAM person need schools to learn? This will be another post.
… I admire your passion to prove your point. My initial reaction is that you are mixing up between three inter-related concepts:
1) Connectivism as a theory (i.e. the concept that learning is the expansion of connections and that knowledge resides in machines)
2) Connectivism as a learning approach (i.e. learning in the knowledge age will depend on how we connect with individuals and other knowledge devices/machines) and
3) MOOC as an application to the learning approach (i.e. 2 above). MOOC is a course designed to introduce the concept of connectivism in a “connective” way. The success of the attempt is not indicated by the number of the participants in the Elluminate sessions, but by the number of “knowledge connections” that are formed outside the course. Try to search for #CCK08, #CCK09 or #CCK10 (the tags used to connect the groups) and you will find out that numerous groups and networks exist in the Web 2.0 world that continue connecting even after the conclusion of the course. Which proves that there is a merit to the theory and its application! (although it still need to be captured, analyzed and documented! 😉 …
A discussion is taking place in Wikipedia about the article with the same topic. Some participants refuse to accept the concept as a theory. There argument was based on the pattern of decreased enrollment in MOOC. This made me recognize that the way connectivism is presented opens the door for confusion between three aspects of the idea:
(1) Connectivism as a theory: which (as I understand it) has the following arguments: (a) defining learning as an increase in connectiveness and (b) knowledge resides in machines as well as human brains; consequently it is essential in the knowledge age that knowledge be accurate, current, individualized and ever-changing.
(2) Connectivism as an educational approach: As a consequence to the theory, the connectivists suggest that education should evolve to address the issue of accuracy, currency and ever-changing. Classroom instruction is not the only form anymore. Modern learners need to connect with humans and machines to generate their knowledge. This requires new set of learning skills, styles, habits, attitudes… that traditional education does not offer 1. The new set of personal attributes developed by the new learners should allow them to build connection quickly with nodes (human and machine) whenever they are trying to create/develop new knowledge.
(3) Connectivism as a course: The MOOC (as I understand it) demonstrates how connectivism (as an educationalapproach) is applied in real-life learning setting. The facilitators are creating a connected environment to help the participants learn and practice “connective Learning”. In this context, learning should happens OUTSIDE the course through connecting in FaceBook, Twitter, Blog-sphere and any other Web2 medium. The Elluminate session is not the course. It is an activity that initiates the discussion about a certain topic related to connectivism. Although Elluminate chatting and back channels facilitate some sort of connections for learning, but the real learning happens outside Elluminate: through the different web2 medium. So, the enrollment in Elluminate session does not indicate the success of the attempt. The real indicator should be the number of channels/connections that are created and maintained outside the course. Right? (side note: This means we need to do some research in this area!).
Since I am planning to rewrite the article, I need your help criticizing my standpoint… am I on the right track? Is there any other way to look at it? Any input is appreciated!
One of my “connectee” on the Facebook asked: “Is Connectivism already accepted as a Learning Theory?”…
I replied first saying: “Good Question” just to lock myself to the discussion hoping someone would give a good answer. Then I did a mini research then I commented with:
Short answer: Not Yet.
Long answer: Connectivsm creates a new paradigm where “acceptance” is determined by the “connected masses” and not necessarily by the academicians.
So, if you are asking if it is academically accepted, the answer is “not yet”, for the academics will require a long time to decide (I have seen academic researches with and against the idea). But the process is still going*.
If you are asking if it is accepted by the masses? The answer is another “not yet”. The number of individuals who are accepting the concept is increasing. But it did not reach a critical mass to call it a global acceptance. I think it will get there soon*.
Is there someone out there who would like to make me a better person by proving me wrong?
PS: * This is my opinion as of NOW. I am ready to change it the moment someone/something convince me otherwise. So, don’t stop trying to convince me otherwise!“
Trying to answer the question: “how connectivism and collaboration are similar, yet, different. Or, are they? “, I commented:
In my opinion, connectivism and collaboration are different.
As of today, I understand connectivism to be “connection(s) that induce learning”. While collabrotion, on the other hand, is “connection to reach an outcome”. They will be the same if, and only if, the outcome is learning.
Note that, in connectivism, collaboration is not essential; especially when the connection is established with a none human entity (like Google search or a database!)…
Then I got this reply from one of the connectees on the site
I do not think they are mutually exclusive and tend to think of them both as, perhaps, contiguous and both contained in the flow of processes in learning. What is learning? How, and by whom, is learning determined? The short answer, for me, is … it depends 🙂 … there are many variables and possible permutations.
This is a dailog that happened on our FaceBook CCK11 group:
Katy: Maybe I am looking at PLNs a different way, as a newcomer to the idea – I think that a PLN is mostly people. People who make up the network, whose expertise or viewpoint or experience “rubs off on you” as you interact and connect and communicate with them. Yes, some nodes are one-way (as with a website that shows a presentation from an expert) but most nodes are two-way, like colleague who points you toward the site with the presentation and who you get into discussion with about the presentation and whose other friend disagrees with the expert and gets into the discussion. Me: @Kate: you are right, but not in the CCK11 context. In connectivism, knowledge resides with people as well as machines… so, we cannot limit it to people only! Unorthodox, I know!
Katy: @Anas: So the site where the expert’s presentation is housed is part of the PLN as well as the expert and the friend who tells you about the site? That makes sense. But it’s not just the sites – a collection of site bookmarks on someone’s computer doesn’t tell you about the connections between them and -more importantly- how the human people in that person’s PLN have made sense of the sites and connections between the sites and the people and the problems needing to be solved.
Me: @Katy: like you, I am still trying to make peace with this concept. This is what Connectivism advocates, not me, at least not yet 🙂 Machines as machines contribute to the knowledge. The closest example is Google: the information generated by google is collected, collated and compiled by some creepy entities (called bots or spiders) that sniff the whole world wide web and present them to us in a format we understand. Some of this information is created by other bots! Similarly Wikipedia, bots contribute to the creation of its articles. So, the machine started to contribute to our knowledge, not people only… creepy. Right?
Katy: @Anas – maybe by the end of the course I will see more eye-to-eye with Connectivism on this idea! Machines contributing to the knowledge is easier for me to deal with than the idea of machines ‘creating’ the knowledge = information is not the same as knowledge, is it>?
Jaap: @Katy What do you think of this example? a machine can make a diagram of your contacts in Linkedin, this machine creates information/knowledge that was not there before.
Me: @Katy: mhmm… Good point. To me, information is different from knowledge. Information is public, while knowledge is personal. The moment I communicate my knowledge to you, it becomes information to you. How you interpret it becomes your knowledge. We might end up having different knowledge although we “consumed” the same information. At this end, I should agree with you: machine creates “information” and we create our “knowledge”. This makes me think: does the machine has its own “knowledge”? Can we call it knowledge? I like this mooc thing. Thank you for drifting my attention to a real issue.
Katy: @Jaap- yes, the machine creates patterns from information. Those patterns, that new information can open our eyes to new possibilities. But I don’t think that we can equate information with knowledge @Anas- good point about ‘consuming’ the same information, yet generation different knowledge. We all have different backgrounds, experiences, prior information that cause us each to process the connections between information bits differently= each of us make unique knowledge of the world. And the different, unique knowledge is what our PLNs are exploring, right? If we just wanted to hear the same opinions and information over and over again, we’d go to a faculty meeting or a family reunion (joke) instead of investing time in cultivating a PLN to broaden and deepen our knowledge.
The Question is: if Knowledge is personalized information, can we use the term “machine knowledge”? Consequently, can we say the distributed knowledge may reside in machines as well?
[Check the group for complete transcript and context.]
Below is a summary of my contribution to the question “What makes you a scholar in digital environments” posted on Facebook CCK11 group (join the group):
“A digital scholar is yet to be defined. Traditionally, scholars are those who received formal education, recognized by a group of scholars and, to some degree, “retain the knowledge in their brain”. I advocate to leave the term “scholar” …to the traditional school system and device a new descriptor for the digital arena. I suggest something like “connected”.
Don’t forget, in connectivism, you will not retain the knowledge yourself, but you master the skill to mine for it when needed.“
then I added:
“Google “invisible college” which is the precursor to “scholarship”. You will discover that connectivity for the sake of creation of knowledge outside academia is very old and is still popular till today. Even between distant individuals. Technology just made it instantaneous and more accessible to the layperson.“
I have just finished the second Webinar about CCK11… and just discovered that I have to change the ways I do things… integrally.
In the last years, I had 4 main emails I manage periodically, subscribed to few interesting list services and social media. I have created an environment to manage the overflow of information I face everyday. I was successful on tracking the daily changes on FaceBook, the few hundred emails I get everyday, the twitts, RSS, summaries I get and had enough time to contribute to them and to Wikipedia. I was happy and well informed and evolving at a comfortable way.
With the CCK11 course, my exposure to knowledge has already multiplied by 10… and I did not start interacting yet… I think once I start “artifacting”, or as the mooc video suggest: network, my daily intake of information will multiply unimaginably.
My old way of interacting with the information will not work. I need a new way. I hope I can figure out something soon to make good use of this experience… I will post it here once I know.
But hey, this is evolution.
One second: could this be considered my “artificat”? Is my topic “How to survive (manage) the overflow of information that connectivism create”? Maybe! Let me digest this mooc concept first before I commit. Reading time.