Connectivism is defined by George Siemens as a way of gaining knowledge through your networks of others and their experiences (2005). He suggests learning is a continual process and that the focus should be more on how to learning than what you are learning yourself as part of his principles of connectivism (Bell, 2010). This learning theory was developed as previous learning theories (behaviourism, cognitivism, social constructivism) did not take into account the implications of technology on pedagogy. Connectivism focuses on having social connections as a way to develop actionable knowledge (Siemens, 2015).
I believe that in the 21st century we need to be sure that we are taking into account technology and the affordances it allows us when we look at learning for our students. From a connectivist perspective, teachers should be focusing on developing skills for our students to develop learning. While content is important, students can easily access content online if they are aware how to. Students need to know where and how to access a variety of online resources to find out the ‘what’ when they need it.(Siemens, 2005). Thus, teachers need to educate themselves on how to teach students these new skills.
As an educator, I value the need to be connected to other educators as a way to develop personally and professionally. Engaging with blogging and Twitter as a way of personal reflection has allowed me to connect with educators from around the globe. This has helped me continually improve my practice by gaining feedback and ideas from others. When I am faced with a problem, I often reach out on Twitter and instantly have a network of others who may have had similar experiences and different perspectives to shed light on what I am experiencing.
This idea of creating networks is also important for our students. Students networks may be significantly smaller due to age restrictions on many different online platforms. However, the idea of being connected and using your network in gaining access to various knowledge is important. I see this currently with our Year 6 students who are completing Exhibition as part of the Primary Year Primary (International Baccalaureate). Students are working with other group members who have varied experiences and knowledge. They are reaching out to different teachers at the school who have different skillsets depending on their research and action. They’ve emailed members of the community and different organisations as other sources of information and have gone to other schools even to gain ideas of what exhibition could be like. This provides students a better understanding of action and learning being continual, different people in your networks offer different perspectives and knowledge and that they don’t have to know everything to be successful, but how to gain the information they need. This social component of learning has allowed them to develop lifelong skills that are transferrable as they continue their education and build their network further.
Bell, F. (2010). Connectivism: Its place in theory-informed research and innovation in technology-enabled learning. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(3), 98-118.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.