So George Siemens and Stephen Downes believe that they have conceived of a new learning theory: connectivism. To be certain, our present state of connectivity, Web 2.0, and the coming complexity of Web 3.0 will call upon educators to add to their repertoire of sources of information and methods of managing and vetting them. However, none of this identifies a new way of learning. To manage the complexification of “knowledge” that is the foundation of connectivism, our students will continue to use the same process of learning and we teachers will continue to instruct with the intention of developing student’s collaboration skills, information selection and management skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and communication skills. The only new aspect–more places and people to connect to and to be able to receive information from.
Colleagues of mine have summarized the “many benefits for the students, teacher[s], the overall learning environment, and for the world (Fake 2016).” However, for each of the benefits listed (generally sourced from George Siemens articles/blogs) the practices that are ascribed as new to connectivism are actually “old” pedagogy. Still valid to be sure, but nothing new either as far as understanding how students learn or how teachers will need to teach.
“In Favor of Connectivism”
|Known Learning Process/
Present Instructional Pedagogy
|Connectivism makes students responsible for their own learning (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013).||Gradual Release of Responsibility (Pearson and Gallagher, 1983)|
|It allows students to look for knowledge in the world, rather than absorbing it from their teacher (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013).||Facilitative Teaching (Rogers 1980’s)|
|Students have to evaluate to find valid information as they acquire new information (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013).||Personal experience of Lorilee Hamel as Literacy Teacher since 1987. Checking the validity and reliability of a source of information is a basic literacy and research skill.|
|It allows students to make connections between old and new information (Siemens, 2004).||Development of Schemas (Piaget 1968)|
|Knowledge flow from both teachers and students, allowing students to take more ownership over their learning (Siemens, 2004).||Facilitative Teaching (Rogers 1980’s)|
|It encourages collaboration, group work, and sharing knowledge with others (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013).||Cooperative Learning (Johnson and Johnson, 1974)|
|It promotes 21st century skills and technological literacy (Rethinking your online classroom with connectivism, 2013).||“21st Century Skills and Technological Literacy” are “educational buzz phrases.” They are neither theory nor pedagogy in and of themselves, but are the cumulative effect of the instructional practices and strategies that a student engages in in a given classroom.|
|Students are encouraged to become lifetime learners because information is always evolving over time. (Siemens, 2004).
|“Life-long learners” has been a “mission statement catch phrase” as long as I have been teaching. This is neither a theory nor an instructional model, but is the cumulative effect of the instructional practices and strategies that a student engages in in a given classroom.|
Interesting to note, these theories, pedagogies, strategies have been around for years, some since 1967. These are not new, nor is the Theory of Connectivism. What Siemens and Downes HAVE brought to our attention and what IS vital for educators to attend to is the complexification of information. We must use these “old” practices and theories to use helping students to develop independence as learners in an ever expanding world of information. For those educators still trapped in traditional instructional practices, it is time to transform for our students’ sakes. We educators MUST help students to be smart, savvy, and creative consumers of today’s information market.