quarta-feira, 18 de fevereiro de 2015

Is Connectivism A New Learning Theory Based on Old Ideas?

After reading the last two articles posted here (Why Academic Teaching Doesn't Help Kids Excel in Life and Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience), I noticed that some ideas presented may be connected and so I want to leave here my thoughts on that.

I'm sure other links can be possibly made between both texts (and I would be interested in discussing them), but one called my attention in a especial way. Shelley Wright (2013) says that 

For the most part, kids who we consider “academic” tend to be good hoop jumpers. They’ve figured out the system and can navigate their way through the predictable demands of the system. But they are seldom truly engaged. Rarely are they transformed by their learning.
In other words, the successful students are usually the ones who understand what they have to reach and which path they need to follow. They are recognized and rewarded (good grades) by their abilities to follow rules and deliver whatever is expected by schools and teachers. It means that their success is measured in ways that do not foster the development of creativity and engagement.

Tschofen and Mackness (2012) wrote the following:

one speculation is that the most obviously active MOOC participants are individuals high in the psychological trait of conscientiousness, geared toward duty and achievement, perhaps in forms generally rewarded in formal learning environments. [...] For example, regular attendance at MOOC sessions, consistent (public) writing, and public collegial exchanges contribute to an overall perception of active connective learning. MOOCs, which point to such conscientious activities as the most appropriate learning processes, may appeal to these outwardly attentive and active learners more than those less oriented toward these forms of achievement and interaction.

The first author focus on the education of kids while Teschfen and Mackness discuss the education of adults, but I believe there is no difference in their messages. Looking at both passages it is not hard to see how the problems in formal education are being kept from childhood to adult life and from conservative to modern learning strategies. Now it may be a little frustrating and I apologize for that but, even though it is a big thing to discuss, I choose to leave it aside for the moment and go straight to another reflection that came to my mind.

Tschofen and Mackness (2012) talk about MOOCs, courses originally based on the connectivist theory, which has been striving to establish itself as a new learning theory. Students' creativity and engagement are considered of high importance in connectivism but, according to the passage presented above, connectivism may be failing in developing and evaluating those, just as "obsolete" learning theories do. Apparently, students who have "figured out the system and can navigate their way through the predictable demands of the system" without being necessarily engaged nor creative, are much likely to reach academic success in both settings presented in the articles. With that in mind, I must say that connectivism seems to me much less innovative than I first thought it was and I am curious to know if others have this same feeling. (If not, I would love to hear/read different points of view)

Before I finish, it is important to point out that we are discussing and criticizing the development of certain skills, the prioritization of some specific personal characteristics and the evaluation methods of the connectivism that may not be that innovative nor good to the students' development. On the other hand, we cannot ignore that the theory goes far beyond those aspects and still deserves attention and recognition. As it is so new, improvements in its ideas, strategies and methods are still possible and I believe that discussions like this can help its development. I am still open to change my mind 100 times! ;-)


21 comentários:

  1. A theory is a connected set of testable concepts or propositions that explains and predicts patterns of behavior. To test a theory, develop a model and determine if the propositions are supported. A good theory should be able to accommodate new data and be transferable across contexts. I've participated in a number of cMOOCs where the theory seems to hold. However, I can see that if you are just considering the xMOOC model as it has been co-opted by conventional educational institutions it looks like connectivism really offers no better explanation than extant theories.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Glen. The mentioned article "Connectivism and Dimensions of Individual Experience" talks about MOOCs in general and not the differences between xMOOCs and cMOOCs, but I believe it would be possible (and probably interesting) to go deeper into that matter.

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