Connectivism: a basic overview

In previous posts, and indeed in numerous other places, it has become more apparent than ever that teaching and learning have had to change. Yet, even before the pandemic, society and technology were continually changing the education landscape. ‘Connectivism; The Learning Theory for a Digital Age’ by Siemens published in 2005 highlighted the need to change how we view learning and knowledge acquisition. Although there is controversy over ‘Connectivism’ being classed as a learning theory in its own right, this post argues that understanding ‘Connectivism’ can change how we approach education. It allows us to not only understand why we incorporate technology in our teaching, but embrace and promote the way we use technology to prepare ourselves and our learners for the unpredictable world we live in.

Many, or all of us, will be familiar with learning theories such as behaviourism, constructivism, social constructivism etc. Connectivism, which is not being presented here as an alternative to the aforementioned, is arguably a set of principles that bring these theories into the 21st century and beyond. A learning theory that suggests learning is not only internal but external to the individual, where the ability to access information is more valuable than possession of the information (Wang et al, 2018).

Knowledge: what is it and how do we obtain it?

Connectivism suggests knowledge is progressive, knowledge is complex and ever-evolving. In simple terms, no one person or artefact can hold all knowledge at any point in time, correct? Technology and the speed at which our world is changing means we and our learners must continually review, select, manipulate, align and apply new learning, only to change this again through iteration. Perhaps, in acknowledging such notions, we realise collaboration, context, critical thinking and ongoing connections are key. Whether blended, face to face, or fully online, our role as educators involves facilitating opportunities for learners to connect, critically review and interact with the vast sources of changing knowledge.

What are your choices on technological tools based on?

  • Are your learning experiences rooted in any particular learning theory? 
  • Do you agree or disagree with the principles of connectivism?
  • Are we facilitating learning experiences that allow learners to truly develop connections, think critically, problem-solve and make informed decisions? 
  • Why are you choosing to use the technological apps and programmes you use? 

What are your overall thoughts… Can or should the concepts highlighted by Siemens (2005) help us to understand our purpose as educators in our rapidly and ever-changing society, and guide our choice of technological tools?

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1), 3-10.

Wang, M., Callaghan, V., Bernhardt, J., White, K., & Peña-Ríos, A. (2018). Augmented reality in education and training: pedagogical approaches and illustrative case studies. Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing, 9, 1391-1402.

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