Connectivism

8 02 2013

Cheryls Learning Connection

Why did I choose the blog name “New School Adult?” My whole perspective on learning changed after I attended a liberal arts undergraduate program geared towards working adults for 5 ½ years. It had been about 19 years since I had been in a structured learning environment, so I did not know what to expect when I signed on to complete a 4 year degree. Yes, I was fearful of the unknown! It did not take me long to realize that times had changed, and that the way I used to learn was considered outdated. When I reflect on my journey, I am reminded of Tom Hanks and the movie Castaway. Tom’s character was going about his daily life and was comfortable in his success. In the course of his daily work, his character experienced a plane crash and became stranded on an island. He used parts of the wreckage to learn how to adapt and to become creative in his survival. His character ended up spending four years on the island and was ultimately changed physically and mentally by his experience. He was a new adult thinking in a new way when he returned to his friends and family. The “new school adult” is much like Tom in Castaway having to adapt and be creative when it comes to the shift in the learning process. No longer is learning just confined to a physical classroom; learning can occur online, in a coffee shop, commuting to work, etc. The way we connect with each other and acquire knowledge has changed.

This week in my graduate level learning theories course we explored connectivism and how it has impacted learning. Siemens (2004) explains:

The starting point of connectivism is the individual. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual. This cycle of knowledge development (personal to network to organization) allows learners to remain current in their field through the connections they have formed.

According to Siemens 2004), we can define networks as connections between entities, such as computer networks, power grids, and social networks. The way we interact with our networks and trade information back and forth impacts our learning. Whether it is a blog, social media, YouTube, a church group, a social club, or a podcast, we are connecting with others and trading knowledge. In the process of trading, we are teaching and learning from each other. Connectivism becomes important when you talk about adult education and its growing field.

Adult education or adult learning is called Andragogy and is based on finding ways to help adults learn. Matthew Knowles, the founder of Andragogy, wanted to create learning environments and programs that were centered on the self-directed adult. He explained the five assumptions for the adult learner as:

Has an independent self-concept and who can direct his or her own learning
Has accumulated a reservoir of life experiences that is a rich resource for learning
Has learning needs closely related to changing social roles
Is problem-centered and interested in immediate application of knowledge
Is motivated to learn by internal rather than external factors (Conlan, Grabowski, & Smith, 2003).

If you were to examine Knowles assumption of adult learning and Siemens principles of connectivism, you will begin to understand the crossover, and how important networks are to the way we use our personal experiences and social roles to now learn and acquire new knowledge. Siemens principles of connectivism are:

Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.
Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008).

As an adult learner in the 21st century, we are looking for ways to learn that mesh with our daily routines of being on the go as a career person, family member, and community member. The wealth of technology has made adult learning much more possible for millions of adults. The adult no longer has to feel guilty about leaving their home lives or jobs to pursue classroom knowledge. They can limit their classroom time and choose how to receive the bulk of their information needed to gain new knowledge. Connectivism has definitely enhanced the field of adult learning.

My whole liberal arts undergraduate experience taught me about networks. As I attended classes with my adult peers, I began to form support networks with adults who were struggling like me to learn new technology and critical ways of thinking. Each class became a mini community in which we introduced new networks and traded information between them. As we shared information from individual personal and social networks, we learned to apply knowledge in and out of the classroom. Although I learned many valuable lessons, the two most important lessons I will always remember from those 5 ½ years of connecting and learning is that learning is a lifelong experience, and that a community is not just a physical entity enclosed within a neighborhood of houses. So, I invite you to become a “new school adult” and see what new networks you can create through connectivism. I am sharing a picture of my networks, so you can get a visual of how connectivism evolves.

References

Conlan, J., Grabowski, S., & Smith, K. (2003). Adult Learning. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

Davis, C, Edmunds, E, & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. In M. Orey (Ed.), Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved from http://projects.coe.uga.edu/epltt/

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from Elearnspace website: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

 


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