Thursday, September 15, 2011

Connectivism or not? Its not either/or.

There seems to be a false divide between a fully open, connected teaching style and the more traditional content focussed teaching style. Mrbrenlea expressed this divide with his concern with giving students freedom to build connections:

"But, do I believe it should be up to each individual to follow only what interests them: hardly. Reflecting on my own interests as a child, if I had only followed the nodes that allowed me further to develop my knowledge of areas of interest, then I would have wound up learning nothing except how to put on a show, “Who Shot Mr. Burns?,” and perhaps the 100 reasons why cats are better then dogs."

In the above statement, Mrbrenlea has taken a general principle and applied it to a specific group - children. But would he apply the same principle say, to a 35 year old grad student? Probably not. Each person has different learning needs at different stages of thier lives.

I don't think teaching is a profession that can use conclusions from ideas across the whole profession. Mostly because, as a profession, we deal with all ages. And teaching is a bit like parenting - at first the baby is given very little freedom but they are allowed to experiment with the environment under very controlled circumstances. Over time the child is given more freedom to explore, until finally adulthood arrives and the child is making decisions for him or her self. But parenting is more than controlling the immediate environment (content) of the child, it is also about preparing them for what lays ahead (connectivism). We teach them skills like resilience, even though we would never let them come to fatal harm. We teach them about sex, but we would never want them to act on that knowledge immediately.

But we also teach them how to talk, read, jump, run, swim, all sorts of things that they may not be interested in. And they learn it. Not necessarily because they want to but because small children will learn what they are taught. But as they get older we use more sophisticated methods to teach them what they don't want to know and we also stop trying to control everything they learn.

So to with Connectivism. We can teach children how it is done within a controlled environment when young and slowly loosen the contol as they get older. Where are the key points along the way for increasing Connectivism? This is where the debate should be happening. Not on whether one or the other method should be used.



  1. A resonating and high hand waving “AMEN” from a fellow wavelet insisting on progression and continuum. To be human is to learn, and to learn is to connect, and to connect is to show the power of AND.

  2. Lo and behold, your blog was already in my reader. You make points I have been trying to articulate but are not always well accepted by those whose teaching experience has been limited to a single age group in a classroom setting. I've taught across age groups and in non-academic areas, some bearing inherent risks.

  3. I too have taught across age groups, Vanessa, including teachers. Its about finding where and how it all fits. Like parduespring says, its about connections.