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Connectivism:
A Learning Theory for the Digital Age
http://www.yale.edu/pace/teammembers/personalpages/bob.html
http://www.psy.pdx.edu/PsiCafe/KeyTheorists/Sternberg.htm
http://neuron-ai.tuke.sk/NCS/VOL1/P3_html/node4.html

December 12, 2004


George Siemens

Update (April 5, 2005): I've added a website to explore this concept at


www.connectivism.ca

Introduction

Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are the three broad learning theories most often utilized in the creation
of instructional environments. These theories, however, were developed in a time when learning was not impacted
through technology. Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and
how we learn. Learning needs and theories that describe learning principles and processes, should be reflective of
underlying social environments. Vaill emphasizes that learning must be a way of being an ongoing set of attitudes
and actions by individuals and groups that they employ to try to keep abreast o the surprising, novel, messy, obtrusive,
recurring events (1996, p.42).

Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required schooling and enter a career that would often last a
lifetime. Information development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades. Today, these
foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is growing exponentially. In many fields the life of knowledge
is now measured in months and years. Gonzalez (2004) describes the challenges of rapidly diminishing knowledge
life:

One of the most persuasive factors is the shrinking half-life of knowledge. The half-life of knowledge is the time
span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10
years ago. The amount of knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18 months
according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To combat the shrinking half-life of
knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop new methods of deploying instruction.

Some significant trends in learning:

Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over the course of their lifetime.
Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of
our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways through communities of practice, personal networks, and
through completion of work-related tasks.
Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related activities are no longer separate. In
many situations, they are the same.
Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape our thinking.
The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased attention to knowledge management
highlights the need for a theory that attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.
Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in cognitive information processing) can now
be off-loaded to, or supported by, technology.
Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge
needed).

Background

Driscoll (2000) defines learning as a persisting change in human performance or performance potential[which]
must come about as a result of the learners experience and interaction with the world (p.11). This definition
encompasses many of the attributes commonly associated with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism
namely, learning as a lasting changed state (emotional, mental, physiological (i.e. skills)) brought about as a result of
experiences and interactions with content or other people.

Driscoll (2000, p14-17) explores some of the complexities of defining learning. Debate centers on:

Valid sources of knowledge - Do we gain knowledge through experiences? Is it innate (present at birth)? Do we acquire
it through thinking and reasoning?
Content of knowledge Is knowledge actually knowable? Is it directly knowable through human experience?
The final consideration focuses on three epistemological traditions in relation to learning: Objectivism, Pragmatism, and
Interpretivism
Objectivism (similar to behaviorism) states that reality is external and is objective, and knowledge is gained through experiences.
Pragmatism (similar to cognitivism) states that reality is interpreted, and knowledge is negotiated through experience and thinking.
Interpretivism (similar to constructivism) states that reality is internal, and knowledge is constructed.

All of these learning theories hold the notion that knowledge is an objective (or a state) that is attainable (if not
already innate) through either reasoning or experiences. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism (built on the
epistemological traditions) attempt to address how it is that a person learns.

Behaviorism states that learning is largely unknowable, that is, we cant possibly understand what goes on inside a
person (the black box theory). Gredler (2001) expresses behaviorism as being comprised of several theories that
make three assumptions about learning:

1. Observable behaviour is more important than understanding internal activities


2. Behaviour should be focused on simple elements: specific stimuli and responses
3. Learning is about behaviour change

Cognitivism often takes a computer information processing model. Learning is viewed as a process of inputs,
managed in short term memory, and coded for long-term recall. Cindy Buell details this process: In cognitive
theories, knowledge is viewed as symbolic mental constructs in the learner's mind, and the learning process is the
means by which these symbolic representations are committed to memory.

Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt to understand their experiences (Driscoll,
2000, p. 376). Behaviorism and cognitivism view knowledge as external to the learner and the learning process as the
act of internalizing knowledge. Constructivism assumes that learners are not empty vessels to be filled with
knowledge. Instead, learners are actively attempting to create meaning. Learners often select and pursue their own
learning. Constructivist principles acknowledge that real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which
emulate the fuzziness of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for life-long learning.

Limitations of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism

A central tenet of most learning theories is that learning occurs inside a person. Even social constructivist views,
which hold that learning is a socially enacted process, promotes the principality of the individual (and her/his physical
presence i.e. brain-based) in learning. These theories do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e.
learning that is stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how learning happens within
organizations

Learning theories are concerned with the actual process of learning, not with the value of what is being learned. In a
networked world, the very manner of information that we acquire is worth exploring. The need to evaluate the
worthiness of learning something is a meta-skill that is applied before learning itself begins. When knowledge is
subject to paucity, the process of assessing worthiness is assumed to be intrinsic to learning. When knowledge is
abundant, the rapid evaluation of knowledge is important. Additional concerns arise from the rapid increase in
information. In todays environment, action is often needed without personal learning that is, we need to act by
drawing information outside of our primary knowledge. The ability to synthesize and recognize connections and
patterns is a valuable skill.

Many important questions are raised when established learning theories are seen through technology. The natural
attempt of theorists is to continue to revise and evolve theories as conditions change. At some point, however, the
underlying conditions have altered so significantly, that further modification is no longer sensible. An entirely new
approach is needed.

Some questions to explore in relation to learning theories and the impact of technology and new sciences (chaos and
networks) on learning:

How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the linear manner?
What adjustments need to made with learning theories when technology performs many of the cognitive operations
previously performed by learners (information storage and retrieval).
How can we continue to stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?
How do learning theories address moments where performance is needed in the absence of complete understanding?
What is the impact of networks and complexity theories on learning?
What is the impact of chaos as a complex pattern recognition process on learning?
With increased recognition of interconnections in differing fields of knowledge, how are systems and ecology theories
perceived in light of learning tasks?

An Alternative Theory

Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into a digital age.
We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from
forming connections. Karen Stephenson states:

Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot experience everything, other
peoples experiences, and hence other people, become the surrogate for knowledge. I store my knowledge in my
friends is an axiom for collecting knowledge through collecting people (undated).

Chaos is a new reality for knowledge workers. ScienceWeek (2004) quotes Nigel Calder's definition that chaos is a
cryptic form of order. Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated arrangements that initially
defy order. Unlike constructivism, which states that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks,
chaos states that the meaning exists the learner's challenge is to recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden.
Meaning-making and forming connections between specialized communities are important activities.

Chaos, as a science, recognizes the connection of everything to everything. Gleick (1987) states: In weather, for
example, this translates into what is only half-jokingly known as the Butterfly Effect the notion that a butterfly
stirring the air today in Peking can transform storm systems next month in New York (p. 8). This analogy highlights
a real challenge: sensitive dependence on initial conditions profoundly impacts what we learn and how we act based
on our learning. Decision making is indicative of this. If the underlying conditions used to make decisions change, the
decision itself is no longer as correct as it was at the time it was made. The ability to recognize and adjust to pattern
shifts is a key learning task.

Luis Mateus Rocha (1998) defines self-organization as the spontaneous formation of well organized structures,
patterns, or behaviors, from random initial conditions. (p.3). Learning, as a self-organizing process requires that the
system (personal or organizational learning systems) be informationally open, that is, for it to be able to classify its
own interaction with an environment, it must be able to change its structure (p.4). Wiley and Edwards
acknowledge the importance of self-organization as a learning process: Jacobs argues that communities self-organize
is a manner similar to social insects: instead of thousands of ants crossing each others pheromone trails and changing
their behavior accordingly, thousands of humans pass each other on the sidewalk and change their behavior
accordingly.. Self-organization on a personal level is a micro-process of the larger self-organizing knowledge
constructs created within corporate or institutional environments. The capacity to form connections between sources
of information, and thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our knowledge economy.

Networks, Small Worlds, Weak Ties

A network can simply be defined as connections between entities. Computer networks, power grids, and social
networks all function on the simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be connected to create
an integrated whole. Alterations within the network have ripple effects on the whole.

Albert-Lszl Barabsi states that nodes always compete for connections because links represent survival in an
interconnected world (2002, p.106). This competition is largely dulled within a personal learning network, but the
placing of value on certain nodes over others is a reality. Nodes that successfully acquire greater profile will be more
successful at acquiring additional connections. In a learning sense, the likelihood that a concept of learning will be
linked depends on how well it is currently linked. Nodes (can be fields, ideas, communities) that specialize and gain
recognition for their expertise have greater chances of recognition, thus resulting in cross-pollination of learning
communities.

Weak ties are links or bridges that allow short connections between information. Our small world networks are
generally populated with people whose interests and knowledge are similar to ours. Finding a new job, as an example,
often occurs through weak ties. This principle has great merit in the notion of serendipity, innovation, and creativity.
Connections between disparate ideas and fields can create new innovations.

Connectivism

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization
theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements not entirely under
the control of the individual. Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an
organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us
to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundations. New
information is continually being acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant
information is vital. The ability to recognize when new information alters the landscape based on decisions made
yesterday is also critical.

Principles of connectivism:

Learning and knowledge rests 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.
Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen
through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in
the information climate affecting the decision.
Connectivism also addresses the challenges that many corporations face in knowledge management activities.
Knowledge that resides in a database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context in order to be
classified as learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism do not attempt to address the challenges of
organizational knowledge and transference.

Information flow within an organization is an important element in organizational effectiveness. In a knowledge


economy, the flow of information is the equivalent of the oil pipe in an industrial economy. Creating, preserving, and
utilizing information flow should be a key organizational activity. Knowledge flow can be likened to a river that
meanders through the ecology of an organization. In certain areas, the river pools and in other areas it ebbs. The health
of the learning ecology of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow.

Social network analysis is an additional element in understanding learning models in a digital era. Art Kleiner (2002)
explores Karen Stephensons quantum theory of trust which explains not just how to recognize the collective
cognitive capability of an organization, but how to cultivate and increase it. Within social networks, hubs are well-
connected people who are able to foster and maintain knowledge flow. Their interdependence results in effective
knowledge flow, enabling the personal understanding of the state of activities organizationally.

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.

Landauer and Dumais (1997) explore the phenomenon that people have much more knowledge than appears to be
present in the information to which they have been exposed. They provide a connectivist focus in stating the simple
notion that some domains of knowledge contain vast numbers of weak interrelations that, if properly exploited, can
greatly amplify learning by a process of inference. The value of pattern recognition and connecting our own small
worlds of knowledge are apparent in the exponential impact provided to our personal learning.

John Seely Brown presents an interesting notion that the internet leverages the small efforts of many with the large
efforts of few. The central premise is that connections created with unusual nodes supports and intensifies existing
large effort activities. Brown provides the example of a Maricopa County Community College system project that
links senior citizens with elementary school students in a mentor program. The children listen to these
grandparents better than they do their own parents, the mentoring really helps the teachersthe small efforts of the
many- the seniors complement the large efforts of the few the teachers. (2002). This amplification of learning,
knowledge and understanding through the extension of a personal network is the epitome of connectivism.

Implications

The notion of connectivism has implications in all aspects of life. This paper largely focuses on its impact on learning,
but the following aspects are also impacted:

Management and leadership. The management and marshalling of resources to achieve desired outcomes is a
significant challenge. Realizing that complete knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different
approach to creating an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are a critical structure for
completely exploring ideas. Innovation is also an additional challenge. Most of the revolutionary ideas of today at one
time existed as a fringe element. An organizations ability to foster, nurture, and synthesize the impacts of varying views
of information is critical to knowledge economy survival. Speed of idea to implementation is also improved in a systems
view of learning.
Media, news, information. This trend is well under way. Mainstream media organizations are being challenged by the
open, real-time, two-way information flow of blogging.
Personal knowledge management in relation to organizational knowledge management
Design of learning environments

Conclusion:

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more
important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the
point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the
requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more
important than what the learner currently possesses.

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer
an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of
education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it
means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital
era.

References

Barabsi, A. L., (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks, Cambridge, MA, Perseus Publishing.
Buell, C. (undated). Cognitivism. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://web.cocc.edu/cbuell/theories/cognitivism.htm.
Brown, J. S., (2002). Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways People Learn.
United States Distance Learning Association. Retrieved on December 10, 2004, from
http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/FEB02_Issue/article01.html
Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.
Gleick, J., (1987). Chaos: The Making of a New Science. New York, NY, Penguin Books.
Gonzalez, C., (2004). The Role of Blended Learning in the World of Technology. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://www.unt.edu/benchmarks/archives/2004/september04/eis.htm.
Gredler, M. E., (2005) Learning and Instruction: Theory into Practice 5th Edition, Upper Saddle River, NJ, Pearson
Education.
Kleiner, A. (2002). Karen Stephensons Quantum Theory of Trust. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://www.netform.com/html/s+b%20article.pdf.
Landauer, T. K., Dumais, S. T. (1997). A Solution to Platos Problem: The Latent Semantic Analysis Theory of
Acquisition, Induction and Representation of Knowledge. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://lsa.colorado.edu/papers/plato/plato.annote.html.
Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems. Retrieved December 10,
2004 from http://informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/ises.html.
ScienceWeek (2004) Mathematics: Catastrophe Theory, Strange Attractors, Chaos. Retrieved December 10, 2004
from http://scienceweek.com/2003/sc031226-2.htm.
Stephenson, K., (Internal Communication, no. 36) What Knowledge Tears Apart, Networks Make Whole. Retrieved
December 10, 2004 from http://www.netform.com/html/icf.pdf.
Vaill, P. B., (1996). Learning as a Way of Being. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Blass Inc.
Wiley, D. A and Edwards, E. K. (2002). Online self-organizing social systems: The decentralized future of online
learning. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from http://wiley.ed.usu.edu/docs/ososs.pdf.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License


Editors Note: This is a milestone article that deserves careful study. Connectivism should not be
con fused with constructivism. George Siemens advances a theory of learning that is consistent with
the needs of the twenty first century. His theory takes into account trends in learning, the use of
technology and networks, and the diminishing half-life of knowledge. It combines relevant elements of
many learning theories, social structures, and technology to create a powerful theoretical construct
for learning in the digital age.

Connectivism:
A Learning Theory for the Digital Age
George Siemens

Introduction

Behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism are the three broad


learning theories most often utilized in the creation of instructional
environments. These theories, however, were developed in a time when
learning was not impacted through technology. Over the last twenty
years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate,
and how we learn. Learning needs and theories that describe learning
principles and processes, should be reflective of underlying social
environments. Vaill emphasizes that learning must be a way of being
an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups that
they employ to try to keep abreast of the surprising, novel, messy,
obtrusive, recurring events (1996, p.42).

Learners as little as forty years ago would complete the required


schooling and enter a career that would often last a lifetime. Information
development was slow. The life of knowledge was measured in decades.
Today, these foundational principles have been altered. Knowledge is
growing exponentially. In many fields the life of knowledge is now
measured in months and years. Gonzalez (2004) describes the challenges
of rapidly diminishing knowledge life:

One of the most persuasive factors is the shrinking half-life of knowledge. The half-life
of knowledge is the time span from when knowledge is gained to when it becomes
obsolete. Half of what is known today was not known 10 years ago. The amount of
knowledge in the world has doubled in the past 10 years and is doubling every 18
months according to the American Society of Training and Documentation (ASTD). To
combat the shrinking half-life of knowledge, organizations have been forced to develop
new methods of deploying instruction.

Some significant trends in learning:

Many learners will move into a variety of different, possibly unrelated fields over
the course of their lifetime.
Informal learning is a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal
education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs
in a variety of ways through communities of practice, personal networks, and
through completion of work-related tasks.

Learning is a continual process, lasting for a lifetime. Learning and work related
activities are no longer separate. In many situations, they are the same.

Technology is altering (rewiring) our brains. The tools we use define and shape
our thinking.

The organization and the individual are both learning organisms. Increased
attention to knowledge management highlights the need for a theory that
attempts to explain the link between individual and organizational learning.

Many of the processes previously handled by learning theories (especially in


cognitive information processing) can now be off-loaded to, or supported by,
technology.

Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the


understanding of where to find knowledge needed).

Background

Driscoll (2000) defines learning as a persisting change in human


performance or performance potential[which] must come about as a
result of the learners experience and interaction with the world (p.11).
This definition encompasses many of the attributes commonly associated
with behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism namely, learning as
a lasting changed state (emotional, mental, physiological (i.e. skills))
brought about as a result of experiences and interactions with content or
other people.

Driscoll (2000, p14-17) explores some of the complexities of defining


learning. Debate centers on:

Valid sources of knowledge - Do we gain knowledge through experiences? Is it


innate (present at birth)? Do we acquire it through thinking and reasoning?
Content of knowledge Is knowledge actually knowable? Is it directly knowable
through human experience?

The final consideration focuses on three epistemological traditions in relation to


learning: Objectivism, Pragmatism, and Interpretivism

Objectivism (similar to behaviorism) states that reality is external and is


objective, and knowledge is gained through experiences.

Pragmatism (similar to cognitivism) states that reality is interpreted, and


knowledge is negotiated through experience and thinking.
Interpretivism (similar to constructivism) states that reality is internal,
and knowledge is constructed.

All of these learning theories hold the notion that knowledge is an


objective (or a state) that is attainable (if not already innate) through
either reasoning or experiences. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and
constructivism (built on the epistemological traditions) attempt to
address how it is that a person learns.

Behaviorism states that learning is largely unknowable, that is, we cant


possibly understand what goes on inside a person (the black box
theory). Gredler (2001) expresses behaviorism as being comprised of
several theories that make three assumptions about learning:

1. Observable behaviour is more important than understanding internal activities


2. Behaviour should be focused on simple elements: specific stimuli and responses

3. Learning is about behaviour change

Cognitivism often takes a computer information processing model.


Learning is viewed as a process of inputs, managed in short term
memory, and coded for long-term recall. Cindy Buell details this process:
In cognitive theories, knowledge is viewed as symbolic mental
constructs in the learner's mind, and the learning process is the means
by which these symbolic representations are committed to memory.

Constructivism suggests that learners create knowledge as they attempt


to understand their experiences (Driscoll, 2000, p. 376). Behaviorism and
cognitivism view knowledge as external to the learner and the learning
process as the act of internalizing knowledge. Constructivism assumes
that learners are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge. Instead,
learners are actively attempting to create meaning. Learners often select
and pursue their own learning. Constructivist principles acknowledge that
real-life learning is messy and complex. Classrooms which emulate the
fuzziness of this learning will be more effective in preparing learners for
life-long learning.

Limitations of Behaviorism, Cognitivism, and Constructivism

A central tenet of most learning theories is that learning occurs inside a


person. Even social constructivist views, which hold that learning is a
socially enacted process, promotes the principality of the individual (and
her/his physical presence i.e. brain-based) in learning. These theories
do not address learning that occurs outside of people (i.e. learning that is
stored and manipulated by technology). They also fail to describe how
learning happens within organizations

Learning theories are concerned with the actual process of learning, not
with the value of what is being learned. In a networked world, the very
manner of information that we acquire is worth exploring. The need to
evaluate the worthiness of learning something is a meta-skill that is
applied before learning itself begins. When knowledge is subject to
paucity, the process of assessing worthiness is assumed to be intrinsic to
learning. When knowledge is abundant, the rapid evaluation of
knowledge is important. Additional concerns arise from the rapid increase
in information. In todays environment, action is often needed without
personal learning that is, we need to act by drawing information
outside of our primary knowledge. The ability to synthesize and recognize
connections and patterns is a valuable skill.

Many important questions are raised when established learning theories


are seen through technology. The natural attempt of theorists is to
continue to revise and evolve theories as conditions change. At some
point, however, the underlying conditions have altered so significantly,
that further modification is no longer sensible. An entirely new approach
is needed.

Some questions to explore in relation to learning theories and the impact


of technology and new sciences (chaos and networks) on learning:

How are learning theories impacted when knowledge is no longer acquired in the
linear manner?
What adjustments need to made with learning theories when technology
performs many of the cognitive operations previously performed by learners
(information storage and retrieval).

How can we continue to stay current in a rapidly evolving information ecology?

How do learning theories address moments where performance is needed in the


absence of complete understanding?

What is the impact of networks and complexity theories on learning?

What is the impact of chaos as a complex pattern recognition process on


learning?

With increased recognition of interconnections in differing fields of knowledge,


how are systems and ecology theories perceived in light of learning tasks?

An Alternative Theory

Including technology and connection making as learning activities begins


to move learning theories into a digital age. We can no longer personally
experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our
competence from forming connections. Karen Stephenson states:

Experience has long been considered the best teacher of knowledge. Since we cannot
experience everything, other peoples experiences, and hence other people, become the
surrogate for knowledge. I store my knowledge in my friends is an axiom for collecting
knowledge through collecting people (undated).

Chaos is a new reality for knowledge workers. ScienceWeek (2004)


quotes Nigel Calder's definition that chaos is a cryptic form of order.
Chaos is the breakdown of predictability, evidenced in complicated
arrangements that initially defy order. Unlike constructivism, which states
that learners attempt to foster understanding by meaning making tasks,
chaos states that the meaning exists the learner's challenge is to
recognize the patterns which appear to be hidden. Meaning-making and
forming connections between specialized communities are important
activities.

Chaos, as a science, recognizes the connection of everything to


everything. Gleick (1987) states: In weather, for example, this
translates into what is only half-jokingly known as the Butterfly Effect
the notion that a butterfly stirring the air today in Peking can transform
storm systems next month in New York (p. 8). This analogy highlights a
real challenge: sensitive dependence on initial conditions profoundly
impacts what we learn and how we act based on our learning. Decision
making is indicative of this. If the underlying conditions used to make
decisions change, the decision itself is no longer as correct as it was at
the time it was made. The ability to recognize and adjust to pattern shifts
is a key learning task.

Luis Mateus Rocha (1998) defines self-organization as the spontaneous


formation of well organized structures, patterns, or behaviors, from
random initial conditions. (p.3). Learning, as a self-organizing process
requires that the system (personal or organizational learning systems)
be informationally open, that is, for it to be able to classify its own
interaction with an environment, it must be able to change its
structure (p.4). Wiley and Edwards acknowledge the importance of
self-organization as a learning process: Jacobs argues that communities
self-organize is a manner similar to social insects: instead of thousands
of ants crossing each others pheromone trails and changing their
behavior accordingly, thousands of humans pass each other on the
sidewalk and change their behavior accordingly.. Self-organization on a
personal level is a micro-process of the larger self-organizing knowledge
constructs created within corporate or institutional environments. The
capacity to form connections between sources of information, and
thereby create useful information patterns, is required to learn in our
knowledge economy.

Networks, Small Worlds, Weak Ties

A network can simply be defined as connections between entities.


Computer networks, power grids, and social networks all function on the
simple principle that people, groups, systems, nodes, entities can be
connected to create an integrated whole. Alterations within the network
have ripple effects on the whole.

Albert-Lszl Barabsi states that nodes always compete for connections


because links represent survival in an interconnected world (2002,
p.106). This competition is largely dulled within a personal learning
network, but the placing of value on certain nodes over others is a
reality. Nodes that successfully acquire greater profile will be more
successful at acquiring additional connections. In a learning sense, the
likelihood that a concept of learning will be linked depends on how well it
is currently linked. Nodes (can be fields, ideas, communities) that
specialize and gain recognition for their expertise have greater chances of
recognition, thus resulting in cross-pollination of learning communities.

Weak ties are links or bridges that allow short connections between
information. Our small world networks are generally populated with
people whose interests and knowledge are similar to ours. Finding a new
job, as an example, often occurs through weak ties. This principle has
great merit in the notion of serendipity, innovation, and creativity.
Connections between disparate ideas and fields can create new
innovations.

Connectivism

Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network,


and complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that
occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements not
entirely under the control of the individual. Learning (defined as
actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an
organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized
information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are
more important than our current state of knowing.

Connectivism is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on


rapidly altering foundations. New information is continually being
acquired. The ability to draw distinctions between important and
unimportant information is vital. The ability to recognize when new
information alters the landscape based on decisions made yesterday is
also critical.

Principles of connectivism:
Learning and knowledge rests 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.

Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the


meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.
While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations
in the information climate affecting the decision.
Connectivism also addresses the challenges that many corporations face
in knowledge management activities. Knowledge that resides in a
database needs to be connected with the right people in the right context
in order to be classified as learning. Behaviorism, cognitivism, and
constructivism do not attempt to address the challenges of organizational
knowledge and transference.

Information flow within an organization is an important element in


organizational effectiveness. In a knowledge economy, the flow of
information is the equivalent of the oil pipe in an industrial economy.
Creating, preserving, and utilizing information flow should be a key
organizational activity. Knowledge flow can be likened to a river that
meanders through the ecology of an organization. In certain areas, the
river pools and in other areas it ebbs. The health of the learning ecology
of the organization depends on effective nurturing of information flow.

Social network analysis is an additional element in understanding


learning models in a digital era. Art Kleiner (2002) explores Karen
Stephensons quantum theory of trust which explains not just how to
recognize the collective cognitive capability of an organization, but how to
cultivate and increase it. Within social networks, hubs are well-
connected people who are able to foster and maintain knowledge flow.
Their interdependence results in effective knowledge flow, enabling the
personal understanding of the state of activities organizationally.

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.

Landauer and Dumais (1997) explore the phenomenon that people have
much more knowledge than appears to be present in the information to
which they have been exposed. They provide a connectivist focus in
stating the simple notion that some domains of knowledge contain vast
numbers of weak interrelations that, if properly exploited, can greatly
amplify learning by a process of inference. The value of pattern
recognition and connecting our own small worlds of knowledge are
apparent in the exponential impact provided to our personal learning.

John Seely Brown presents an interesting notion that the internet


leverages the small efforts of many with the large efforts of few. The
central premise is that connections created with unusual nodes supports
and intensifies existing large effort activities. Brown provides the example
of a Maricopa County Community College system project that links senior
citizens with elementary school students in a mentor program. The
children listen to these grandparents better than they do their own
parents, the mentoring really helps the teachersthe small efforts of the
many- the seniors complement the large efforts of the few the
teachers. (2002). This amplification of learning, knowledge and
understanding through the extension of a personal network is the
epitome of connectivism.

Implications

The notion of connectivism has implications in all aspects of life. This


paper largely focuses on its impact on learning, but the following aspects
are also impacted:

Management and leadership. The management and marshalling of resources to


achieve desired outcomes is a significant challenge. Realizing that complete
knowledge cannot exist in the mind of one person requires a different approach
to creating an overview of the situation. Diverse teams of varying viewpoints are
a critical structure for completely exploring ideas. Innovation is also an additional
challenge. Most of the revolutionary ideas of today at one time existed as a
fringe element. An organizations ability to foster, nurture, and synthesize the
impacts of varying views of information is critical to knowledge economy
survival. Speed of idea to implementation is also improved in a systems view of
learning.
Media, news, information. This trend is well under way. Mainstream media
organizations are being challenged by the open, real-time, two-way information
flow of blogging.

Personal knowledge management in relation to organizational knowledge


management

Design of learning environments

Conclusion:

The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability
to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we
know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known
knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is
needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the
requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and
evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner
currently possesses.

Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the


tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal,
individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new
tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both
the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what
it means to learn. Connectivism provides insight into learning skills and
tasks needed for learners to flourish in a digital era.

References
Barabsi, A. L., (2002) Linked: The New Science of Networks, Cambridge, MA, Perseus Publishing.

Buell, C. (undated). Cognitivism. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from


http://web.cocc.edu/cbuell/theories/cognitivism.htm.

Brown, J. S., (2002). Growing Up Digital: How the Web Changes Work, Education, and the Ways
People Learn. United States Distance Learning Association. Retrieved on December 10, 2004,
from http://www.usdla.org/html/journal/FEB02_Issue/article01.html

Driscoll, M. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Needham Heights, MA, Allyn & Bacon.

Gleick, J., (1987). Chaos: The Making of a New Science. New York, NY, Penguin Books.

Gonzalez, C., (2004). The Role of Blended Learning in the World of Technology. Retrieved December
10, 2004 from http://www.unt.edu/benchmarks/archives/2004/september04/eis.htm.

Gredler, M. E., (2005) Learning and Instruction: Theory into Practice 5th Edition, Upper Saddle
River, NJ, Pearson Education.

Kleiner, A. (2002). Karen Stephensons Quantum Theory of Trust. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://www.netform.com/html/s+b%20article.pdf.

Landauer, T. K., Dumais, S. T. (1997). A Solution to Platos Problem: The Latent Semantic Analysis
Theory of Acquisition, Induction and Representation of Knowledge. Retrieved December 10,
2004 from http://lsa.colorado.edu/papers/plato/plato.annote.html.

Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems.


Retrieved December 10, 2004 from http://informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/ises.html.

ScienceWeek (2004) Mathematics: Catastrophe Theory, Strange Attractors, Chaos. Retrieved


December 10, 2004 from http://scienceweek.com/2003/sc031226-2.htm.

Stephenson, K., (Internal Communication, no. 36) What Knowledge Tears Apart, Networks Make
Whole. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from http://www.netform.com/html/icf.pdf.

Vaill, P. B., (1996). Learning as a Way of Being. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Blass Inc.

Wiley, D. A and Edwards, E. K. (2002). Online self-organizing social systems: The decentralized
future of online learning. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from
http://wiley.ed.usu.edu/docs/ososs.pdf.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

About the Author


George Siemens is an instructor at Red River
College in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He is
enamored with the potential of technology to
transform learning and is convinced that existing
educational perspectives need to be revised to
meet the needs of "today's students". Contact him
at gsiemens@elearnspace.org.

George Seimens is author and editor of the


eLearnspace website at www.elearnspace.org. It
offers rich resources on elearning.

You are invited to subscribe to elearnspaces


twice-weekly blog summary email with
George eLearning Resources and News for managers,
Sie developers, and facilitators. To subscribe, click
here. You can also read it online at
men http://www.elearnspace.org/blog/.
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April 2006
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2006 9 10 11 12 13 14 15
16 17 18 19 20 21 22
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Scientists and Artists: Who 30
ABOUT
should design learning? Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age.
RECENT ENTRIES
[Connectivism] Scientists and Artists: Who should design learning?(04/21 15:05)
It's generally considered cool to quote Marshall Restructuring our Structures(04/18 10:30)
McLuhan. I recently had an interesting conversation Ill-structured process, clear outcome(04/13 16:01)
Learning, assessment, outcomes, ecologies(04/05 09:30)
with a friend where I presented the notion that
Propositions on learning today(03/31 09:30)
learning networks should filter themselves - they Learning Ecologies(03/10 10:30)
should not be pre-filtered the way most of our It doesn't come pre-packaged anymore...(03/06 09:40)

classrooms and courses are created. Courses are Connectivism Taxonomy(02/24 10:25)
Learning: the journey or the desitination?(02/23 09:25)
designed by eliminating knowledge elements that the
RECENT COMMENTS
designer feels doesn't belong. As a result, we end up Re: Scientists and Artists: Who should design learning?(adrian

with a focused, often one-perspective, view of a chan : 04/23 19:18)


Re: Scientists and Artists: Who should design learning?(Lennart
particular field. This structure is generally perceived as Rolandsson : 04/22 08:27)
Re: Ill-structured process, clear outcome(Louise Starkey :
being valuable in providing learners with information
04/16 20:04)
that they need to master particular tasks or skills. Re: Propositions on learning today(George Siemens : 04/05
Anyway, somewhere during the conversation we 09:43)

turned to McLuhan. My friend, an artist by trade and Re: Connectivism Taxonomy(corrie : 04/03 15:00)
Re: Propositions on learning today(corrie : 04/03 14:42)
passion, shared his reaction to McLuhan (quite
Re: Learning Ecologies(Rob Reynolds : 03/31 11:33)
different from what I generally encounter). He stated Re: Connectivism Taxonomy(David Justice : 03/24 14:41)
that an artist finds magic everywhere. The entire Re: Learning Ecologies(Kris Wetterlund : 03/22 17:02)
Re: It doesn't come pre-packaged anymore...(Jill Armstrong :
landscape of existence holds magic and beauty for an
03/19 17:02)
artist. McLuhan entered the space of artists and
RECENT TRACKBACKS
started defining and detailing and casting a Viagra(04/27 02:23)
weaning off lexapro(04/26 09:11)
sociologist's or scientific perspective on elements. In
loan(04/25 10:20)
the process, he "killed" the magic. Approach an artist, slot machines to play online(04/24 23:06)
for example, and ask, "how many birds do you think poker bonuses(04/24 00:11)
Weekly Roundup (23 April 2006)(04/23 12:02)
there are?". She'll reply, "I don't know, lots I
online triple red whte blue slots(04/23 07:15)
guess"...and begin to talk color and beauty. Approach
I can dig it(04/22 20:27)
a scientist (my friend's analogy, I recognize that it's a Weekly Roundup (16 April 2006)(04/18 13:00)
generalization), and she'll start shooting and counting Milken Institute(04/18 10:09)
them in an effort to classify types and number. CATEGORIES
Thinking (9 items)
Organizational Learning (1 items)
While this example is perhaps a bit extreme, it does Connectivism (33 items)
Networks (3 items)
bring to the forefront the challenges that we face as
Learning Theories (9 items)
educators and designers of educational environments. Ecosystem (1 items)
I've been following a discussion in a listserv that is Podcast (1 items)

attempting to parse the nuances of designing learning A R C H I V E S


April 2006
materials (and surprise - the methods are scientific, March 2006
outcomes-based). The first question asked, when February 2006
January 2006
discussing learning approaches, design methodologies,
December 2005
and theories, is "what's the evidence?". Evidence in November 2005
this case is almost always defined empirically (i.e. October 2005

scientifically). "What is the return on investment September 2005


August 2005
(ROI)?" Wheres the magic and beauty?
July 2005

I feel it's important to understand (and be able to Syndicate this site (XML)

measure - though I would like to extend measurement RSS/RDF 0.91


beyond simple dollars) the impact of training and
learning. Unfortunately, the "scientists of learning"
have the dominant voice in the learning space. The
artists aren't being heard.

If the scientists role is one of determining best


approaches to instruction (through empirical research,
qualitative and quantitative analysis), what is the role
of the artist in the learning space? I believe the artist
is the individual who sees the magic in learning.
He/she may not know exactly why something worked
well, but can see (and dare I say, feel?) that the
learners are changing, growing, and developing. The
artist of learning sees beauty in the dialogue, in the
interaction, in the connections formed between what is
known and what is becoming known. The artist sees
(and accepts) the beauty of uncertainty, and values
learning as both a process and a product. In creating a
learning environment, the artist splashes the magic of
learning across the entire canvas of life. Tools are used
like paint brushes to create the desired painting of
learning. Blogs, wikis, podcasts, courses (yes, even an
LMS), conversations, communities of practice - these
elements are all seen as pieces in the learning
experience and ecology.

I would like to see our learning design include the


voices of both the scientist and the artist. Neither is
necessarily better than the other. In some cases, a
business may require the metrics and method of a
clear defined, scientific model. In other cases
(especially when pursuing innovation and creativity)
they may desire the beauty of learning created by the
artist. Both, held in balance and for the appropriate
task, are needed for the benefit of the learning, the
organization, and the instructor.

Posted by gsiemens at 15:05 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (1)

18 April
2006

Restructuring our Structures


[Connectivism]
I've posted a 10 minute podcast - Restructuring our
Structures - on the the nature of the change occurring
in society, business, and education. Essentially, two
changes are driving everything: 1) the breakdown of
centralized structures (and move toward network
models), and 2) the increased capacity for "quick
connectivity" - i.e. the ability to for connections with
ease.

Posted by gsiemens at 10:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (0)

13 April
2006

Ill-structured process, clear


outcome
[Connectivism]
Structure (lack of it) is a common concern I encounter
when talking about connectivism. A recent discussion
on a listserv highlighted the concern: for some, the
notion of an exploratory process is against the concept
of acquiring specific skills. Their argument rests on the
assumption that people learn because we expose them
to a clear, structured, static process...i.e. sit in this
chair, I'll lecture for one hour (or click through these
tutorials on your computer). Structure is equated with
intended outcomes.

Learners learn different things even if they are


exposed to the same content. We learn different things
from the same event because we bring our emotions,
previous experiences, current mental states, beliefs,
and assumptions to bear on new information. These
elements filter incoming information. When five people
read the same book, all of them walk away with a
different understanding of what happened, what's
important, and how they were impacted emotionally.
Common understanding is only achieved through
dialogue as each reader shares her/his
thoughts/reflections (each perspective is a piece of the
whole) (that's something to consider for learning
design). A book is a highly structured content
presentation object. Everyone experiences it in the
same process, yet each individual has a unique
experience. It would appear that structured exposure
to content is not a prerequisite for learning specific
skills (or concepts).

At the end of most of our learning activities (higher


education or corporate) we expect that we will have
gained something that made the experience
worthwhile. We want a new skill, a new perspective, or
greater understanding. Most of us, partly due to long
term conditioning in regular education environments,
are not comfortable with processes that allow for "free-
roaming". We want to know what to do, read, think
about, and produce. Lecture, create (assignment,
product), assess - these are viewed as cornerstones of
learning skills.

I wonder if we couldn't extend that value of learning


slightly if we didn't equate it so strongly with structure.
I think we can achieve intended outcomes, even if the
learning isn't structured or sequenced in a particular
manner. While I lack a particular research example, I
have life experiences that support the value of chaotic
learning approaches...that still produced specific skills.
Learning how to play basketball (or any sport), use a
computer, play a video game, drive a car, build
relationships, think critically...these are all skills that I
acquired in ill-structured ways.

Clear learning outcomes (i.e. driving a car) are


essentially goals that individuals can achieve in what
ever manner is most in keeping with a) how they
learn, b) what they already know, c) the immediacy of
use, d) motivation, e) success as a learner
(confidence), and f) the "state of life" (stress,
relationships...and all that other personal stuff that
influences learning). In a similar manner, we solve
most of our work problems in an ill-structured way -
we often only have a goal (i.e. "business presence in
India"), and we then take numerous approaches (trial
and error, expert guidance) in attempting to achieve
the goal.

Skills are not only created in highly structured,


sequential learning approaches. Certain types of skills
are uniquely suited to formal learning...but for many,
that luxury ends after graduation. Most skills are
learned through experiences - work or personal.
Periodically, the formal opportunity may present itself
(when implementing a new accounting system, for
example), but generally, the skills needed are acquired
in an ill-structured way. Surprisingly, the more clear
the goal, the less we need to structure the learning.
Learners will do that on their own as the move to goal
completion...and I would posit that the results and
processes used will often be much more innovative
than what is created around the instructional design
table. Again, it gets back to designing ecologies versus
designing learning.
Posted by gsiemens at 16:01 | Comments (1) | Trackbacks (2)

05 April
2006

Learning, assessment,
outcomes, ecologies
[Connectivism]
I enjoy instructing instructors. Any long term change
in our formal learning institutions will be bottom up -
as educators change and experiment with new ways to
maximize the learner's experience and value. Recently,
I instructed a course on "testing, evaluation, and
assessment". Some learners responded quite favorably
to my approach, others felt I was downright cruel. The
traditional view of education (teach and test) is
strongly rooted in our schools/colleges. New methods
of instructions are often seen with distrust.

One of the most disconcerting mindsets I encounter is


that learning should be a clear, objective-driven
processand that confusion is a bad sign. We can still
move learners toward clear, concise
outcomes/competencies - even though the journey to
this destination is at times confusing and ambiguous.
Testing (or traditional assessment) is a powerful
holdover from command and control world views. I
don't think we can substantially change our
educational institutions until we take a long, hard look
at how we evaluate and assess our students.

I perceive learning as a network formation process. We


are not always actively constructing our learning, but
we are always creating and loosening connections
(even when we are constructing learning, it only
becomes truly meaningful when we connect it to
existing elements). Part of the experience is to
evaluate and recognize patterns. In many courses,
content is structured to provide progressive linear
explore to new concepts and ideas. While academically
effective, few aspects of life work in such a coherent
fashion. Even when we design learning in a linear
model, learners seek information that they find
relevant (or what they think they may encounter in a
test). We need to encourage learners to accept
confusion and ambiguity as part of the learning
process. From my experience, most learners recoil
from confusion as a barrier to learning. I personally
believe it is a door to learning.

Every instructor has his/her own philosophy. I believe


that the learners are the ones who should adjust the
content to their needs. I don't see learners as
containers to be filled. I trust learners ability to define
what is important to them (the notion if information
foraging). I trust that they will know what is needed to
meet the requirements of their learning problem or
opportunity. When the teacher is the king/queen of the
classroom space, they control what happens, what
gets adjusted, how much is "taught", etc. When the
learner is the centre of the space, the learner
determines what gets reviewed, how much to read,
and how to adjust. This "free" approach still occurs
within the boundaries of assessment and evaluation
(i.e. we can still move students toward an objective,
and measure the degree to which they achieved the
intended learning).

It is worth considering that different types of learning


exist, and that the concept of learner-controlled
exploratory learning will be more applicable in certain
domains. By the same account, even when we give
learners structured exposure to content, they are still
only learning what they value. They may remember
certain elements for testing, but long term retention
consists of content that they find valuable and useful in
their work/life. We are mistaken if we believe that we
control learning primarily through content sequencing
and arrangement. Design does have an important role
in the process, but saying that our course design leads
to learning is on level with saying that breathing is a
process that we can manage through external
influences. Our learning, like breathing, is a constant.
Its who we are. Learning can be guided, but by no
means managed. Designers need to understand this
key element. Good design, if not relevant, focused,
holistic, motivational, etc. wont necessarily result in
better learning. The task of design is to move people
toward intended targets. The learning will happen
regardless of poor/good design. The key difference is
whether the learner makes the connections (i.e.
learns) that comprise the field of knowledge that is
deemed relevant or necessary for that field.

Learners should be free to choose and learn based on


their interests, but needs to express their efforts
against clear evaluation criteria. Part of my intent is to
eliminate the false constructs of courses (jumping
through hoops provided by an instructor) and linking
learning to real life. This ambiguity can be frustrating
to learners, but I believe it results in deeper, more
focused thinking. As Ive stated in other posts, our
goal should be to create the ecology in which learning
happens, not the learning itself.

As a learner, I often learn (jump through hoops) in


order to get a grade. Part of my journey has been
finding ways to not focus on the grade and focus
instead on the learning that I experience. I don't
remember my grades in the various courses when I
was a student, but I do remember the concepts and
applications. One of the reasons I try to avoid "high
stakes testing" (and use a portfolio process instead) is
to ensure that I'm not evaluating a learner's ability to
handle stress, but their personal philosophy of
evaluation, and their ability to write test questions and
pursue authentic evaluation approaches. A concept
map, which is simply a learners representation of how
pieces fit, provides a sense of how the learner has
"connected the dots". I think our evaluation and
testing should not be the focus - the focus is learning,
and too often, the evaluation and testing process
becomes what learners are focused on - we, as
educators, have to assist in shifting learners
perspective on evaluation.

Evaluation is part of the teaching and learning process.


A good grade is certainly desirable, but if our
teaching/learning processes have been well thought
out, learners who are competent should know they will
do well. By the time a learner is finished a courses,
she should know where she is in terms of grades. As
an instructor, I should provide continual feedback
against which a learner can sharpen and measure
his/her own thinking. The evaluation outcome should
not be a surprise to the learner. Unfortunately, we
make the grades the focus (instead of the learning),
and our learners think that the reason they are taking
our courses is to get a certain grade. In reality, the
focus of evaluation is to ensure that a learner has a
framework upon which she/he can build and function
within a field or within society as a whole. The grade,
while mandated, is really one of the least valuable
parts of the entire learning process.

Not every learning experience is one where we acquire


new knowledge. Sometimes we unlearn, or learn how
not to do something. I guess I see it as real life - in
life, we don't have clear, concise objectives or
evaluation points. We learn and find new ways to
recognize the patterns or highlight our own needs.
Learning is secondary to the task we want to
achieve/accomplish.

Our schools are at fault in not meeting the needs of


learners. We mislead learners into thinking that life
provides clear problems with clear solutions. It doesn't.
Life, in my eyes, provides us with the type of situations
we should provide learners in courses - some
data/information, some time for reflection, discussion,
dialogue, and ultimately, the formation of a personal
opinion or view that is not simply a regurgitation of the
instructor's view. This process of "fuzzy learning" -
where we don't have a clear outcome, but the learning
happens through the act of solving the problem is
central to learning that does not have clear
boundaries. Learning a particular task (where best
practices or standards have been created) may be
well-suited to formal, structured, sequential education.
More and more of our work habits dont fit into this
category. Our education systems ask that we construct
these problems into outcomes/objectives, and attach
evaluation to each. Fine. We can do that. But it is my
hope that educators will continue to extend themselves
and add real life into the process. We can't change
"the institution" over night - but we can be creative
and work within the confines while improving the value
of the experience for our learners.

I can understand the discomfort of trying new


approaches (especially for educators who are used to
more traditional approaches). From my experience, the
discomfort is what shocks us out of our current
thinking. I have a quote on my wall by Dudley
Herchbach (Nobel prize winner): "You have to be
confused before you can reach a new level of
understanding anything". I imagine some learners will
agree with that quote, but many others won't. We are
too used to seeing learning as a neat, tidy, 3-6 credit
hour experiences."

Posted by gsiemens at 09:30 | Comments (0) | Trackbacks (2)

31 March
2006

Propositions on learning today


[Connectivism]
I'm trying to define the core changes in society and
technology that impact learning. I've compiled ten
propositions, and would life to hear areas that you feel
I'm missing (or where I'm flat out wrong).

I'm bringing two basic assumptions to this list - 1)


learning is a process, not an event 2) learning
intention drives learning approach.
My (evolving list of) learning propositions:

Increased complexity=increased decentralization


Increased information amount=decreased capacity
to internalize
Accelerated pace of information
development=decreased linearity
Increased pace, information amount, and
complexity=increased ambiguity
Increased ambiguity=increased need for diversity
Increased diversity=increased need for openness
New tools/technology and openness=new
affordances and transformations
New affordances=democratization
Democratization=destabilization of silo power
structures and two-way flow (conversation, knowledge,
and information)
Two-way flow=equality among participants of a
space

Posted by gsiemens at 09:30 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)


10 March
2006

Learning Ecologies
Museums and content
[Connectivism]
I had the pleasure today of delivering a presentation
on connectivism and learning ecologies to a group of
museum professionals (Canadian Heritage Information
Network) in Ottawa. Ill post a link to the presentation
soon.

Roundtable discussions revealed a current state of


grappling with technology as a means of extending
learning and knowledge presentation that mirrors
whats happening in other fields. Education, business,
politics, media everyone is trying to figure out what
has changed. And what does that change mean?

I see several substantial points of change that are


reframing our society and processes of functioning:
The rise of the individual
The increased capacity for connections and
connectivity
The breaking apart of content
The creation of user-controlled spaces

The roundtable discussions were excellent. An


appropriate mix of cynicism, optimism, and attitude of
experimentation provided a great climate for candid
dialogue. A general concern appeared to be the desire
to get people to use virtual museum resources.

I think this is the wrong question. People dont want to


visit your content. They want to pull your content into
their sites, programs, or applications. This is a
profound change, largely not understood by educators.
We are still fixated on the notion of learning content,
and we think we are making great concessions when
we give learners control over content (and start to see
them as co-creators). That misses the essence of the
change: learners want control of their space. They
want to create the ecology in which they function and
learn. Today, its about pulling content from numerous
sites and allowing the individual to repurpose it in the
format they prefer (allowing them to create/recognize
patterns). Much like the music industry had to learn
that people dont want to pay for a whole album when
all they want is one song, content providers
(education, museums, and libraries) need to see the
end user doesnt want the entire experience
they want only the pieces they want. We need to
stop thinking that learners will come to us for learning
content our learning content should come to them in
their environment.

What does this actually look like? Well, it means that


our education platforms should be designed to allow
for learners to pull our content into their space. We
need to make content open and available to be
accessed so that exploration and dialogue can happen
on the learners blogs, wikis, or personal eportfolios.
Its not about us, its about them. The dialogue and
learning will happen on their time, in their space, on
their device. We must create the ecology that allows
for maximum innovation, so that the greatest number
of recombinations are possible.

During the session, I was asked to provide an example


of an online learning ecology. (I was asked later, do
you actually do this stuff, or do you just think about
it?). One of the most obvious learning ecologies is the
internet itself. Its a wonderful example of a space
where we can learn from experts, informally, formally,
in communities, etc. The structure of the internet
provides many valuable lessons that should inform
how we create our learning spaces. I will post more in
the near future on effective learning ecologies. A quick
final note ecologies dont exist only online. Our
learning model should include face-to-face components

Off topic: One challenge I often encounter in trying to


communicate the value of connectivism and learning
ecologies is how to communicate the implications of
choice. When we take one approach, we are leaving
many other factors unattended, but impacted. When
we pursue blogs, we are making choices that change
things. But that choice doesnt happen in a vacuum.
Other parts of our organization will also need to
change. Its important to be aware of what we are
leaving behind in our choicesand that one view
(blogs are good) does not lead to universal
application (blogs should be used for everything).
This one-dimensional view is lazy thinking. Each tool
for the appropriate task. So, when I advocate for social
technologies (or informal learning), I am not saying
that structured courses are irrelevant. Intent and task
need to be tightly linked.

Posted by gsiemens at 10:30 | Comments (2) | Trackbacks (0)

06 March
2006

It doesn't come pre-packaged


anymore...
[Connectivism]
While preparing for a presentation I'm delivering later
this week, I was struck (again) by how significantly
things have changed due to the internet's affordance
of connectivity.

I don't use textbooks in my courses. I use a


combination of my own writings, augmented with
websites, and supported through dialogue and learner
to learner interaction. My intent is to provide learners
a diverse set of voices. A textbook is most often a one-
sided view of the knowledge of a particular space (and,
in certain fields, they can be dated by the time they
are published). I don't view content as something that
learners need to consume in order to learn. As I've
stated before...learning is like opening a door, not
filling a container. Content is something that is created
in the process of learning, not only in advance of
learning.

In previous posts, I've stated my preference of


connections over content. However, it's impossible to
ignore the valuable role that content has in the
learning process. Content is a core of society. Content
is the codification of our knowledge, our art, our
vision, our dreams, and our aspirations. As little as five
years ago, content came pre-packaged. You could get
your content fix in the form of a textbook, a CD, a
newscast, a newspaper, or a classroom. Not any more.
I think the subtlety of the transition leaves many
unable to see its depth.
We can now acquire our information in any manner
that we desire. Learning, seen as content
consumption, doesn't fit this model anymore. Learners
piece together (connect) various content and
conversation elements to create an integrated (though
at time contradictory) network of issues and concerns.
Our learning and information acquisition is a mashup.
We take pieces, add pieces, dialogue, reframe, rethink,
connect, and ultimately, we end up with some type of
pattern (meme?) that symbolizes what's happening
"out there" and what it means to us. And it changes
daily. Instead of a CD with the songs of only one artist,
we have iPods with a full range of music, video, audio
files/books, images, etc. Our classrooms, instead of
the pre-packaged views of an instructor or designers
should include similar diverse elements.

It's easy to make predictions when trends are


substantially developed...and this is so obvious that
many know it intuitively: Learning is no longer pre-
packaged. Tomorrow's courses and learning
experiences will be structured with different tools (bye-
bye LMS' as we know them today)...and learning itself
will be perceived more as an activity that occurs in
networks and ecologies, not hierarchical, pre-organized
structures. The central filtering agent is no longer the
teacher or institution. Its the learner. Think about
what that means to our education system as we know
it today. It changes everything.

Re-reading this post, I recognize that I really haven't


said anything new...but it just strikes me that as
educators, we are not grasping (or prepared for) the
depth of the change that is occurring under our feet. If
it's happened (breaking apart the center) in every
other industry - movies, music, software, business -
what makes us think that our educational structures
are immune? And what does it mean to us? What
should we be doing now to prepare our institutions?
Ourselves? Our learners?

Posted by gsiemens at 09:40 | Comments (3) | Trackbacks (1)


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James The Blackboard Beyond Initiative incorporated subversion
[152 hits] [0 cites] I can almost see the finger quotes :) We have worked year after year with our clients to create
powerful networked learning environments for instructors and learners at individual sites. Now, with the Blackboard
Beyond Initiative, we are taking a critical next step by fostering a "network" of "networked learning environments"...
But this has to be my favourite: "Facilitate Social Networking": "e-Learning 2.0 is about "enabling a social experience"
that recognizes the course is but one "social-organizational group" in a broader education environment. To help foster
academically oriented relationships outside of the class environment, Blackboard announces plans to "connect" students
and faculty across disciplines and across institutions through a new Scholar.com Web service. Scholar.com will provide
users with the opportunity to "communicate and collaborate" with other experts in and ou [Conversation] * *

Post in OLDaily:
The Blackboard Beyond Initiative, March 3, 2006
James Farmer (and he's not alone) is less than impressed with this week's endorsement of e-learning 2.0 by
Blackboard. OK, I agree, the corporate track record is not good. And maybe the 2.0 thing is buzzword bingo. On the
other hand, though, maybe the right push at this point of time will see the words result in product. And that would be a
good thing. I think we can do a lot of good if we try to help and nudge Blackboard in the right direction, and that
includes nodding positively when they say the right things. And we owe it to the many staff and students who use
Blackboard to at least try. [Comment]
James Outstanding edublogs.org Posts incorporated subversion
[173 hits] [0 cites] Wow... wish someone would pay me to do more of this but I just took a little more time than usual
to scan through the edublogs.org feed and there have been some absolutely great posts going on in there... here's just
a sample. Knowledging across lifes curriculum has come up with a couple of absolute corkers, Folksonomies
what the heck and Aesthetic data display from which I take the image on the right. Cerebral odd jobs is getting
sitemeter (and other apps) to work in the edublogs.org environment, something that I definitely want to make easier
(especially for tools like Flickr!) A whole bunch 'o people are doing some great work on Motivation and some Brophy
chap :) Higher learning is doing some seriously odd things with photoshop. Independent thinking is following the
excellent work of Mike Hetherington in using edublogs.org and learnerblogs.org... these guys are pushing the
boundaries in a big way! Bawers 2006 blogs are worth a visit too. And I do like this [Conversation] * * * * * * * * * * *
****
Cited by:
- Daily Update -- February 15, 2006 (XplanaZine)
- Outstanding edublogs.org posts (Blogging IT and EDucation)

Post in OLDaily:
Outstanding edublogs.org Posts, February 14, 2006
James Farmer wanders through his edublogs site and finds a variety of posts and resources, the resulting list of which
may be worth a linger. [Comment]
James WebCT Attempts to Outdo BlackBoard on Blogging System! incorporated subversion
[110 hits] [0 cites] This just in :) Today Mark Hallam from WebCT spoke at the Annual Teaching & Learning Forum held
at the University of Western Australia. Mark previewed a number of WebCTs next steps including ePortfolio
tools and blogs. However, on close questioning, Mark admitted that WebCTs blogs arent really blogs at
all because 1. They are locked behind WebCTs password protection. 2. They cannot be made publicly
visible (there is a complex workaround whereby students could copy there WebCT-blog entries to their ePortfolio and
then allow anonymous access via a guest password, but WebCT cannot bypass the password stage). 3. Comments can
only be made by internal WebCT users using the same installation of WebCT. 4. The blogs dont
have RSS feeds. Mark actually admitted that blogs are already doing everything that bloggers want, and that WebCT
was not providing a blogging tool, but rather a tool which usurped the name for something blog-like
because thats what many universities are asking [Conversation] *

Post in OLDaily:
WebCT Attempts to Outdo BlackBoard on Blogging System!, February 8, 2006
WebCT's version of blogs: "They are locked behind WebCTx TMs password protection; They cannot be made publicly
visible; Comments can only be made by internal WebCT users using the same installation of WebCT; The blogs don
xTMt have RSS feeds." No doubt the institutions love them. [Comment]
James Supporting edublogs.org incorporated subversion
[72 hits] [0 cites] Its pretty much at the end of each month when the bandwidth limits are drawing
near that the only downside of running edublogs.org kicks in. Essentially were going to need a
dedicated server very very soon as in the first place were running out of bandwidth / space and in the second I
figure well all be happier with better performance (especially around backups). The problem is, however, that it
costs. And when youre sustaining yourself of a lecturers salary with a new mortgage, well, you know how it can
be. But Im fundamentally against putting any advertising on blogs. Down the line Id like to leave that
option up to you (i.e. advertise if you want to & for yourself) but I certainly dont want to slap ads on any
edublogs. So, its going to have to be sponsorship & partnership. Heres the deal * Plain old
simple advertising as a supporter on edublogs.org * Inclusion (and write up) in the edublogs.org
newsletter * Inclusion in the backend of each blog (this can [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Supporting edublogs.org, January 30, 2006
James Farmer - now the operator of a service that is a runaway success - is seeking donations. Fair enough. But he
needs to tell us how much he needs, what it's for, and how much an individual donor should give. [Comment]
Non scholae
[70 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]
Cited by:
- We learn, not for school, but for life (A Difference)
- You can get anything you want at nonscholae.org (StigmergicWeb)
- Nonscholae.org - responsible net policy (D'Arcy Norman Dot Net)
- Safe Blogging Resources (A Difference)
- nonscholae.org (Educational Weblogs)
- An Eventful Day (Teaching Generation Z)

Post in OLDaily:
Non scholae, January 18, 2006
New advocacy site launched by James Farmer. "nonscholae.org is a site devoted to the responsible use of blogs, instant
messaging and other social software in schools. Non scholae sed vitae discimus We learn, not for school, but for life -
Seneca, Epistulae We believe that these tools and resources should not be blocked or banned from schools." Some
discussion on this here. [Comment]
James The Inevitable Personal Learning Environment Post incorporated subversion
[106 hits] [0 cites] Seems like there's a big wave 'o people talking about PLEs in some pretty major terms. Stephen, for
example, says this: Its just you, your community, and the web, an environment where you are the centre and
where your teachers - if there are any - are your peers. It is, I believe, the future - and where, one day, the next
generation of Blackboards and WebCTs and Moodles and Sakais will make their mark Derek interviews Oleg Liber who
provides a fascinating insight and should be a definite read / listen (although I *strongly* disagree about the efficacy of
a desktop based environment, but that's another story). Terry is absolutely going off on one as well: The PLE is a
unique interface into the owners digital environment. It integrates their personal and professional interests (including
their formal and informal learning), connecting these via a series of syndicated and distributed feeds... But what really
got me tapping is this: Although there is something quit [Conversation] * * * * * * * * *
Cited by:
- Personal Learning Environments (HeadspaceJ: Instructional Design and Technology Blog)
- Learning vs. Education (Weblogg-ed)
- Daily Update -- January 12, 2006 (XplanaZine)
- Daily Update -- January 13, 2006 (XplanaZine)
- Links for 2006-01-12 [del.icio.us] (Teachable Moment)
- Personal Learning Environments (elearnspace)
- PLE 2.0 (CogDogBlog)
- e-Portfolio roundup (EdTechUK)

Post in OLDaily:
The Inevitable Personal Learning Environment Post, January 11, 2006
The barrier to the personal learning environment (PLE) is not technological, argues James Farmer. "Major institutions
aren't going to start switching their LMSs to our PLEs any time soon and yes security, ip, maturity and (above all IMO)
the structuralist transmissive models that LMSs on the whole play up to and re-enforce make this a difficult journey."
Still, "stranger things have happened." Farmer suggests that personal aggregation will play a key role (and I agree) and
that the blog (such as offered by WordPress) forms the basis of this environment. I'm not as inclined to say "easy
peasy" as Farmer, but my view of the structure of the PLE is similar to his. See also Marc Sheffner on this item.
[Comment]
James Education&Blogs @ Les Blogs incorporated subversion
[405 hits] [3 cites] How many blogs are about run by teachers and professors? The answer is a disaster I've been
hanging in on Ewan McIntosh's "edublogs" (his blog, no relation to the .org) over the last couple of months and he's
been at Les Blogs, especially as part of a panel on Les Blogs where you can watch his panel presentation (.wmv 72Mb).
The recorder could do with a shotgun mic but I have to say I prefer film to audio for this kind of thing. There are some
pretty classic quotes in this, including the above. For example the first panellist is introduced as: one of the few deans
who is blogging the cyberportfolio, it's a mix between blogs and portfolios Now, don't get me wrong, I'm in danger of
sounding a bit like an exclusive jerk here, but the total & blanket ignorance of what I might describe as the
edublogosphere and of the broad and innovative uses of blogs in education over the last 5 years in these kind of forums
does worry me. What I writ [Conversation]
Cited by:
- Yes, but no, but yes, but... What was that all about? (edublogs)
- James Farmer gets stuck in (edublogs)
- Public Education (K-12) Resources (Harold Jarche)

Post in OLDaily:
Education&Blogs @ Les Blogs, December 12, 2005
Ewan McIntosh, who launched edu.blogs.com last July, represented the edublogger community at the recent Les Blogs
conference in Paris, his meanderings causing James Farmer to comment, "the total [and] blanket ignorance of what I
might describe as the edublogosphere and of the broad and innovative uses of blogs in education over the last 5 years
in these kind of forums does worry me." What has been happening is, of course, as Peter Ford describes it, "Educational
blogging consultants seem to be springing up all over the place, some aiming for the guru-status of being paid for hot-
air production about blogs and related technology that they never have used at the chalkface." Nothing against
McIntosh, who was simply taking advantage of an opportunity (though his response to Farmer was, to my reading,
unduly hostile). No, the organizers of such conferences (the BloggerCons were the same) are interested in the Mena
Trotts and David Weinbergers of the world, and their interest in (and knowledge of) the world of blogging doesn't
extend much beyond that obvious commercial bias. Anyhow, caveat emptor. [Comment]
Structured Blogging - Magic or Just Another Wizard?
[155 hits] [2 cites] [Conversation]
Cited by:
- Semantic text (MicroContent Musings (RSS 2.0))
- subverted links (incorporated subversion)

Post in OLDaily:
Structured Blogging - Magic or Just Another Wizard?, December 16, 2005
james Farmer raises some good questions about structured blogging (aka microformats): "I'm not sure if it's that
simple and something bugs me about form filling and the impact that might have on content&creativity. Naturally this is
going to help all of you SEO [Search Engine Optimization] folks no end but does it work for your everyday blogger? I'm
tempted to say 'no'." What he says next is more interesting: "where we ought to be heading... towards 'styled blogging'
where we can semantically create our documents on the fly..." In other words, just write what you would write, and
have your system recognize, say, that it's a movie review, and format the output accordingly. Like this, maybe.
[Comment]
Edublogs Being Blocked
[187 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Edublogs Being Blocked, November 23, 2005
As james Farmer says, "you know youre doing something right if people start trying to stop you" (I know the feeling).
Still, it is a bit hard to understand why Farmer's outstanding edublogs service is being blocked by some school districts.
As Graham Wegner explains in the comments, "the vast majority of Aussie state schools... use a watchdog program
called Bess (I think) and heaps of stuff gets blocked - blogs, hosted webpages, flickr etc." It is worth mentioning that
OLDaily is frequently blocked in Australia - I remember a few weeks ago being shut out of the entire state of
Queensland. [Comment]
Great New Edubloggers!
[117 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Great New Edubloggers!, November 8, 2005
James Farmer introduces us to a some new education blogs, Teaching Generation Z, by Graham Wegner, The Server
Room, by (unknown) and Smelly Knowledge, by Jeremy (something). I wish people would be more attentive about
actually putting their names on their blogs - or at least a pseudonym. [Comment]
As Promised... Learnerblogs.org - Free Blogs for Schools
[141 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
As Promised... Learnerblogs.org - Free Blogs for Schools, October 31, 2005
James Farmer adds to his edublogger empire by launching Learnerblogs.org, a place where instructors can send
students to create their own bloggers. As Rob Wall comments, "Finally when teachers are asking me where to set up
blogs for students I dont have to send them into the pit of depravity that is Blogger!" [Comment]
Multi User Blog Tools - Overall Ratings and Reviews
[243 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]
Post in OLDaily:
Multi User Blog Tools - Overall Ratings and Reviews, October 25, 2005
For institutions considering the installation of a multi-user blogging system, James Farmer provides this set of capsule
reviews and 5-star ratings. The results accord roughly with my own experience, though I would probably have rated
Drupal slightly higher and WordPress slightly lower. [Comment]
edublogs.org Community
[144 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
edublogs.org Community, September 8, 2005
Believe it or not, edublogs.org is about to cross the 1,000 blog mark, and to celebrate this (like he wouldn't have done
it anyway) James Farmer is launching an edublogs.org community website. [Comment]
edublogs
[51 hits] [3 cites] [Conversation]
Cited by:
- November Learning to Charge for Weblog Hosting.... (Education/Technology - Tim Lauer)
- Public Education (K-12) Resources (Harold Jarche)
- 50th Post Self Indulgent End Of School Year Wrap Up Thing (Teaching Generation Z)
- 2006 Beckons (Teaching Generation Z)
- Jordanhill University of Strathclyde Gig (edublogs)
- Free for Educators: Wikis and More (Around the Corner - MGuhlin.net)
- Free for Educators: Wikis and More (Around the Corner - MGuhlin.net)
- Blogging in Hawaii (Around the Corner - MGuhlin.net)
- A Writing and Blogs Question from Morocco (Around the Corner - MGuhlin.net)

Post in OLDaily:
edublogs, August 2, 2005
James Farmer's edublogs service - free weblog hosting for educational weblogs - has taken off, with (as of this writing)
92 edublogs listed... when Farmer wrote about it earlier today there were 61. [Comment]
How You Should Use Blogs in Education
[106 hits] [1 cites] [Conversation]
Cited by:
- How you SHOULD and SHOULD NOT use blogs in education (incsub - online community projects and
publications)

Post in OLDaily:
How You Should Use Blogs in Education, July 29, 2005
James Farmer offers a list of ways you should use blogs in learning, but runs up against the conundrum educators all
over have encountered, between "you must incorporate blogs as key, task driven, elements of your course" and "one of
the worst things you can do is mandate posting on particular topics with particularly rigid frequency." These two pull
against each other. [Comment]
Blogs @ Anywhere: High Fidelity Online Communication
[79 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Blogs @ Anywhere: High Fidelity Online Communication, July 6, 2005
Comparison between blogs and LMSs in education. "Whereas an LMS stores and presents all information on a
centralised and hierarchical basis, bound within the subject and the organisation, blogs are distributed, aggregated,
open and independent." However, "The application of weblogs in an education setting will, at best, have a limited
impact if due consideration of these developing communication dynamics (is) ignored." [Comment]
Losing Your Job For Promoting Open Source???
[72 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Losing Your Job For Promoting Open Source???, June 25, 2005
Some discussion about the plight of Leigh Blackwell, who lost his job, he reports, because of his "opinions expressed in
this blog, in that wiki, and in day to day communications with staff, contradicted the directions of the unit I was working
within." James Farmer chides, "Pretty awful reflection on that unit, wherever it is, wouldnt you say?" [Comment]
Open Source in Education - Something Has Got to Change
[85 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Open Source in Education - Something Has Got to Change, June 14, 2005
James farmer takes a more conciliatory tone after his anti-WebCT rant last week, but he doesn't back down on the open
source issue (nor should he). He writes, "I contend that our universities, schools and other educational institutions are
wasting enormous amounts of money and making huge mistakes using commercial software where open source
software could do as good as or better a job." I agree with this, especially when public institutions pay for this software
(and educational content generally) though taxpayer contributions. He continues, "I despise the way education is
turning into a cash cow for vendors. We should be spending what little money we have on teachers, genuinely valuable
resources and teaching and learning." [Comment]
WebCT, Powerlinks, PHP Wiki&Open Source Robbery
[73 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
WebCT, Powerlinks, PHP Wiki&Open Source Robbery, June 8, 2005
James Farmer offers a hostile reaction to the news that WebCT is incorporating open source tools - such as PHPWiki -
into its learning management system. [Comment]
Blogtalk Downunder Presentation
[82 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Blogtalk Downunder Presentation, May 20, 2005
James Farmer posts slides and audio to his Blogtalk Downunder [photos] presentation, 'Centred Communication' or
'your intranet is like Canberra'. The idea is that planned networks, organized hierarchically, are barren and sterile, while
organic networks, organized as a semi-lattice, are not. I'm not sure 'Canberra' is a good example. Yes, the city is a
planned city. But I have been to Canberra and found it a very pleasant city. More from Blogtalk Downunder: Marcus
ODonnell, Blogging as pedagogic practice: artefact and ecology (PowerPoint); Thomas Burg, technologyLog (Slides
and podcast). [Comment]
Blogsavvy - Your Professional Blogging Consultant
[80 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Blogsavvy - Your Professional Blogging Consultant, May 18, 2005
James Farmer continues his move toward setting up a range of services with the launch of Blogsavvy, a blog on
creating effective blogs. "The business model goes like this... if you're interested in what I'm writing about and think I
know what I'm doing then you can hire me to do blog workshops, assist with developing your blog strategy, come up
with and implement blog solutions and even do you some savvy blog design." [Comment]
Gadgets, Networks, Procrastination
[80 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Gadgets, Networks, Procrastination, April 22, 2005
Another glimpse into the future - carrying your computer around with you on a thumb-sized USB stick. Plug it in to any
box you find handy. As James Farmer comments, "now I can take my browser and email anywhere with xp (with all my
finicky settings) and I get to have a hold of my own data and privacy." [Comment]
Edublogs Are Go!
[63 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Edublogs Are Go!, April 21, 2005
Not a long article, but then again, the history of educational blogging that it described isn't long either. Good lists of the
blogging pioneers and (more importantly) the educational blogging initiatives springing up at universities, including the
one at the University of Calgary I just ran into last night (and which is now supporting Podcasting, courtesy of Drupal.
And, as Farmer observes, it is significant that these initiatives are all based on open source or free blogging platforms.
And it seems to me that just as innovation in web browsers didn't happen until we got the open source Firefox,
innovation in learning management systems (which we haven't seen for five years or so) won't happen without open
source learning support systems. [Comment]
Radio@UPEI
[83 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Radio@UPEI, April 20, 2005
Short item pointing to Radio@UPEI, "a new type of media exchange where anyone can learn about rich media, where
anyone can contribute and enjoy a diverse range of music, where anyone can contribute as well as listen to
independently produced 'shows'." Rock and roll! [Comment]
The AUgmented Social Network&Smallness
[78 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]
Post in OLDaily:
The AUgmented Social Network&Smallness, April 12, 2005
James Farmer reads an old article on First Monday and from it finds this: "the software and systems we choose for our
communications carry with them, in subtle ways, the values we care to achieve as a society." I think this is true, which
is why I attach so much importance to the choice between, say, a federated search network and a harvester based
serach network. And I also agree with this, that people should have "a persistent identity as they move between
different Internet communities, and to have personal control over that identity." I think this is coming, but it's hard. It's
too tempting to require a site-based login. [Comment]
edublogs.org
[86 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
edublogs.org, April 4, 2005
James Farmer sets up edublogs.org, "a hub for edublogs." There's nothing there yet, so this is a link to the blog post.
Of course, there is already the EduBloggers Network, though the site is throwing an error at the moment, so I'm not
sure of its status. [Comment]
link
[92 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Social Literacies: Some Observations About Writing and Wikis, March 30, 2005
Short item observing, correctly, that "writing is being treated more and more as a visual entity. No longer is the
unbroken, uniform, left to right flow of text the norm. Instead, in the new media especially, text plays a secondary role
to images, meandering around them..." The author then considers the question of how people comprehend such
writing, especially when, as in a wiki, it is written by multiple authors. It may be a long time before we understand this
comprehensively - the traditional linear format could be understood with tools such as syntactic analysis. But in this
new form of writing, so much of the meaning is derived from outside the text - there will not be a simple grammar we
can use ourselves and teach our students. Via Will Richardson, who links to James Farmer (above) on this. [Comment]
Post in OLDaily:
link, March 30, 2005
James Farmer weighs in with a nice post describing how aggregation networks foster communication in social networks
such as intranets. The key, argues Farmer - and he is exactly right here, right in an important and subtle way - is that
the networks formed through aggregation foster community in a different, and more effective, way that networks
formed through structures such as category trees. The analogy is between the pre-planned city, which stifles
community, and the organic city, which thrives on it. Farmer taps not simply into the technology but the underlying
principles of information organization - principles that should have a fundamental impact on educational design in the
years to come. This paper fits right alongside my Learning Networks, George Siemens's Connectivism, Robert
Paterson's Going Home - we are all talking about the same thing here, the same underlying principle. [Comment]
IncSub Redesign&Relaunch
[79 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
IncSub Redesign&Relaunch, March 28, 2005
James Farmer redesigns his site, which specializes in blogs, wikis and content management for educational applications,
adds hosting and tacks on a consulting service. [Comment]
Multi User Weblogging
[80 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

Post in OLDaily:
Multi User Weblogging, February 24, 2005
A number of people have asked me about multi-user weblogging (that is, setting up a single installation to support
multiple writers, as a teacher might do for a class). I guess they have been asking other people, and it's James Farmer
who comes through with the goods, a really nice overview of options for people who want to support multiuser
weblogging. Manila, Drupal, Movable Type, WordPress - I;ve tried all these tools too, and have confidence they will do
the job. Have a look at Farmer's outlines - it's like a smorgasbord. [Comment]
Producing Social Network Environments
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Producing Social Network Environments, February 11, 2005
They told me my philosophy courses would never be useful, but this could have come straight from my metaphysics
class: "People dont exist in environments, they exist in themselves and their semilattice-esque relationships with
other actors (communities, individuals, spaces, inanimate objects...)." Why is this important? When we are creating a
learning system, we are creating a mechanism that allows people to interact with, to experience, and to learn from the
world. But what is the nature of this system - is it an environment, as Lisa Kimball suggests, or is it the lattice of
relationships described by James Farmer? I submit that it is a complex construction that enables, first, a wide variety of
experiences akin to (and possibly extending upon) our experiences of the natural world: things to see, touch, do, and
otherwise sense; and second, a mechanism for interpreting and comprehending this experience, a syntax, putting it into
a structure, a semantics, which assigns it meaning, and a pragmatics, that gives it a context and use. [Comment]
ANT
[75 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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ANT, February 10, 2005
The multimedia revolution continues with the introduction of ANT - currently for Apple computers only - which is in
essence a podcasting tool for video. James Farmer describes it: "ANT helps you download and watch video published on
the Internet. ANT allows you to organize and manage video playlists. ANT is a video aggregator that allows you to
subscribe to RSS 2.0 feeds with video enclosures. ANT seeks to build opensource software tools to enable an emergent,
grassroots, bottom-up, video distribution network based on existing technology such as weblogs and RSS." [Comment]
WordPress Multi User (WMU)
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WordPress Multi User (WMU), January 18, 2005
A long-standing complaint about the use of WordPress, the free and open source blogging software, in an academic
environment is that no multi-user version was available. With the launch of WordPress MU, this is no longer true.
Using WordPress Multi-user edition you will be able to [have] people be able to sign up for a new blog and have them
securely manage their templates and settings without affecting any other users. Only one blog per user is allowed, but
you can have unlimited users, and you can have multiple users on a single blog. Farmer has another comment, which
I'll link to but not cite because the link comes with a language warning. Suffice to say he was, um, enthusiastic. Heh.
[Comment]
Pmachine-pro for Free
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Pmachine-pro for Free, January 17, 2005
As James Farmer notes, "PmachinePro (a type of blogging software) has been discontinued in favour of
ExpressionEngine which means its now free! So for some pretty funky features this might be worth a look!"
PMachinePro is written in PHP, making it a fairly easy install (and easy for programmers to customize). [Comment]
NOT the WebCT&Blackboard blog
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NOT the WebCT&Blackboard blog, January 7, 2005
James Farmer has been on a tear for the last week, launching a new section in his blog called Not the Blackboard or
WebCT Blog... because "BB and WebCT just dont wanna go a blogging." Kicking off with the observation that
"WebCT and Blackboard were routinely criticized for skyrocketing prices, bugs, and ease-of-use problems, Farmer
then links to Simon Welton, who asks "why VLEs cannot be more open and flexible to allow better creativity and
construction of learning - the development and features seem to be wedded to a very old-fashioned view?" [Comment]
WebCT Campus > Vista > Future?
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WebCT Campus > Vista > Future?, December 13, 2004
Commentary and discussion of the recent IRRODL on WebCT's future - or lack of same. Note Scott Leslie's commentary.
I might add that in the last week I have received replies from people both at Blackboard and WebCT on items I've
linked to in this newsletter. But of course they don't want them posted or quoted or anything like that. While I
appreciate the clarifications (and they have been in some detail) it really bothers me that they are sent in such a
private back-channel fashion. This means that there is no possibility of refuting them - and there are responses I would
make to both. Blackboard, WebCT - if you don't like someone someone has said, respond to it publicly, in a blog or a
public forum. Take part in the conversation. Send me a URL; I'll link to your commentary, I'll aggregate your feeds in
Edu_RSS. Backchannel emails are so 1990s. [Comment]
link
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Communication Dynamics, December 6, 2004
Slides are now available for James Farmer's presentation on discussion boards and the creation of communities of
enquiry in online learning environments. [Comment]
DArcy Podcasting
[75 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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DArcy Podcasting, November 11, 2004
James Farmer (who has found a new energy, it seems :) ) reports on this project by D'Arcy Norman at the University of
Calgary. Norman has been experimenting with podcasts using WordPress. He explains the set-up using free software.
Meanwhile, Roland Tanglao from British Columbia reports on the poscasting discussion at BloggerCom 2004.
[Comment]
Podcasting
[69 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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Podcasting, October 15, 2004
James Farmer reports on some problems with Audacity, the sound editing software I have been using to record my
talks. Also a mention for Ed Radio, my RSS audio aggregator. More on personal radio, via John Hibbs. [Comment]
Incorporated Subversion
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Incorporated Subversion, October 5, 2004
James Farmer has moved his Incorporated Subversion blog to a new location, giving it (finally) its own website. And he
launches the new site with a flair, beginning with a longish article titled Communication dynamics: Discussion boards,
weblogs and the development of communities of inquiry in online learning environments. The paper looks at the use of
online learning envrionments (OLEs) in Australia, arguing that the use of blogs should be encouraged to supplement the
communications capacities of discussion boards, encourage social presence, and incorporate subvrsion. Good paper,
very much on the same wavelength as my own thinking, especially near the conclusion. "Rather than design with
constraint in mind, design with freedom and flexibility in mind this emphasises the active and purposeful role of
learners in configuring learning environments to resonate with their own needs, echoing the notions of learning with
technology through 'mindful engagement' (Squires 1999 p. 1)." [Comment]
Another New Journal... Same Technical Inadequacies
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Another New Journal... Same Technical Inadequacies, August 26, 2004
James Farmer introduces us to yet another academic journal, the Journal of University Teaching&Learning Practice
(JULP) with the observation that yet another such journal just doesn't get the medium. "A couple of really interesting
articles from a very promising looking publication (there's also stuff there for foreign language classes and nominal
group technique (?)) but NO search, NO email / NO webfeed subscription / NO html and more pdfs!" I agree, James.
[Comment]
The Wide World of Wiki: Choosing a Wiki for an Element of a Fully Online Undergraduate Course
[60 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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The Wide World of Wiki: Choosing a Wiki for an Element of a Fully Online Undergraduate Course, June 11,
2004
James Farmer provides a nice review of wiki software that can be used to support an online class (a wiki is essentially a
website that allows any reader to chaneg the contents). Following up, he adds a Wiki wish list and links to some wiki
software missed in the first article. [Comment]
Freely Available Scholarly Educational Technology Journals - for Higher Education
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Freely Available Scholarly Educational Technology Journals - for Higher Education, June 9, 2004
James Farmer is compiling this list, which he is storing on his (slightly malfunctioning) Wiki. Now, if only we had RSS
feeds from each of these. [Comment]
RSS News Ticker
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RSS News Ticker, May 10, 2004
James Farmer asked for an Edu_RSS news ticker, and I was happy to oblige (thanks to the coding work already done
by the good people at BBCi) - you can find my new ticker (with instructions on how to place it on your own site) here.
This was a lot more fun than cleaning my website after last weekend's hack. [Comment]
Incorporated Subversion: the Book
[56 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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Incorporated Subversion: the Book, February 18, 2004
This project was started a week ago, but now there's enough content to see it taking shape. In his own words, "his is a
project in which I'm aiming to design and collate a ton of plans for facilitating learning online for use by people teaching
online with discussion boards, email and email groups, weblogs and rss, chat rooms and MOOs, IM and video
conferencing." It's a good project, especially for those who want to get away from the sterile environment of the LMS.
[Comment]
The Potential of Personal Publishing in Education II: Hows It Going&Whats Working?
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The Potential of Personal Publishing in Education II: Hows It Going&Whats Working?, October 8, 2003
This look at the use of weblogs in learning takes a close, critical look and the results aren't all peaches and cream. The
most telling link is to the list of updated schoolblogs, showing (as of my reading) that out of the 2,400 or so listed, the
most recent update was back in July. Farmer writes, "most of the people in my blogosphere are pretty committed
individuals, understanding the medium, exploring what they can do and doing so after consideration. Most people
arent going to personal publish like this." Quite right, and we need to understand this. Weblogging is not something
we should make everybody do. And the impact of weblogs on education will not be that everybody has a personal
weblog. So what will it be? I continue to view weblogs as a filtering system, a means by which individuals gather,
assess, comment upon, and pass on items of value to a reader. The best weblogs are niche-oriented, and these weblogs
benefit specific communities. [Comment]
The Potential of Personal Publishing in Education I: Whats Doing&Who's Doing It?
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The Potential of Personal Publishing in Education I: Whats Doing&Who's Doing It?, September 25, 2003
A disappointingly short article, but contains a number of useful links to actual examples of people using weblogging in
learning. [Comment]
Personal and Collaborative Publishing: Facilitating the Advancement of Online Communication and Expression Within a
University
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Personal and Collaborative Publishing: Facilitating the Advancement of Online Communication and
Expression Within a University, August 29, 2003
PCP "is the system by which an individual or group of individuals can simply own and publish to a web space." The most
straightforward example of PCP is the weblog, but many other examples (such as wikis) exist. This article is an analysis
of the phenomenon, and especially the manner in which people interact using PCP. After describing PCPs, whis short
paper provides several examples showing how PCP can facilitate communication in a university. I like this paper, but
honestly, I prefer the raw blog entry from which it was spawned. [Comment]
Interesting comments..
[53 hits] [0 cites] [Conversation]

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Interesting comments.., May 22, 2003
Jumping into the middle of a conversation - James Farmer quotes CRLFLindon Parker saying, "the ground swell appears
to be having little CRLFor no impact upon cheque signers... The more I look at the EduBlog CRLFspace the more I think
this is all falling apart through lack of interest, CRLFnot on your or the other RSS/Bloggers part but on the part of the
CRLFinstitutions that might want to implement them." There's more, but half CRLFthe links aren't working from here, so
you'll have to follow them for CRLFyourself. Anyhow. Who cares whether the cheque signers support CRLFthis stuff? Oh,
I'm sure someone will come along with 'enterprise CRLFblog' and sell it for half a million dollars, but will that prove its
worth? CRLFOf course not. If the tools work for you, use them. If not, then don't. CRLFBut don't peg the usefulness of a
technology to financial or CRLFinstitutional support. That, surely, is the road to madness. [Comment]
A Weblog Learning Management System
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A Weblog Learning Management System, April 24, 2003
This article (and Part Two) describes the concept of creating a learning management system (LMS) using weblogging
technology. Citing Dave Davies, who he notes has also developed a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) using Manila,
the author points to the capacity of a weblog system to empower student voices and create a genuine learning
community. I think the diagram is a good first step, but we need to go further; community is only one aspect of
learning, not the entire story. That said, this is absolutely the direction to look for in learning technology of the future.
Think learning environments, not learning management, and you'll be on the right track. [Comment]

Projects&Collaborations
Browse through the thousands of links in my knowledge base sorted according to topic category, author and publication.
Research
Browse through the thousands of links in my knowledge base sorted according to topic category, author and publication.

Stephen Downes

Taking my place for the Games in section N, Row YY, seat 1. Colosseum, Rome, November, 2002.
About Me
Bio, photos, and assorted odds and ends.
Publications
You know, the ones that appear in refereed journals of Outstanding Rank.
Presentations
Lectures, seminars, and keynotes in a wide variety of formats - everything from streaming video to rough notes.
Articles
All my articles, somewhere around 400 items dating from 1995.
Audio
Audio recordings of my talks recorded in MP3 format. A podcast feed is also available.
Calendar
What I'm doing, where I'm doing it, and when.
Photos
Newly updated! A collection of my photographs. Suitable for downloading as desktop wallpaper.

Stephen's Web
Since 1995
About this Site
Why this site exists, what it does, and how it works.
OLDaily
Edu_RSS
FOAF

OLDaily Audio
OPML
About the Author
Stephen Downes
Copyright 2006 Stephen Downes
National Research Council Canada
Contact: stephen@downes.ca

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License


.

I want and visualize and aspire toward a system of society and learning where each person is able to rise to his or her fullest potential without social or
financial encumberance, where they may express themselves fully and without reservation through art, writing, athletics, invention, or even through
their avocations or lifestyle.
Where they are able to form networks of meaningful and rewarding relationships with their peers, with people who share the same interests or
hobbies, the same political or religious affiliations - or different interests or affiliations, as the case may be.
This to me is a society where knowledge and learning are public goods, freely created and shared, not hoarded or withheld in order to extract wealth or
influence.
This is what I aspire toward, this is what I work toward. - Stephen Downes
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