Tuesday, December 2, 2008


In Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age George Siemens outlines a learning theory that he suggests better explains how learning takes place in an era when:
  • most people move through a variety of occupations, hobbies, personal situations, and practical needs;
  • people learn not only from institutionalised education, but from a range of sources including working through new tasks, searching for just-in-time information, and asking connections for their experiences;
  • learning is a life-long activity, we don't go through a period of learning information, followed by a period of applying it - the two are integrated throughout life.

Connectivism theorises contemporary learning as a process that "is focused on connecting specialized information sets" whether these information sets reside in libraries, databases, workmates or cyberbuddies.

The article describes the limitations of earlier learning theories as that they are based on the premise "that learning occurs inside a person" and do not address learning that is manipulated by technology or happens within organisations.

I'm not sure I understand this. My teaching is based on a social constructivist philosophy. Lev Vygotsky died young in 1934, and his work was based on language learning in children, yet his theory can be applied to learning in a digital era. Essentially it is based on the notion that we learn by doing something in the company of others who can already do it at some level.

I think that learning has to be internalised before it can be called learning. Machines can learn, organisations can learn but this is a change that happens inside the machine, inside the organisation, inside the person.

This line of thought inexplicably reminds me of Groucho Marx's "Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read."

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