Sunday, October 11, 2009

CCK09: The social dimension within connectivism

Miz Minh referred me to the book To think: in language, learning, and education (1), and as I was reading point #9 (on page 157), I saw a connection between what some would say as learning styles not existing to the present course on connectivism and connected knowledge, CCK09.  I would rephrase Smith's (1991) denial of "thinking in words" as follows:

The connections we form produce the visual images we perceive, or allow us to hear others in our "mind's ear".  So instead of looking at a "visual learner" as having a particular networked pattern in the brain, an educator, for example, would attempt to create an experience that allowed the learner to pursue the most salient cognitive, metacognitive, and social connections necessary, recognizing that each learner enters this same experience through a variety of "preferences and propensities" (Smith, 1991, 157).  

Reflecting on how I achieved this notion (granted, not all that profound), I recognize a variety of connective principles at play.  My own personal learning network - PLN - (Downes likes PLE) provided me with the connections necessary to reach this idea (i.e., a connection in itself).  There is a social element here which brought me in contact, to a degree, with Miz Minh, Smith, Willingham, and Downes.  Socially, I would say that I have more of a connection with Downes simply having participated in CCK08/09, even though I have not personally met any of these individuals. However, cognitively, the information that each of these individuals provides me takes on a different form.

Miz Minh afforded me the means for making cognitive connections between Smith, Willingham, and Downes that is distinct from the social connections previously mentioned.  Thus, I can have a stronger social connection with Downes - by taking the CCK08/09 courses - but might have a stronger cognitive connection with Willingham if I agree with his ideas over the other individuals mentioned here, for example.

Inge de Waard asks the question, Do you think Connectivism...should actively take part in society?

I think society provides the basis for making cognitive and biological connections.  It's not just about networking with people, it's what you do with the information you obtain from those people that makes the difference.  For example, I could set up a language exchange for language learners where they talk to native speakers in their respective target languages via Skype.  This alone might give the impression that this is a good social connection because they have contact with native speakers.  But this is just an affordance.  The potential is there for them to learn from a native speaker (through the development of cognitive connections) but it does not mean they will automatically do so.  Perhaps, the language educator will need to guide the learners through the experience in order to facilitate their learning, that is the social and technological dimensions of this experience provide an opportunity for action on the part of the language learner to cultivate cognitive/biological connections based on individual "preferences and propensities" (Smith, 1991, 157).

The social and technological dimensions of connectivism provide the affordances necessary to develop the cognitive and biological connections required for continued growth.