[CCK08] Is it a theory or not

Although I think Connectivism is definitely not only a learning theory, and although its status of a theory is not important for me and should not be focussed (as I wrote before), it is nevertheless a fruitful exercise to answer the question if it is a learning theory or not. The first aspect,

“Does connectivism add something not covered by existing theories of learning?”

can be absolutely confirmed. For me, the most compelling indication was in Siemens’ interview in Rick’s cafe, his account of his own networked learning experience that were simply not explained by existing theories (~ 4’16”). This resonated well with my own experience, and if previous theories did not address these patterns, they are due to be supplemented (I don’t say replaced).

The problem with the status of a theory is that its descriptive power is often immediately intertwined with prescriptive claims:

“”this is the way we learn” — or worse “this is the way we MUST learn”” (comment #18 of this post)

In this course I don’t feel being forced to love the new methods and styles, only urged to at least try and get to know them (like Cmap which I won’t love). But once the descriptive and prescriptive aspects are coupled, the discussion becomes very fervent, as we have seen in the last two days.

(I observed this already in the discussions about the “net generation”: its existence was perceived as a menace of postulations rather than as a new affordance and chance, and soon the very existence of the gen Y was disavowed altogether. And learning styles ? Since they were identified with VAK prescriptions, I can understand that they were disavowed, too. And it’s a pity, and Nellie Deutsch‘s idea of linking connectivism and styles would deserve a second thought.)

The tendency to identify descriptive theories with prescriptive rules, reveals binary thinking that acknowledges only one true way. As with electric circuits, there are only two states, on or off. Having learnt from the metaphor of neural pathways, however, we may know that there is a diversity of weak and strong circuits, and similarly, a diversity of methods leading to success. Within a binary view, in contrast, Connectivism certainly looks false.

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