Connectivism must abandon its ideas?

Two Catalan authors see  Three  problems with the connectivist conception of learning and  challenge its core ideas (p. 8): “the idea that knowledge is distributed in the network”, “the idea of learning and knowing as individual,  interpretative recognition of connective patterns”, and  “the idea of learning as the association of subsymbolic  entities (neurons)”.

I am not convinced. I recall:

Knowledge of a society lies in connections between people or  resources; knowledge of an individual lies in connections between neurons.   In particular, the knowledge of concepts lies in the connections  between the words, i.e. between the neuronal connection patterns that make up  each of these words.

Their argument is as follows: Besides “the inability to explain concept development” (p. 1), they particularly criticise “the lack of a solution  to the learning paradox” and “the underconceptualization  of interaction”, which they eventually relate to the problems  of MOOCs (direction of learning and interaction, respectively) that  Mackness et al. 2010 have mentioned.

Re: The Learning paradox

How does a learner recognize what they do not know before? From  how Downes uses his core term of “recognition”, I understood that  we can speak of knowledge exactly from the moment on when a  pattern is first recognized (e.g. because salient parts  of it had been experienced before). So, a chicken and egg  discussion of knowledge and recognition seems meaningless to me.  (It might be easier to understand this view of knowledge as  recognition, if we first consider the kind of knowing that other  languages translate into “kennen”, “connaître”, “conocer”, etc.,  and only then turn to the other kind of knowing: “know that”  = “wissen”, “savoir”, “saber” etc.  — see  McGilchrist, 2011, p. 96.)

The authors ask (p. 5)

“How do you recognize a pattern if you do not already know that a  specific configuration of connections is a pattern?”

as if the notion of a pattern meant a static, binomial given, like a rule that is either fulfilled or not, instead of a pattern as  an emerging phenomenon.

Their different view of patterns as preexisting entities becomes  apparent when they paraphrase Downes. E.g. (p. 5, emphasis mine)

“a pattern of connections (outer and neural) which becomes salient in the network,”

while the cited Downes passage reads

“this happens when a pattern becomes salient to a  perceiver.”

or when they even replace “becomes” by “is” (p. 3)

“When a pattern is salient to a perceiver, it emerges in  the network”

vs. Downes

“this happens when a pattern becomes salient to a perceiver.”

So their view of patterns seems to be more binomial (existing  or not) than gradually emerging.

Re: Interaction

In their second problem identification, the critique is the other  way round:

“Connectivism views the other as a node in the network, and a  connection between nodes can be active (1) or inactive (0).”

This is surprising. Since a  long time,  the Wikipedia article on Connectivism states: “Not all connections are of equal strength.”

Since interaction is so important, it is also surprising to me that, in their enumeration (p. 4) of Downes’ learner activities (aggregating, remixing, repurposing), they omit the fourth one (Downes (2012,  pp. 495–7)): feed-forward.

This entry was posted in Knowledge. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Connectivism must abandon its ideas?

  1. Howard says:

    It has long been clear to me that knowledge and practices are distributed through social and practice networks and become intelligible against a cultural background whose development can be traced historically. Micro-analysis follows a dialogical process between people (or nodes). What is missing is an understanding of how any distribution process works (spreading like a virus or memes). That is, I need distributed cognition, but it’s understanding is underdeveloped. This is what interests me in connectivism.
    What doesn’t help me is a micro-analysis at the neurological level. It’s not that I believe this is unfounded; just that we know way too little of neurological functioning to go there, either actually or metaphorically.
    If the neurological metaphors were removed, but the network metaphor retained, would the argument against connectivism remain? Would connectivism remain?

  2. x28 says:

    Thank you for your interesting thought experiment. After removing the unpopular and difficult neurological metaphors, argument would perhaps decrease, but connectivism would probably not remain, either. Maybe superficially, the metaphor might not be missed on the macro-level. But for the dialogical process which you mentioned, which establishes resonance connections, the conceptual and hence the neurological metaphor is still important.
    And for the spreading that you think of, further biological metaphors might be appropriate, such as evolutionary mechanisms where some pattern recognition process selects resonating patterns from the randomly diverse exposures? Indeed, my understanding here is underdeveloped.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.