... we read "Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age" (Siemens, 2004) which has a strong emphasis on learning as transmission, storage, and retrieval of information. Siemens reviews earlier theories of learning before concluding with his new principles. As a language instructor, I’m finding it quite difficult to apply these.
This is a very interesting evaluation of Connectivism. It starts already with the first line. What I know about the supporters of Connectivism as a learning theory, is that it tries to divorce itself from such things as transmission, storage and information retrieval. But please read on, before you dismiss this blog as completely misconceived.
One thing I like is how Ted O'Neill brings learning back to persistent changes in performance (or the disposition to perform differently). It strikes at the heart of what I don't like about Connectivism, that it purports to be a theory of learning but actually is a theory of a particular set of _affordances_ people use to learn. In that sense, Connectivism is on a par with, say, mobile learning, which either isn't a psychological learning theory but a theory about tools (mobile phones). I guess, you may even argue that m-learning is a subset of networked learning, of which connectivism is a particular kind.
But relabling Connectivism as a theory about affordances doesn't necessarily make it less valuable. However, Ted O'Neill takes a bite out of that too, from his perspective as a language teacher. He quotes a number of Connectivist principles and then tries to interpret each one of them in the context of language learning. Sometimes that works, at other times it fails. I will give one example of each, respectively, quoting Ted O'Neill, but I suggest your read them all.
Siemens: Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
Ted O'Neill: The learner can use a dictionary, website, notebook, or other tools effectively to support learning and communication.
Siemens: Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
Ted O'Neill: The learner can identify useful supports for a given communicative encounter. (A real stretch here.)
What to conclude from this? Not that Connectivism makes no sense, but certainly that Connectivism has its limits. It meets those in language learning. And that reinforces my point that Connectivism is not a (generally applicable) psychological view of how we learn, but a class of of learning affordances, that sometimes are and at other times are not useful. After all, whether a particular affordance is useful is highly dependent on the context in which it is used (cf. m-learning). (@pbsloep)