As I was reading through the theory of connectivism by Siemens, I was struck by the common themes to a recent post I wrote about our growing reliance on Google. Siemens talks about how “know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where (the understanding of where to find knowledge needed).” This statement suggests that is not just facts or skills that make us knowledgable. Our ability to seek out and find those facts and skills that we need is a key part of being a “knowledgable” person, and indeed may be the most important skill of all. My reading into connectivism took me even further into this idea. With so much information available to us, we now focus less on the quantity of facts that we know (we can just Google them), and more on how we make sense of that information and draw our own connections and understandings between it.

“Know-how and know-what is being supplemented with know-where…”

– George Siemens

Justin Marquis does a great job summarizing what the principles of connectivism might mean for a 21st-century learner in his blog post, What Does Connectivism Mean For Education. He highlights that connectivist learners need to be continually incorporating new data into their learning, and reflecting on how this new information might impact their current understanding or ideas. The immense amount of data that is available to us to draw out these connections and new understandings can be overwhelming. We need to develop strategies for organizing and drawing meaning from all that information. To expand on this, Marquis lead us to David McCandless.

David McCandless is a data visualization guru, and in his TED talk, The Beauty of Data Visualization, he demonstrates how it can allow us to form new connections between data, and make sense of the immense amount of information that we are confronted with each day in our lives. It struck me when he said, “Data is the new soil,” drawing a metaphor of how we are able to take a rich ecosystem of data and create beautiful and meaningful visualizations and infographics. Like flowers growing from the soil. I like the metaphor, and in my mind, I took it further. I imagine connectivism as a rich ecosystem, supported by the soil, with an interconnected network of understandings and ideas that we build as the plants and trees. None of this would quite make sense in the same way if it wasn’t supported by the other ideas and understandings of the ecosystem. This metaphor in itself has become connectivism, as I’ve applied my background in ecology in order to better understand learning theories.

“Data is the new soil.”

– David McCandless

As I reflect on the learning that is taking place in my school, there is a whole range of teaching and learning styles that incorporate connectivism, constructivism, and instructivism. I find it interesting to reflect on how my role as a technology integrator takes on different roles based on what type of learning environment has been established.

In classes where there is more of a connectivist approach, students are often working on a variety of different projects or activities that centre around a central theme or concept. This doesn’t lend itself well to the integration of a single technology or tool for the whole class that may or may not be relevant for a particular student. In these classes I find myself acting more as a resource for the students and teachers, able to connect them with tools that are relevant to their work, or resources that will help them build deeper more meaningful understandings.

In more instructivist classes, there tends to be less diversity in student learning experiences, and more often than not my role falls into the guest lecturer (except usually with toys!). I, or the teacher, will have identified a technology or tool that will be helpful in extending the learning those students are doing, and I will be welcomed in to lead a lesson or two that will give all the students the skills they need to harness that technology.

I very much prefer the connectivist approach, as I feel the learning that takes place in these situations is more authentic and meaningful, but I know that that is not the style of all teachers. As I sit here, reflecting on my own growing understanding, I am wondering how, in my role, I can support teachers to develop a more connectivist approach.

How do you help colleagues move towards a more connectivist approach towards learning?