Connectivism: I don’t get it.

While reading a few articles on connectivism for tomorrow’s class, I have to admit that I just do not get it.

Essentially the idea is that learning has nothing to do with actually knowing anything, but building connections and capacity for learning in the future. The arguments (at their most extreme) go as far as to claim that education should be restructured so that students study only what they are interested in and go about that study through working with peers and taking advantage of open online resources. In a sense, teachers are no longer teaching content. Instead, they are teaching students how to access existing knowledge to facilitate their own learning and add their own voice to that body of knowledge.

Now, call me old-fashioned, but I think these ideas are a touch absurd. Yes, in theory everything sounds wonderful and jolly and so much fun. I am having a very hard time, however, imaging what such a system would actually look like. In the end, what are students actually learning? What does success in a connectivist classroom actually look like? What outcomes do we look for that show student learning is real? How does connectivisim provide students with real future opportunities in actual society?

Not only do these ideas seem to me to be unrealistic, but also biased. I find the insinuation here that everyone in society has the capacity to uncover their true interests and deeply study those interests by forming connections with similar minded people in their community and on the web. Yes, these ideas sound like they would work wonderfully in a community full of strong role models and resources for learning. We all know that such communities are far from universal. Not only that, but many students in today’s society lack many of the most basic skills needed to be able to access quality online learning resources and direct themselves in their own learning. The connectivist theories I have read about this afternoon seem to apply only to the most privileged in our society and leave the others behind.

In my opinion, content is crucial in learning. If our mission is for students to be able to grow into contributing members of society, there are large sets of knowledge and skills they need to possess. I agree that good teaching includes growing students’ capacity for learning, but I do not think that importance overshadows what content students actually understand and can apply.

Fellow T509ers, what are your thoughts? Am I missing something? Has anyone found resources outside of the readings (I even tackled some of the rabbit holes!) that may clarify my confusion? What do you think successful connectivist teaching really looks like?

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