Connected Learner Hunting with Stephen Downes

When discussing Connectivism with a colleague of mine, we were reminded of the 1997 movie ‘Good Will Hunting’. Take some time to watch (again?) this video where a meaningful discussion ensues between Robin Williams and Matt Damon.

“….[]So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that. …..[]And I’d ask you about war, you’d probably throw Shakespeare at me, right, “once more unto the breach dear friends.” But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, watch him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.”

 We can’t claim to know or have learned anything about (say) Artificial Intelligence or Greek Mythology just because we read about it in the courseware of an online course or watched the recorded lectures, the same course we successfully completed (Oh look at this soft copy of my digitally perfected version of a certificate with an emboldened MIT or Harvard stamp on it!). It is imprudent, in this digital age, to simply ‘acquire’ knowledge. Isn’t that how robots are programmed, on facts?

I may not know much about the philosophy of knowledge, and all the theories in existence. But from what I incur and understand out of all this is that new neurons must have been generated in my mind when I visited a country I had only read about, when I talked to the people I had only seen on the TV, when I connected with the entities that were once mere facts.

And from all I have read (and am still reading) about Stephen Downes, George Siemens, and the Connectivism theory, I understand that social learning does not ensure personal learning. Connectivism is not content-based learning. It is a network based pedagogy which is further based on the philosophy of teaching and learning.

In his 600 page, self published eBook, Stephen Downes starts with the following about Learning:

“Learning is the creation and removal of connections between the entities, or the adjustment of the strengths of those connections. A learning theory is, literally, a theory describing how these connections are created or adjusted. In this book I describe four major mechanisms: similarity, contiguity, feedback, and harmony. There may be other mechanisms, these and others may work together, and the precise mechanism for any given person may be irreducibly complex.”

I am not a teacher but I am a learner and the Connectivism theory intrigues me to a level that I wish to research more before I can make an opinion about learning or knowledge or the process involving both. That is why I shall be looking forward to listening to Stephen Downes.

If you are interested in what he has to say, or learning in general, I highly recommend attending the free class this coming Sunday, October the 20th, 12PM EST.

 So book your calendars now and enroll here: http://bit.ly/166FXGi


Engineer by education, writer by choice. I believe when you write for a cause, you become the cause.

Comments

  1. Stephen models open learning that may seem strange to those that are experiencing this kind of freedom to learn for the first time.

  2. Stephen models open learning that may seem strange to those that are experiencing this kind of freedom to learn for the first time.

  3. Navleen, this is a wonderful blog and so evocative of what it feels like to be embroiled in learning that is deep and hopeful. What a wonderful piece of writing about a wonderful guy. Looking forward to his lecture even more now.

  4. Navleen, this is a wonderful blog and so evocative of what it feels like to be embroiled in learning that is deep and hopeful. What a wonderful piece of writing about a wonderful guy. Looking forward to his lecture even more now.

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