CCK08: Connectivism: Learning Theory of the Future or Vestige of the Past?

This paper began as what was proposed as a chapter generated on the basis of Bill Kerr’s presentation, “A Challenge to Connectivism” in the online Connectivism conference. The idea was to consolidate information from the presentation, as well as related forum posts related to the presentation, all in one work that would become part of a larger publication on the subject of Connectivism, which was to be made freely available online, and available for purchase in a printed format. The project never moved beyond the stage of individual authors posting work in wiki format for further review. 

Rita Kop, University of Chelsea, Wales, co-authored “Connectivism: Learning Theory of the Future or Vestige of the Past?” with me. We were brought together virtually by George Siemens, who suggested that the two of us work on authoring the chapter. Once it was clear that the book publication was not moving forward, we asked George whether it would be permissable to try to craft the chapter into an article for publication. Since the material was being made available under a Creative Commons license agreement, we were able to re-work it. 

The next year and a half were spent refining the article until we felt that it was worthy of publication. We had the great fortune to receive a tentatively favorable reply from the first journal to which we submitted the article, the International Review of Research on Online and Distance Learning (IRRODL). After several revisions, the article was deemed fit for publication. 

Rita and I have done our best to present Connectivism equitably, within the context of challenges raised by Bill Kerr and others regarding its status as a learning theory. Since having submitted the article, my continued explorations of related subject matter have led me to question the applicability of the formal paradigm of the scientific method to the Connectivist framework. Terry Anderson’s presentation on Research Models for Connectivist Learning and design-based research resonates strongly with me, as I have come to understand the limitations of the scientific method for research conducted within the domain of education. Another related resource of interest to me is Designing Research Autopoietically, by Antoinette Oberg and Philip Montgomery. 

I am now most interested in providing an alternative response to Kerr’s introduction of Dennett’s Creatures as an explanation for evolutionary development from within the Connectivist framework. I see very strong relationships between Connectivism and the work of Francisco Varelo and Humberto Maturana in The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, as well as The Embodied Mind by Varela et al. I do not have a background in evolutionary biology, nor cognitive psychology, but in philosophy. I find the material challenging, but feel that there is a very tangible quality to this work that can be applied to Connectivism: namely the theory of autopoeisis. Literally translated, “autopoeisis” means self-design. Its definition is used in the context of self-organizing systems in nature, which are governed by two prevailing principles in terms of their ontogeny and their phylogeny: structural coupling, and natural drift. More on these concepts in future posts…




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