This week for my COETAIL course I was reading an article about an interesting learning theory coined ‘Connectivism‘. Basically it is theory that works much the same way the internet works, with knowledge not in one central location, but more of a network with information being shared by a collection of ‘nodes’. Nodes could be people, institutions, organizations, etc. Therefore to develop knowledge, you must develop your network. I found it interesting that this is the same basic theory of how the internet works. A collection of knowledge that no one entity owns, rather it is a range of nodes (servers) which store collective knowledge. As a user, one must develop the skills needed to find the information they are looking for. The is the same for learners, they must be able to find what they need as they have no way of knowing everything that is available in every node. This is very much the situation for the 21st century learner. Students can not possibly know it all and with information so readily available, the most important skill is working out how to access the information they need. The Wikipedia page on Connectivism explains it like this:

This network metaphor allows for a notion of “know-where” (the understanding of where to find the knowledge when it is needed) to supplement to the ones of “know-how” and “know-what” that make the cornerstones of many theories of learning.

This is something that we as teachers must come to terms with. We need to be motivating students, helping them develop their network of knowledge and resources and modelling to them how we access the information we desire. This also very much links to my week one COETAIL reflection “Experts At Your Fingertips” where I mentioned that we have a range of knowledge and expertise available to use, we just need to be able to find it and access it.*

The Connectivism theory should also make us consider the idea of quizzes and tests that assess knowledge rather than higher order thinking skills like application and analysis of knowledge. For example, instead of a test with simple recall questions, educators need to start designing test that have students access the information and synthesize it or use it to create their own products. In other words, assess how well a students can learn as opposed to how much students know. Not unlike Google’s amazing website www.agoogleaday.com which tests very specific skills and lateral thinking as opposed to recall of information. On this site the user must work out how they will find the information to answer a question and follow a range of steps and searches to find their answer. For me, I believe this is 21st century learning, not just assessing knowledge but assessing how we access knowledge.

*I find it rather ironic that I’ve made the connection between my week 1 work and my week 2 work! Was this meant to happen?