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CRITIQUING CONNECTIVISM (against it)

Is Connectivism a learning theory?
Connectivism is defined as a learning theory based on the idea that knowledge does not rest in the head of the individual, but instead exists in the world around us. The theory of Connectivism is controversial because it is very similar to many other learning theories, such as Vygotsky's Activity Theory and Bandura's Social Learning Theory. All of these theories are similar because they state that learning takes place through interactions and connections. George Siemens states that the theory of Connectivism is different because it is a learning theory for the electronic age (Wikipedia, 2012). With technology, people have access to a vast amount of knowledge and no longer have to store as much information in their heads (Trevett-Smith, 2008). Due to the similarities between the mentioned theories, it becomes questionable whether Connectivism is truly a new learning theory or just a modernized rehash of prior existing theories with the addition of newly accessible storage methods.
According to Bill Kerr:
"A good learning theory should:
  1. contribute to a theory/practice spiral of curriculum / learning reform,
  2. provide a significant new perspective about how we see learning happening
  3. represent historical alternatives accurately.Connectivism fails on the first count by using language and slogans that are sometimes “correct” but are too generalised to guide new practice at the level of how learning actually happens.

    Connectivisim does contribute to a general world outlook but we already have theories and manifestos for that view (systems theory, chaos theory, network theory, cluetrain manifesto), so we don't need a new -ism in this respect.

    Finally, connectivism misrepresents the current state of established alternative learning theories such as constructivism, behaviourism and cognitivism, so this basis for a new theory is also dubious."

Is Connectivism relevant to teaching practice?
With this theory, it is important that teachers help students learn how to learn using technology. This is not a new concept. Teachers have always shown students how to learn through resources. The only piece that has changed is that the resource now includes technology in addition to textbooks. A few concerns about Connectivism in the classroom have arisen because research has shown that "school systems have not developed a Connectivist model within which to deliver curricula, partly because educational staff and institutions have not caught on to the possibilities that digital technology have to offer" (Kop & Hill, 2008). Many teachers are also hesitant about implementing technologies when they feel uncomfortable and have not been trained properly.
In addition, according to TeacherMac it is "a Means to an End, not the End it self" meaning it can help teachers connect to their students but it is not in and of itself an end goal.

Does Connectivism support our students?
If a Connectivist model is thoroughly developed and implemented properly in the curriculum, then it has a lot of potential to support the student. However, in today's day and age the modern student is more apt to be informed about the advancements in the electronic realm than ever before. Since the education environment has been hesitant to make a full shift towards implementing programs to teach and use these technologies, it can often make the teacher uneasy when educating the technologically advanced student. It is also important to note that even though Connectivism offers support to the student via electronic mediums, we must make it a point to educate our students about the importance of learning through standard resources as well. Teaching how to use the dictionary, cross-referencing scholarly articles in the library, or using standard textbooks is still important. This value can be compared to the old adage that says, "Give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life." There is little doubt that students and teachers need to move forward and take advantage of the information that has been given to them through a few clicks in the digital world, but they also need to understand how to access and find the same information on their own if that luxury were taken away.

Are parts of the theory more compelling or relevant than others?
Connectivism advocates changing formal education but is it necessary? According to Kop and Hill, "Learners might move away from classroom groups and a tutor to online networks and important nodes on these networks, but in effect the same activity takes place on a different scale."
According to Connectivism, the more students use technology, the smarter they will become (Calvani, 2008). However, this would make it appear that teachers are not necessary. Students require teachers to help them make sense of the information. Teachers help students take the information they find to a deeper level.

Are there parts of the theory which are confusing?
In describing how people learn with connectivism, nodes are described as learning communities and learning is cyclical and constantly changing. This type of description of learning is confusing to most who try to understand the theory. Another confusing part to the theory of Connectivism is that "there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways" (Downes, 2007).

References
Calvani, A. (2008). Connectivism: a new paradigm or fascinating pot-pourri? Retrieved from
http://je-lks.maieutiche.economia.unitn.it/index.php/Je-LKS_EN/article/viewFile/268/250
Kerr, Bill. (2006). A challenge to connectivism. Available at Bill Kerr: A challenge to connectivism Accessed October 20, 2012.
TeacherMac. (2009). Connectivism. Retrieved from TeacherMac: Connectivism. Accessed October 20, 2012.
Trevett-Smith, M. (2011). Making content relevant to students using connectivism. Retrieved October 17, 2012 from http://blog.richmond.edu/mtrevett
Wikipedia contributors. Connectivism. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. July 22, 2004, at 10:55 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Connectivism. Accessed October 16, 2012.
Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distance Learning, 9(3). Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/523/1103
Downes, Stephens. (2007 February 3). Half an Hour:What Connectivism Is [Web Log Post]. Retrieved from http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2007/02/what-connectivism-is.html