Saturday, July 28, 2012

Connectivism


The above is a mind map of my cyber network. It is a graphic representation of some of the many pieces of my life and the connections between them and me. Working on this assignment clarified for me that connectivism truly is the underlying scaffold of my life. 

In the days BC (Before Cyber-network), I had access to far fewer professional resources, informed peers, and opportunities to stretch myself mentally and professionally. I had to work harder to find credible information to challenge my thinking. Now, sometimes with no effort, I receive more information every day than I can usefully process in a week. 

The upside of this is that my work is richer and “jucier” than it was a decade ago. I am better informed on a variety of theories and applications, and I have developed technological skills much more quickly than I could have in isolation. My business has grown well beyond the local scene, and I am now a member of a truly global community. My personal playground has also gone global, and my networked life is enriched by cyber friends, peers, and near-strangers with whom I share perspectives, exchange opinions, and sometimes disagree. 

The downside (even as I write “downside” I’m thinking there is great value in the “downside” I am about to discuss) is that I need to question everything and everyone online. The advice to “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” has been attributed to Edgar Allen Poe, John Gotti, and Benjamin Franklin (http://thinkexist.com/quotation/believe_none_of_what_you_hear_and_half_of_what/154871.html), among others. Whoever said it, it is an apt caution for those of us who network in cyber-space. The ubiquity of “information” available online necessitates extra caution and circumspection.

The upside of that downside (are you still with me?) is that by being extra cautious and circumspect, I am a better writer, instructional designer and thinker, and so are you a purer form of who and what you are. “Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions,” (http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html), and my cyber-community is far more diverse (and opinionated!) than the community I physically inhabit.

Connectivism holds that “Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources,” and “Learning (in the sense that something is known, but not necessarily actuated) can rest in a community, a network, or a database,” (http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html). I haven’t found anything that beats an online search engine for connecting me with specialized information sources and communities I don’t know exist until they pop up in a search return. As with any source, cyber or otherwise, I bear responsibility for the research and cross-referencing necessary to vet my cyber-sources. 

One of my favorite tenets of connectivism is one that I subscribed to for many years before I ever heard of “learning theory.” It is this: “Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate impacting the decision,” ((http://www.connectivism.ca/about.html).

Yes! Amen! And for that reason, I say that my network has both changed and been changed by the way I learn. Every decision to click or not click a link, open or delete an email, post or not post to a forum, engage or dismiss an anonymous antagonist changes what is available to me, which in turn changes the next pool of decisions available to me, and so on. And so it is with you. You are changed for reading this blog post, and someone else is changed for skipping it, and your decision to post or not post a comment will change what I learn and what I may learn.

Sally Bacchetta

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