Rick’s Cafe Canadien: "Siemens interview on connectivism"
Just watched this interview with George Siemens on connectivism. George's ideas are of great interest to me and definitely shape what is happening in my own teaching. The idea of creating knowledge networks for students is brilliant. His book "Knowing Knowledge" should be required reading for teachers and instructional designers. I am, however, uncomfortable about people getting too attached to metaphors. The interviewer was very effusive about George's theory mirroring "the 'actual' operation of the brain." I don't think we are that close to really knowing the "actual" operation of the brain. The research does not prove that knowledge exists in networks or nodes. Knowledge and memory are non-localized phenomena in the brain. There are nodes and networks in the brain, but to then make the leap to "we know how knowledge works" is too much of a stretch. It is a logical fallacy to say that because the brain functions in a particular way physically that we therefore learn in a like manner. There are still textbooks on the shelf that show electrons orbiting a nucleus like little planets. The current metaphor says that the electrons exist in a probablity cloud. That is a lot harder to print up in a textbook. George does say that the science of cognition is a rapidly changing field. For connectivism to be a useful theory of education, it has to answer more questions; questions that are currently answered by constructivism. I am not saying it can't answer those questions, but it will have to. Collaborative learning and mind maps all have their place in constructivism. In fact, I found an interesting constructivist mind map. Connectivism runs the risk of being a return to cognitivism where we become more concerned with an information processing model of the brain that does not adequetely address the complex social and psychological relationships involved in teaching and learning.