As we have been studying Connectivism in class this week, our assignment has been to put together a MindMap of how our digital networks provide us with information and support in our daily lives. At first I thought that all I would have would be a big circle in the middle that said “Email”. I don’t have much time for Facebook, (I have an account, but never use it,) or any other type of social networking. I work on computers all day; the last thing I want to do when I get home is sit in front of a computer even more! I want time to knit!
However, when I started breaking my cyber network down, I could see I am much more connected than I thought. It is just simply second nature for me. George Siemens (2005) comments in his article, Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age, “The value of pattern recognition and connecting our own ‘small worlds of knowledge’ are apparent in the exponential impact provided to our personal learning”. I can certainly attest to how much my ability to access information has changed since I started college long ago. Probably the most amazing feature of my learning network is accessibility and timeliness. So often now, if I have a question on anything from recipes, to knitting patterns, or who was in what movie, I don’t think twice about looking it up online. As far as research goes, I can now find information that would have been inaccessible to me years ago, especially since I live in a rural area. When I have questions, I can not only get answers, I can get good answers with access to more detail if I want it.
While researching has certainly changed radically, how we manage and work with the information we gather has also changed dramatically. Now I am speaking for those of us who learned typing on a typewriter and even had to process our term papers on them. I know my writing ability blossomed with word processing. I could finally edit! After typing a ten page paper, if I found awkward writing on page one, “forget about it”. With word processing, I could finally really look at my writing and work on it as a true process. Getting work in a digital format also makes it easier to post online in other locations and forums for sharing and interaction. As a student, I have found research tools such as Google Scholar, EBSCOhost, and the online research tools a huge help. I can cut down the amount of time looking for information and then storing it. Again, old folks, remember microfiche? Once I have gathered my research, I have discovered Zotero, an online/standalone software package to help organize my information which can then be accessible online if I need it. As I traveled this summer, and move from different locations throughout the day, most of the year, this program is a lifesaver, especially when working in an asynchronous classroom!
Another aspect that has changed dramatically is how easily it is to connect with my colleagues, friends, and other professionals. Right before I was married, my husband went to South America to work for two years. We could only communicate by airmail and it took weeks to have a conversation. Now, when my son was in Japan, or my business partner working in Syria or Nepal, I could communicate with both through Skype. My partner, Barb, and I were working on some very complicated projects and we could easily discuss the issues almost as if we were in the same room. (Except when the power was out which happened frequently in both countries). One of the observations Connectivists make is that information and its validity changes at lightning speed and being networked and aware helps manage the swiftness of information shifts. “As a result, the span of time between learning something new, being able to apply it, and finding that it is outdated and no longer useful continues to decrease” (Davis, Edmunds, & Kelly-Bateman, 2008). Even when I work in the same building, my work colleagues and I can exchange important documents and charts; also, when I have needed input from professionals outside of my local network, I have been able to get support through online forums and bulletin boards. Now that I am in an online university, my fellow students and the teachers also share their experience and research links so I can continue to learn from a larger educational community. Since I have been at Walden, I interact with my fellow students on our discussion board; I have been looking at blogs, researching for my blog, and using the online library.
Another critical element that I’ve emphasized with Connectivism is that we’re dealing with complex environments that are systems-based. And that means that it’s not just the individual learner that’s the key consideration, which often is with traditional learning theories, but it’s actually the broader environment in which we are situated, and the complex nature of that environment needs to be considered as well. (Laureate Education, Inc.)
As I have reviewed my learning network this week, I started thinking that I wouldn’t have much to post or share, but I found out that I had quite a large network, (and that’s without the social networking!) Even as I wrote this paper, I found I had to go back and revise my Mind Map because I realized I had left important features out. Therefore, I believe that my learning network supports the tenets of Connectivism and what is more, as I observe what the students in my high school use and will be able to use, it seems blatantly obvious to me that Connectivism will become clearer and better defined as time goes on.
Davis, C., Edmunds, E., & Kelly-Bateman, V. (2008). Connectivism. Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from http://epltt.coe.uga.edu/index.php?title=Connectivism
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, 2(1). Retrieved from http://itdl.org/journal/jan_05/article01.htm
Siemens, G. (n.d.). Connectivism. Laureate Education, Inc. [Video Webcast]. Retrieved July 29, 2013, from https://class.waldenu.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_3398766_1%26url%3D