Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes – Dunaway, 2011
Part of me wonders if I’m drawn to connectivism because it uses language similar to that used in my computer science classes. While I can see where connectivist strategies fit in my own classroom, I’ve been having a hard time envisioning how connectivism is general enough for any classroom. The digital jargon that is inherent to the theory make it feel a little cold compared to the focus on student experience and contextualized learning of constructivism. But I do think there’s something really interesting here! For this article review I wanted to poke around connectivism a bit more and see how some of the early adopters/developers were filling out this (potentially) new learning theory.
The article I found, “Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes”, was written specifically with librarians and those who work with information instruction in mind. The author, Michelle Dunaway, found a lot of overlap between the networked learning in connectivism and the role of those who teach students how to read, interpret, and analyze information sources. While it wasn’t exactly the K-12 classroom example I was looking for, the relationship between connectivism and information instruction is definitely strong and it was interesting to read about the environment where this learning theory thrives.
To sum up how this article defines connectivism, Dunaway says, “[t]he learning is the network” (2011, p.680). While I find this fairly catchy, it feels impersonal to describe learning without first mentioning the student; it’s as if information is first and then you apply the student, compared to other learning theories where you start with the student and apply information. Weird priorities, but maybe it’s just this article that pitches it this way. In connectivism, the student learns as they make connections between nodes of information. These nodes all reside in the student’s personal learning network which contains a wide variety of information sources and tools (Dunaway, 2011, p.676). Because learning rests in the ability to make connections, pattern recognition and that the ability to evaluate information sources are highly valued skills.
What made this article stand out over others about connectivism is that it goes beyond just explaining the theory; Dunaway also addresses two important literacies that are nurtured by connectivism (neither of which I had ever heard of). First, metaliteracy: “an overarching and self-referential framework that integrates emerging technologies and unifies multiple literacy types” (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). Apparently there are a lot of 21st century literacies floating around and metaliteracy ropes them all together and highlights their similarities to benefit learning. Second, transliteracy: “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media[…]” (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). Not only should students be able to gather information from multiple mediums, but they should know how to move information efficiently from one format to another. Transliteracy focuses on the relationship between users and their digital tools (Dunaway, 2011, p.679). This section of the article challenged my understanding of the term literacy, especially with concepts like metaliteracy where you’re trying to think about being literate in literacies. Transliteracy is easier to wrap my head around, but I also question if it’s an actual literacy or just a skill, or maybe those two things are the same?
Connectivism in the context of research libraries and information instruction makes sense to me as they are basically in the business of helping students build personal networks of information and matching students with information tools; it’s also a theory I can see integrating pieces of into my own classroom. But even after reading this article I’m struggling to envision how to sell this new learning theory to the English teacher in the classroom next door whose classroom is only lightly blended. I think the theory is too jargon heavy at the moment to be generally accessible in the same way some of the past learning theory are. Yet, despite its shortcomings as a potential learning theory, I’m not ready to give up on connectivism; I do think there has been a change in positioning of information, teacher/student roles, and learning because of the internet and digital tools. Here’s hoping I can form some clearer opinions about it over the course of the semester!
Dunaway, M. (2011). Connectivism: Learning theory and pedagogical practice for networked information landscapes. Reference Services Review, 39(4), 675-685. https://doi.org/10.1108/00907321111186686