VI International Seminar on Open Social Learning (I): Socializing Open Learning

1 December, 2009

VI International Seminar of the UOC UNESCO Chair in e-Learning

Connectivism: Socializing Open Learning. George Siemens, Associate Director of the Learning Technologies Center. Manitoba University. Canada.

Notes from the Open Social Learning, organized by UOC UNESCO Chair in E-Learning and held in Barcelona, Spain, on November 30th and December 1st 2009.

The irrelevance of structured learning: most of the times we are ignoring the student. We must pursue meaningful learning. The school today promotes people reproducing content and passing tests.

Sense making, not learning: actively involved in the process. The ability of acquire and participate in a meaningful learning process connected to others. What is sense making to you?

Connections, not networks; networks is an expression of connectedness, a pattern. But we are interested in connections: how are they created, maintained, etc. Research should adopt a view of understanding the connections in a learning scenario.

As educators, what connections do we permit? Active experimentation is a process of validating connections.

The “social”, it’s not like ether (Latour), it’s shaped by every actor; it’s more like a fluid.

More is different. Abundance changes everything. It’s also valid for information; abundance is anti-pre-packaging but allowing new connections. Pre-packaged courses are terrible sub-assembly units of information transfer.

When we design and deliver learning we need to promote connections. Open, social learning is responsive to the needs of individual, adaptive and fluid, varied and contextual. Each learner has different needs.

Personal learning environments and networks are not yet fully developed. We must adopt socially-driven networks and technologically enabled networks.


How do you manage with traditional disciplines, hard sciences?

Researchers are sharing information 24h a day. It’s crucial for lifelong learning, i.e. imagine a doctor not updating his or her knowledge.

As students gain access to tools, they can create irrelevant connections.

Yes, absolutely. But the educational process can take advantage of the ability of networks to be readjusted.

What about job descriptions for faculty members?

“A teacher as a network administrator”. Sense making, way finding roles, but also research, actively engaging in emerging phenomena. We are in a transitory stage, we will see this role evolve.

What about the workload for teachers under abundance of information?

You cannot read everything or stay on top of everything. You cannot package everything. You need to rely on other people.

Is not educational something intentional? What about evaluation?

Evaluation is intended to serve the educational system, not the learner. You can provide comments on students’ activity.

What do we do with academy? They are not experts in this kind of educational setting.

Planning without a planner, is it possible? Humanity is a self-organizing entity, but we cannot burn down the educational system. The way we approach learning will need to rethink university as a new system of learning. How should we design the future university? It’s an open question? Shall we reproduce our current schemes?

Is really origin of science finding connections? Or is it about finding the essence of things? With respect to the understanding of things, shall we find essences or connections?

The discovery of theories shapes the future technologies that will exploit the advantages of such theory. It’s not one thing (essences) versus the other (connections). For example, Einstein didn’t work in a vacuum; he connected previous knowledge while discovering the essence of a new theory.

Are we using the right tools for doing research in education with respect to connectivism?

We don’t have the right language, we imported terminology from math, technology, etc. For example, what is a network? There are several possible answers.

What about “massive education”? How does it relate to “more is different” and “changes do not scale”?

Mass delivery of education is not moving in the right direction. Education should follow what happens in other fields that have adopted this fast changes in information abundance. Technology generates new affordances that generate new pedagogical options. Socializing Open Learning slide

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