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Week 1: Connectivism?
Week 2: Patterns
Week 3: Knowledge
Week 4: Unique?
Week 5: Groups, Networks
Week 6: PLENK
Week 7: Adaptive Systems
Week 8: Power & Authority
Week 9: Openness
Week 10: Net Pedagogy
Week 11: Research & Analytics
Week 12: Changing views
I think that looking at what we value as important in learning is critical to a deeper understanding of connectivism. It is probably useful to get away from thinking of connectivism as a theory and move towards thinking of it as an ideology, as you say. (Hits Today: 1637 Total: 1637)
March 2, 2011
Confused by all the different theories of learning? Welcome to the ailments of the world of modernity, the subject of an interesting article related to this weeks complexity discussion: University Knowledge in an Age of Supercomplexity by Ronald Barnet. http://www.miltonfriedmancores.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/BarnettUniversityKnowledge.pdf
Paraphrasing his position:
The modern world is supercomplex . . . a milieu for the proliferation of frameworks by which we might understand the world, frameworks that are often competing with each other. In such an age. . . new knowledge should function by:
1. offering completely new frames of understanding (so compounding supercomplexity); but it should also
2. help make sense of the knowledge mayhem; and
3. enable us to live purposefully amid supercomplexity.
Barnet calls for a therapeutic pedagogy:
Education needs a therapeutic pedagogy that allows space for meanings to come from within the person, overcome the suppressed of meaning by complexity and radical uncertainty and helps us create new ways of being.
So I pose a 2 fold question;
1 How does connectivism help us to make sense of all the different ideas on learning and education, or is it just another source of complexity and uncertainty?
2 How does it help us to act in new ways that are productive in the face of complexity?
March 2, 2011
My previous comment did not directly address Alan's question directly, so I thought I'd follow up. Since my background is Ed Psych, I've thought a lot about these sorts of things.
First, I think your point is well taken. Theories, in fact, are very much like ideologies. Theories make explanations about how the world works, but ideologies do that too! Theories focus attention on certain phenomena and draw our attention away from other phenomena, just like ideologies. Even though wikipedia says that scientific models explain, predict, and master phenomena, predicting is really the place of methodology by way of answering scientifically proposed questions. (I don't know about this mastering thing at all)
In terms of connectivism, if knowledge is created through making connections, we could devise a hypothesis that the people who are most active in open knowledge sharing networks will produce more knowledge products with higher levels of sophistication than people who are less active in the network. If we devise a way to measure "knowledge products" and "sophistication", we can devise an experiment to tests our hypothesis. If correct, it will lend support to the theory; we could say it predicts knowledge production and sophistification. If many other experiments also support the theory it will grow in scientific validity.
Of course ideologies have underlying assumptions and so do theories. Eventually someone comes along exposing a problem with some of the assumptions and causes everyone to rethink the model they were using.
Our increasingly interconnected and networked way of being has put a big hole in previous theories, why is this chaotic method becoming the new way of learning. Their models and assumptions don't account for current phenomena so it might be time for something new. I don't believe that theories are true, validity for anything never reaches 100%! But they can be useful. When usefulness erodes, it's time to rethink things.
March 4, 2011
@Howard, it may be that different disciplines use the word "theory" in different ways.
To me, with a background more in physics than educational psychology, the essence of a theory is captured in your statement:
>If we devise a way to measure "knowledge products" and "sophistication", we can devise an experiment to tests our hypothesis. If correct, it will lend support to the theory; we could say it predicts knowledge production and sophistification.
In my world, there is no theory without such well-defined observables and a hypothesized relationship. But if we can do as you describe then the result *would* be a theory, and if the related variables included connectivity properties of a network of relationships between people, then I would say that the resulting theory was a connectivist theory - ie a theory within the Connectivist paradigm.
March 4, 2011
I agree Alan;
The self-referential nature of the social science disciplines tends to muddle things a bit. I think paradigm is an example. Kuhn provided a way to explain some incompatibilities in arguments, but post Kuhn, paradigms have tended to proliferate as it's easier to declare a paradigmatic difference than to pursue an argument. i also think that the social sciences in general are attempting to move away from mechanistic models that emphasis simple prediction and are moving toward more systems and autopoietic models that attempt to expose the dialectic between structure and function.
March 6, 2011
Thanks Howard. I hope you don't mind if I follow up on this a bit.
I don't know what Kuhn would say, but I don't see how declaring a paradigmatic difference avoids an argument (except in situations where the same word is being used in two different ways - in which case the difference should be subject more to linguistic than paradigmatic analysis). It is true that people talking in the contexts of different paradigms may be addressing totally unrelated aspects of a situation, but there can also be real conflict when both paradigms are overlapping in the aspects of reality that they reflect. And in that case there must be a translation mechanism between them which allows the conflict to be expressed in terms either side can understand. So neither of them can just dismiss it.
With regard to prediction, it can be (and usually is) stochastic rather than deterministic, but systems can be deterministic so I don't see "systems" as an alternative to mechanistic and predictable. And autopoieosis (I had to look it up) is a feature of many predictive physical and biological models (eg spontaneous symmetry breaking, big bang theory, origins and evolution of life, morphogenesis, etc). So I still don't understand how a discipline which has the word "science" in its name can avoid being expected to make testable predictions.
And I didn't understand your reference to "dialectic between structure and function" because, although any computer scientist or biologist can see relationships between structure and function, I don't see these relationships as being dialectical (which to me implies some sort of disagreement or conflict being resolved by dialogue). Could you elaborate on the nature of the implied conflict here?
The reason I am pressing these issues, and the prediction one in particular, is because one of my reasons for participating in this course is to help me refine and/or extend my notions of "science" and "theory". So I would appreciate any elaboration you or anyone else here can provide.
March 8, 2011
I welcome dialogue and the opportunity it presents. Interaction always enlightens me, eventually anyway.
1. When I refer to paradigms I'm usually referencing the incommensurability aspects, which I do take as primarily based in linguistic differences. It's not that you can't find common measures, but that paradigms conceptual frameworks are so different. I do have a personal bias. Following the ideas of an old mentor, I believe that new theories should account for the findings of older theories as well as moving beyond their limitations. I'm currently working on a project analyzing the development of validity theory that takes this approach from classical theory (positivist) through construct theory (hermeneutic) to consequential validity (which I think is close to Wittgenstein). I see this progression as building on the past (i.e. measurement still contains many important practices that were developed during the positivist period), but not denying the progress of each period. I believe it is different from most paradigm revolutions because of the demands of measurement. Anyhow, my original comment was pointing out that the concept of incommensurability in paradigm differences can self-referentially create even more incommensurability in the way that people may be more likely to conceptualize differences with this concept.
2. In terms of the drift of social science. I think that simple predictive models tended to be reductionist, breaking things down like viewing learning as a chain of: antecedent - behavior - consequence, with consequence as the cause of learning. The dialectic thinking in this case (and in my understanding) is that the structure of an organism comes from it's functional needs interacting with the environment, but also, the function is also constrained and enabled by the structure of the organism. So evolution progresses with the interaction of the environment with both the structure and the function of the organism. But, I may not be the best person to explain these thoughts. It comes from biological systems more so then from mechanical systems, although I do thing that complex adaptive systems resemble organic systems more so than early mechanical types.
3. And finally prediction. I'm speaking personally here, not as a proponent of connectivism. I'm not against prediction as a part of theory as it is noted in my first post. It is just that it is not the what I see as the most prominent aspect and function of theory in education and the social sciences. When I look at behaviorism (Skinner), constructivism (Piaget), Social Constructivism (Brunner), Social Culturalism (Vygotsky) or Connectivism, what they predict seems less important than how their conceptual structure directs my thinking in terms of defining the unit of analysis, directing my attention to what aspects of reality, how variables and constructs are defined, and these sorts of things. Skinner and Piaget both looked at behavior, but in very different ways. Skinner and Vygotsky both developed pedagogy for teachers, but teachers functioned very differently not because of what the underlying theories predicted, but how they viewed the environment and what was considered important in that environment.
So . . I'm sure that makes everything clear as mud. Sorry if it is so.
March 8, 2011
Thanks for taking the trouble to respond. That has cleared up several points for me.
With regard to structure and function, your description here makes clear why "dialectic" is indeed an appropriate word (and I have to admit that if I had been a bit smarter then the explanation shouldn't have been necessary).
I also see that your original "it's easier to declare a paradigmatic difference than to pursue an argument" is describing a cop-out rather than posing a real barrier to resolution of differences, (and I think that your project on tracing validity theory through various paradigms looks like a good example of how to show people that just saying "paradigmatic difference" does not have to end a conversation).
And I agree that having a predictive scientific theory is not necessary in order for a point of view or perspective to be useful for identifying and focusing our practice on what is considered important.
But I do believe that our divergence in use of the word "theory" is problematic for a couple of reasons.
One is that I suspect this difference is one of the reasons why people in the "hard" sciences are often dismissive of the social sciences. When they see something described as a theory they expect to see predictions of consequence rather than "just" statements of interest or value. If the word "perspective" was used instead then there would be less indignation at having been "oversold" and more willingness perhaps to engage with the real issues of value.
The other side of the coin is that use of the word "theory" is alienating to the uninitiated. Because of the common understanding that theories in the hard sciences make tested predictions (but are sometimes rather hard to understand), the claim that one has a "theory" about something has the effect of appearing to claim authority for one's assertions (and also to some extent discouraging the less adventurous from asking too many questions).
Even if I am right, there's probably nothing to be done about this on the larger scale, but I think it may be something worth being aware of.
March 11, 2011
I will try to go at least 1 step further on this line of thought. I agree that theory, in a practical everyday sense, is playing quite different roles. But to be dismissive of the human sciences or to forgo the term theory (and thereby dismiss the relevance of the subject as an important focus of study) fundamentally misunderstands what is needed in education theory, especially as we try to deal with the failure of things like high stakes test regimes. Because responding in full is now beyond my limited abilities (requiring lots of quotes) I have formatted my full response in my blog here: http://howardjohnson.edublogs.org/2011/03/11/cck11-the-role-of-theory-in-the-human-and-learning-sciences/
My goal is to agree with you, but to also say that in education and in helping people learn, we must move beyond this type of science. Not in a return to the humanities, but to a new type of science. We might need someone like Vygotsky, who was said to be a methodologist first and a theorist only after the fact. (Sorry, no reference, I can't remember who said that).
March 12, 2011
My first reaction on seeing you say "to forgo the term theory (and thereby dismiss the relevance of the subject as an important focus of study)" was to think that you appeared to be buying in to the notion that having the status of a scientific theory is a sine qua non for an idea to be taken seriously. But then I (finally!) realized that that would make me guilty of co-opting the word "theory" myself. The words "theory" and "science" both have a history of broader use, so a theory doesn't have to be scientific and "science" can have meanings beyond its dominant current use. I will try to keep this in mind when reading your post (and may also adjust some of my earlier posts accordingly).
Thanks for the help.
April 4, 2011
An enjoyable discussion to read...
'Theory' is a very broad term and obviously means different things to different people in different fields. Any theory needs to, at minimum, provide insight into phenomenon by offering explanations about why something is happening and offering a mechanism to think about what might happen next (especially in complex settings where change is constant). Theory must explain and predict.
Lately, I've been exploring the value of Wagner & Berger's article "Do sociological theories grow?". They make an important distinction on stages of theory development: metatheory, unit theory, research program theory.
Metatheory is an orientation stage where theorists are trying to come to grips with significant changes (anomalies in the "extraordinary" science views of Khun) that don't seem to fully fit with existing theories or research frameworks. Essentially, metatheory orients researchers to new ways of thinking about phenomenon.
Unit theory is the empirical stage of theory developments: hypothesis are tested and statements by metatheory proponents are evaluated by evidence in a variety of qual/quant research methods. Results from this level of experimentation will flow into metatheory development.
The research program involves the development of a research program (duh) and situating new theories in relation to existing theories. Theories don't really die so much as lose relevance in varying emerging contexts.
I would position connectivism at the metatheory, (very) early unit theory level of theory development...
April 4, 2011
Thanks for the Wagner & Berger reference George; meta-theory makes sense though I see some Theory elaboration as a possibility also (eg. extending social-cultural, CoP, and constructivism to a connected world).
I also found an interesting article following Google's citation list for Wagner & Berger's article that kind of took me off-gard. It was Randall Collins' "Why the Social Sciences Won't Become High-Consensus, Rapid–Discovery Science".(Sociological Forum, Jun94, Vol. 9 Issue 2, p155, 23p). It attributed scientific success to technological development; not to theory or empirical development. The implications are that the most important role for Connectivism might be in paving the way for developing a technological pragmatic web application that brings real time access to contextualized knowledge flows to a general population. Still in the process of sorting this one out and getting my head around it; though it does sort of fit some of the ideas that have been floating in the back of my mind. More later.
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