The Connectivism presentation by George Siemens (the eLearnSpace author) is a great 35 minute multimedia reflection about teaching, learning, elearning, and web 2.0. George explores how learning today is often disconnected from the informationally robust environment in which we live and work. He discusses “distributed cognition” and “learning as network creation.” Great stuff, great thoughts, and powerful presentation method.

His discussion of “learning no longer in advance of need” reminds me of Jonathan Levy’s discussion of “just in time” versus “just in case” education from eLearn2005 last week in Vancouver. I love George’s concept that “I am not the network, I am a node on the network and am my own network.” This fits with thinking I have been doing about social networks and the importance of structuring learning experiences which acknowledge the need to let learners scaffold and connect real experiences to their own perspectives. We need to challenge students to engage as active learners in the read/write web environment of the 21st century.

George talks about the need to “extend the neural networks of our learners,” and ties this in with chaos theory and systems thinking. I love these ideas, and really appreciate the diverse philosophies, perspectives, and theories which George ties together in this presentation.

I had not heard of Snowden’s Four Ontologies of Sense Making previously– I certainly resonate with George’s contention that “we are close to chaos” in many educational learning contexts, and we need to pay attention to this disconnect between formal learning environments and the world in which we live. George’s discussion on learning theories and learning domains (slide 10 of the preso) is a terrific breakdown of learning theories of transmission, emergence, acquisition, and connectivism. I actually may use this preso by George in my upcoming winter class on desktop publishing. Our ability to access and utilize presentations like this one, as well as many others that are part of the MIT Open Courseware initiative, is just amazing.

I like the idea George discusses about a “microcontent view of learning”– with which we no longer have to have a “course model of information acquisition.” I thoroughly agree with George’s statement that we can no longer have an exclusive “consumer mentality” when it comes to education. George exhorts us to understand the “different relationship which now exists between content producers and content consumers,” and I think he is right on target.

His observation that we are NOT being impeded in our transformation of educational paradigms by an “absence of tools,” but rather by our unwillingness / inability to construct a new view of learning, is insightful. George accurately contends that the importance of developing skills in identifying the quality and validity of information is absolutely critical in our new, digital knowledge environment.

I have thought and heard about this problem before, but had not previously known about the term “echo chamber.” This refers to the idea that our new knowledge environment is prospectively problematic if learners self-segregate themselves into intellectually homogenous groups. If people are not being exposed to contrary positions or opinions– they are choosing to just read/listen/be exposed to opinions that they basically agree with– then this can be conceived of as a problematic “echo chamber.” As digital educators we need to recognize and address this potential problem.

On slide 19 of the presentation, George characterizes our current educational paradigm as one in which we “still view content and courses as the starting point of learning.” I agree with George that we should “focus on connection-forming tools as the starting point of learning.” Rather than just giving students one-shot content, like having them read a book, it is much more powerful to expose people to a reflective and insightful blog which can lead to continued learning into the future, if that person chooses to follow the blog. I think teachers can do both, providing students with a great book written by an author who maintains a dynamic and related blog. This is what I did with David Warlick’s books and blog in my “Advanced Integration of Technology into the Curriculum” course this summer.

I had not heard of Scott Wilson’s “future virtual learning environment” model either, before listening and watching George’s presentation on Connectivism. I concur with George’s observation that in many contexts, “our capacity to know more is more critical than what is known now.

George’s discussion on the starting point of learning is also right on target. He observes “content is often the byproduct of the learning process, not the starting point.” How contrary and upside down is that perspective, when we think about “traditional learning models!” George exhorts educators to “start with connections, not content, for twenty-first century learning.” He contends that the ability to see connections (pattern recognition) between ideas and concepts is critical to learning. What George is talking about here is the vital importance of teachers to engage students at higher levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, at the synthesis/evaluation levels, which is also a theme of Chris Moersch.

Lastly, George’s observation that “decision making is in itself a learning process” is right on the money. Rather than think of content, courses, and curriculum as the starting point for learning– I agree that we should look at connections and authentic problem solving situations (which involve problem solving) as better starting points and contexts for learning. At least for education that matters. And aren’t we all in this business to provide those types of opportunities for students? Teachers who are not need to find a new profession.

George made this presentation with Articulate Presenter created by Articulate, a company with the slogan “your knowledge at the speed of change.” Sounds a lot like “Moving at the Speed of Creativity,” doesn’t it? 🙂 The software description for Articulate Presenter from the official website is:

Eliminate all the time, complexity and cost of creating professional-quality Flash presentations and e-learning courses. Articulate Presenter lets non-technical users create e-learning courses by adding narration and interactivity to a standard PowerPoint file. At the press of the button, your presentation is transformed into a compelling Flash-based course.

This is a very powerful eLearning technology for teacher-centered content delivery. The major bummer is that like Camtasia studio, the Articulate Presenter authoring software is Windows-only. Once you create content, however, it is available for a cross-platform audience via Flash player.

If anyone knows of a tool like this that is Mac compatible please let me know.

If you have feedback for George on this excellent presentation, you can email him directly— his blog post for this preso does not allow commenting.

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