Monday, September 29, 2014

A Learner is Like a Chain

In all of the discussions about networks and connections, I think a chain is the perfect analogy to describe the modern learner. The more links a student acquires, the stronger the chain. In other words, the more connections a learner can make, and the more network he/she can be apart of, the more skill sets they learn allowing them to form a solid foundation of knowledge. Furthermore, links are constantly being developed and added as technology advances and various social mediums arise.

As Siemens discusses in The Changing Nature of Knowledge, "The learners themselves, the connections they form with each other, the connections they form with databases, with other sources of knowledge, is really the primary point of learning. So in essence, the network becomes the learning". According to Siemens, knowledge no longer rests strictly under the cognitive and behavioral realm that education has insisted on for decades. Rather, learning exists within the scope of connections and networking. This is in response to the altering complexities in our environment. Siemens claims, "Because of the complex environment that we’re in, learning isn’t something that’s exclusively limited or occurs exclusively within an individual’s mind". Our propensity to use technology and social media networks is in direct response to a changing standard of behavior. As Siemens discusses in The Conflict of Learning Theories With Human Nature, it is our human nature to want to externalize our thoughts and feelings in a social setting. Therefore, "Our challenge then as educators is finding a way to value and foster that human need that we have to be expressed with other ideas and to focus less on trying to bring knowledge into a person and more on developing skills for our learners so they’re able to go out in fairly complex knowledge environments today and function in a distributive manner"

Such "distributive manner" that Siemen discusses in his videos is also reflected in his article A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Siemen believes that as today's environment changes, learners are required to draw information from outside of their primary knowledge. Knowledge acquisition is no longer an internalized notion, rather must be obtained outwardly and to "synthesize" powerful connections. This follows the scientific methodology of Chaos, which "recognizes the connection of everything to everything". Such meta-awareness of the connections we have made/are being made onto us is the ultimate guide in obtaining new knowledges that are not as easily acquired cognitively. As Siemens discusses, learning is no longer under the limitations of the individual. Siemens states, "Learning (defined as actionable knowledge) can reside outside of ourselves (within an organization or a database), is focused on connecting specialized information sets, and the connections that enable us to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing."

I think this relates back to my chain analogy where it's not entirely the strength of the chain that's important, it's the connective capabilities of the chain that makes it an asset to society. Yes, the strength of the metal is valued, but the strength of one link alone cannot get a job done. Rather, it is the link's ability to connect with others in that allows a distribution of strength that only grows as more links are made. This is ultimately what the modern learner must adhere to in today's complex society. It's not enough to simply acquire a set of knowledge. Instead, the modern learner is expected to utilize one's external environment in creating strong bonds of knowledge. 

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done. As teachers we now become facilitators in helping our students forge new, useful links in the chains of their networks.