Jenny Mackness has asked “What is it about connectivism that stirs up such strong emotion?” – with reference in particular to a couple of people who seem to have taken up crusades against it in which they have engaged in disruptive behaviour and ad hominem attacks. My suspicion is that this is an example of the kind of academic jealousy that becomes particularly intense when one perceives others (especially “outsiders”) getting a lot of attention for something one considers unworthy. There is no doubt that connectivism has been getting a lot of attention and that the crusaders have let their fear of “outsiders” taint their arguments. But it is still worth asking why they see connectivism as unworthy.
Perhaps it is because they are offended by its self-description as a “theory”. Jaap has pointed out, “the incommensurability of the Einstein View and the Toolkit View” of what is a theory, and I made a similar distinction towards the end of the discussion thread on Learning Theories in cck11 (which I will recap here mainly just so I have it in my own blog for future reference).
When people in the hard sciences see the word “theory”, they expect to see predictions of testable consequences 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, values, and tools that the connectivist perspective brings to our attention.
The other side of the coin is also relevant. 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). If at the same time one stretches concepts and words beyond what is familiar this can feel like an attempt at bamboozlement which again can cause people to get frustrated, angry and irrational.