Ulop’s Theory

In the follow-up to #CritLit2010, Ulop OTaat (whoever he may be) has expressed a theory about what the educational theory called “Connectivism” is (or is not).

Basically he appears skeptical of its value as more than just a new lingo without practical consequences:

But that is all that connectivism does, add a different perspective couched in different terminology, jargon if you will.  It does not solve any issues, on its own. It is not the end game of learning theory.

I must admit that I have had similar concerns as to whether it had any direct paedagogical implications. But the jargon has some appeal to me because of its relation to the neural network model of how learning may occur at the physical level, and so I remain open minded as to the possibility that thinking in “connectivist” terms may in fact lead to techniques which might not otherwise have been discovered. (Perhaps it might help in dealing with the chronic problem of failure of “transference” of a concept or technique from one domain of application to another – but I have nothing specific in mind at this point.)
Also of course, any reasonably valid understanding of how learning works may help with the Critical Literacy of avoiding the learning of things that are not true.

Where I have even more difficulty is with imagining possible uses of the analogy between neural and social networks (which seems to get a lot of play in the “Connectivist” worldview). Yes, the development of patterns of connection in a social network may be “reinforced” by interaction with some external stimulus, but I guess I am not sufficiently social to have any idea of a non-trivial pattern as a goal – let alone how to design an appropriate stimulus to achieve it. Perhaps some complex business or political relationships mught be enhanced by forcing a social network to “learn” its way into a particular pattern though – so maybe  Hari Seldon will one day be quoting Stephen Downes as he takes the first steps towards the Foundation. And maybe that makes an understanding of how to train social networks a Critical Literacy for the future.

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