I’m the kind of guy that instead of watching a movie for it’s entertainment value, or for the quality, I sometimes get bogged down in analyzing the ideas promoted in the plot or by the characters, I might consider if the movie has an agenda that I agree with or not, or sometimes I walk away offended by faulty arguments.  In some ways I am thankful for this tendency, but at times I consider it a curse.  The times that I am burdened most by this characteristic is when I have trouble articulating why some ideas of a movie are a  struggle for me to accept.  My wife probably bears more of the burden as she tries to hear what I’m thinking, but eventually we both get tired of trying to figure it out and we just go on living.  This introduction is intended to set the stage for talking about educational theories, which are causing a similar reaction.  I will go on, not knowing if I can clearly identify where the dilemma exists. 

Due to the heavy amount of research that I have done with learning theory, I have dug deeper, and perhaps this, more than anything, has caused core beliefs to be shaken.  I don’t mind being in this situation and I don’t even mind admitting that doubts appear.  When I read about learning theory within the context of education, I tend to lean more toward constructivist theories and I like much of what I have read about Connectivism.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, education can’t stand alone, but it is tied into your world view.  I’m not referring to educate others to a specific world view, I am merely pointing out how difficult it would be to teach something that is contrary to your own world view.  I became aware of this possibility when I was reading one of the resources with quotes like this: “Hence, in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways“(Downes, 2007).  In an education setting, this is practical and acceptable to me, but beyond education, I feel this contradicts my belief of universal truths, which live above what humanity can establish.  Besides, when networks within a society are based on norms, popular belief, or manipulation of popular belief, history has proved that that can be detrimental, especially when the norms and beliefs are based on false information or faulty reasoning.  I suppose one of the arguments with Connectivism is that the network has now become global and the diversity of input will help to balance the ideologies of the network, but for me that is not enough of a guarantee to stop enough people from rallying around a false belief and create their own network of knowledge.

By no means do I feel that my knowledge and understanding are complete.  I have experienced enough shifts in my own beliefs, even at the core, to know that I am not finished in obtaining knowledge and understanding.  Nor do I believe that humanity has or will have all the answers to life’s riddles, therefore, how much stock can I put in a human network of ideas.  However, there are many practical ideas and teaching within Connectivism as an educational theory.  George Siemens in his article, “A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”, provides many rich nuggets which argue for the need to adapt education to a society  that is changing according to what technology provides us, in terms of information acquisition, and the way we interact through technology.  “The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe. Our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today. A real challenge for any learning theory is to actuate known knowledge at the point of application. When knowledge, however, is needed, but not known, the ability to plug into sources to meet the requirements becomes a vital skill. As knowledge continues to grow and evolve, access to what is needed is more important than what the learner currently possesses” (Siemens, 2007) .  The best example I have for this is from personal experience.  Even in recent years, some teachers have argued for the need of a printed and high quality dictionary in the classroom, perhaps they think it is important to teach dictionary look-up skills too.  I don’t doubt that there is benefit in learning that, but in today’s learning economy, I believe this is one of the skills that can mostly be replaced by knowing how to access technology for the purpose of understanding or completing a task.

Constructivism and Connectivism are connected and they both have strong links into the Cultural Historical Activity Theory.  My understanding of these theories appear in my teaching strategies.  I understand that the world has changed since I was a K-12 student, and education has to adapt to those changes.  I also have experienced these theories first hand when I was able to obtain knowledge through technology tools so that I could accomplish certain tasks.  Just do a “How to” search on the Internet to find most anything you need to know how to do.  I also recognize that the wealth of information available was provided by someone and somewhere out there, so I have seen the positive benefit of networked knowledge and interaction with technology tools.   As you can see, I subscribe to these theories, just not 100%, and it is difficult to know how much percentage I am willing to concede, but it is likely above 90%.  I know it gets a little gray in my mind sometimes, so eventually I just have to walk away and continue living life.