Connectivism in the context of acquisition of basic digital skills

Learning basic digital skills through use of a network is somewhat of a contradiction.  Hence, I have commented on Siemens’s key principles in the context of this most fundamental learning in a networked world.  In the developing world, the most basic of digital skills (keyboard, mouse, logging on etc.) have to be learned before more valuable skills (searching, publishing) can be developed.

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.

A non-networked person will have been exposed to only a narrow range of opinions. Hence the acquisition of digital skills is an essential precursor to accessing a diversity of opinions. It is no surprise that repressive regimes limit access to diversity of information.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialised nodes or information sources.

However, a more fundamental learning is that of understanding that such sources exist and how to find them

  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.

For the new digital entrant, most new learning will only come from non-human sources. They are more likely to access archived news feeds and static sites than human learning vectors such as blogs or tweets

  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known.

This is critical in that what is currently known (from schooling or narrow, local experience) is likely to be out of date with future needs

  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.

The is later than the first critical need which is to find relevant connections in the first place

  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas and concepts is a core skill.

This is perhaps the most fundamental connectivist skill and will be new to those educated in a closed, didactic system. Developing own perceptions is a key new skill acquired through increased exposure to a variety of opinions and experiences.

  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.

Currency only needs to be in respect of the relevant environment. If the environment is traditional then new, up-to-date knowledge may be interesting but irrelevant (though could be transformational for those with the power to transform).

  • Decision making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision

True but may be lagged in a development environment.

Connectivism is a two edged sword in a development environment. Absence of a network will deny access to the rapidly accelerating changes in the developed world. Development of a network allows leapfrogging over the limitations of locally available knowledge. The Arab Spring was an example of the disruptive capability of a step change in access to information.

2 thoughts on “Connectivism in the context of acquisition of basic digital skills

  1. Niall Beag

    A non-networked person will have been exposed to only a narrow range of opinions. Hence the acquisition of digital skills is an essential precursor to accessing a diversity of opinions.

    This is not necessarily true. One of the dangers of the internet is that it actually allows us to further narrow the material we are exposed to.

    We customise news sites to give us only the news we want to read.
    We hang around on forums dedicated to our particular topics and points of view.
    We do everything we can to filter out those views that clash with our own.

    Consider Rangers Football Club. They’ve been owned by several people with a somewhat rocky relationship with the truth. They’ve been given preferential treatment by the Scottish Football Association despite financial goings-on so murky that they’re now embroiled in a police investigation for fraud.

    And yet, if go onto Rangers supporters’ forums, you’ll see lots of people who genuinely believe it’s all a big conspiracy. In some of these places, anyone who tries to take a reasonable attitude to the apportionment of blame is immediately decried as an imposter — a Celtic fan who’s only on the site to stir trouble.

    Compare this to the pre-internet days, where you met people through geography, regardless of shared interests (or lack thereof).

    You can also consider the claims that digital distribution would widen people’s access to music, but a study a few years ago showed that in was actually concentrating attention on a smaller number of titles.

    In fact, you can also consider the H817 MOOC. It attracts people interested in MOOCs. It scares off people who see through the flimsy, unjustifiable claims of the connectivists. It shrugs them off as people who “don’t get it” or who’re “stuck” in 20th century pedagogies.

    So while Siemens is singing the praises of “diversity of opinion”, he is actually talking against it.

    And one more thing:
    “Siemens: Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
    Or to paraphrase: “the plural of anecdote is data“…?

  2. Guy

    I agree that it is possible to be stuck in a ‘walled garden’ of opinion. However, connectivity gives you choice if you care to look. This is no different from history – stuck in your village pub with the village bore or choosing one of 50 pubs in a city. I don’t agree with connectivism as a complete theory of learning but I don’t see the claims as ‘flimsy and unjustified’. Most good debates start with fairly polarised opinions and end up somewhere in the middle. Sfard got it about right in looking for a mixture of metaphors to characterise the range of learning situations. Connectivism is just one.

    Sfard, A. (1998) On Two Metaphors for Learning and the Dangers of Choosing Just One,
    Educational Researcher , Vol. 27, No. 2, pp. 4-13 [Online]. Available at


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