Archive for January, 2011

Connectivism Glossary

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Stephen Downes and I have kicked off our third iteration of our open course Connectivism and Connective Knowledge…if interested, you can register here. The course is again being offered as part of the Certificate in Emerging Technologies program at University of Manitoba (i.e. for-credit students). In our course orientation yesterday, someone requested a connectivism glossary. A reasonable question – and one that we replied with our usual “if it’s missing in the course, it’s an opportunity for you to create something”. However, today, via Google Alerts, I came across this glossary from participants in the 2009 course: Connectivism Glossary.

It captures some of the more common terms used in discussing social networked learning. After a quick skim of the items listed, I was left with this sense of “great resource. But we’ve somewhat moved on”. Many of the terms listed were quite helpful in the “early days” of 2004/5 when we were trying to grasp onto language that would help describe the phenomenon that we viewed as important. Terms like “half-life of knowledge”, the “pipe” of content, and “informal learning” I could do away with now. They were transitionary terms that don’t quite seem as relevant now as they did at the time. Essentially, these words were used to try and create a sense of what was happening with knowledge and in society that warranted reflection and reconsideration. They don’t speak directly to what connectivism is, but rather the context that raises the importance of social networked learning.

I’m now more interested in terms that address not only what connectivism is, but the ways in which networks are shaped and impact learning (at the neural, conceptual, and external-social network levels). A few of these include:

  • Amplification: the connection of one concept or skill set with another complementary concept or skill set that produces a greater impact than each element could produce on its own.
  • Resonance: when concepts are available to connection with other concepts based on some element of similarity or capacity for connection. For example, a psychologist is in a better position to understand a new theory of motivation than a farmer would be. And a farmer in turn will likely find greater resonance with a new approach to land management than a psychologist would. Resonance is capacity for connections to form based on the attributes of connect-able nodes. Nodes that are too unlike each other will not form a meaningful connection.
  • Synchronization: nodes/concepts aligning themselves to other agents/concepts (fireflies is a common example).
  • Information diffusion: how does information flow through a network? Which nodes slow down information flow? Which test the accuracy or trust-ability of information?
  • Influence: Which concepts or nodes have the capacity to impact others? Which nodes can be trusted? Why? Are single nodes as influential and nodal structures that are in a state of resonance and/or synchronization? (the answer is obviously no). What role do individual nodes play in producing resonance across multiple nodes? Which attributes or actions on the part of nodes contribute most to trust formation and influence generation?
  • Enacting new domains of knowledge:The virus that causes SARS was discovered through a distributed research network, aided by reasonably simple communication technology. We all possess some levels of knowledge. When that knowledge is connected with the knowledge of other people, we are able to access more complex domains of knowledge. For example, the iPad is the combination of innovations and technological advances that spans decades and centuries. The iPad – and its aesthetic and appeal – can only be realized with the knowledge required in its creation is networked and connected
  • Connected specialization:In complex systems, individual agents/nodes become increasingly specialized. In order to enact new domains of knowledge (see above), we need to connect specialized nodes. Understanding how and why nodes form and connect may help us to understand why we have an iPad but not a Windows tablet (as promised by Balmer in 2010). Connections have an impact – but we don’t want random connections for connections sake. We need connections that increase the capacity of a network of individuals to create and grow knowledge.