The value of diversity in learning

When I first posited the theory of connectivism, I listed 8 broad principles:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • 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.

    Over the last few weeks I been interviewed several times on the subject, and find that people seem to fall into two categories: 1) almost instinctive agreement with the changing dynamics of learning and the need for a more relevant theory, and 2) polite silence, masking a sense of “what the heck does he mean?”.

    Over the next few posts, I’ll try and provide a bit more information on each of the 8 principles of connectivism, in an effort to communicate why learning needs to be conceptualized in a meaningful way based on needs of learners and organizations today.

    Principle #1: Learning and knowledge rest in diversity of opinions.
    In eras past, the content of a particular subject could be largely mastered by one person. For example, a physician could learn and understand the greater portion of her/his field. Much of what happened within a field was communicated and shared through the education system, then augmented by publications like journals or magazines, and the occasional seminar/conference. New discoveries or concepts were “processed” through this organized structure. Fringe ideas were often pushed to the sidelines, while small progressions were incorporated. Essentially, one person or one group of people could control information flow – they decided what was heard and what was silenced.

    Over the last several decades this process stopped working. Suddenly people started thinking in “systems” terms (i.e. how does this event influence and impact factors beyond our limited conception). Inter-disciplinary dialogue increased – physicists started dialoguing with sociologists (well, in some cases) and similarities in mathematical views of networks and social views were discovered. An interesting thought emerged – perhaps it’s all connected.

    Three significant things happened – knowledge growth increased, dialogue across various fields increased, and (more recently) collaboration and communication tools allowed anyone to broadcast their views and work (outside of industry journals and conferences).

    The increased complexity of working in our generation means that no one person can be completely knowledgeable within a field. An accurate picture (or learning) exists in inclusion of conflicting, contradictory, and unique perspectives. One solution does not fit every situation.

    By nature, I’m not prone to high levels of competition and conflict. If anything, I move naturally toward cooperation. For this reason, I find it quite frustrating watching politics. A large part of the political game seems to be the process of not seeing the whole picture. The attempt is to create the world (and frame the debate) in the limited construct that supports party lines. Isolationist views result in deepening differences. To truly grasp the whole picture (reality) requires an acknowledgement of the diverse ways of seeing and framing a situation. Ultimately, a direction needs to be taken, but at least considering other perspectives seems to imbue the process with less antagonism.

  • One Response to “The value of diversity in learning”

    1. Julian Draai says:

      Dear Sir, I am a masters student at the University Of Kwazulu Natal In South Africa.The topic for my thesis is “The experiences of campus managers with regard to ICDL (International Computer Drivers Licence)training.My research questions are ‘What have the experiences of campus managers been with regards to ICDL training” and “How have these experiences affected the way in which they use Microsoft Office programmes” How can I tie up these research questions with the principles of connectivism ? Please help me….I would be most grateful -julian