I would really appreciate critical comments (well, feedback in general) on this posting. A taxonomy, as I intend to use it, is basically a classification scheme demarcating the nuances of a process or concept. If I had more time (and discipline!), I imagine instead of a taxonomy, I should create a networked view of how these elements interact. That’s a future task. For now, here is a connectivism taxonomy – a staged view of how learners encounter and explore learning in a networked/ecological manner (the taxonomy begins with the basic and moves to the more complex):
Awareness and receptivity – at this level learners acquire basic skills for handling information abundance, have access to resources and tools (internet, blogs, wikis, aggregators)
Connection-forming – at this level learners begin to use tools and understanding acquired during level 1 to create and form a personal network. Learners are active in the learning ecology/space in terms of consuming or acquiring new resources and tools. Selection (information filtering) skills are important. Affective/emotive factors play a prominent role in deciding which resources to add to the personal learning network
Contribution and involvement – at this level learners are fairly comfortable within their self-created network (though instructors or teachers may continue to guide and direct their access to particularly valuable resources toward intended educational competencies or outcomes). The learner begins to actively contribute to the network/ecology – essentially, becoming a ‘visible node’. The learner’s active contribution and involvement allows other nodes on the network to acknowledge his/her resources,contributions, and ideas – creating reciprocal relationships and shared understandings (or, if wikis or social bookmarking is used, collaboratively-created understanding). The learner should also be capable of choosing the right tool for the right learning task. For example, the learner may opt to take a course, attend a conference, solicit a mentor, or subscribe to blog feeds – all based on what the learner needs to know, do, or believe. Selecting the right element within the learning ecology is valuable in ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process.
Pattern recognition – at this level the learner is “network aware” and competent. As a dynamic participant in the ecology, the learner has moved from passive content consumption to active contribution. Time in the network has resulted in the learner developing an increased sense of what is happening in the network/ecology as a whole. Having mastered the basics of being a participant, the learner is now capable to recognize emerging patterns and trends. Experience within the network has resulted in the learner understanding the nuances of the space (online or physical). The longer the learner spends in the learning space, the more adept she/he will become at recognizing new patterns or “changing winds” of information and knowledge
Meaning-making – at this level the learner is capable of understanding meaning. What do the emerging patterns mean? What do changes and shifts in trends mean? How should the learner, adjust, adapt, and respond? Meaning-making is the foundation of action and reformation of view points, perspectives, and opinions.
Praxis – at this level, the learner is actively involved in tweaking, building, and recreating their own learning network. Metacognition (thinking about thinking) plays a prominent role as the learner evaluates which elements in the network serve useful purposes and which elements need to be eliminated. The learner is also focused on active reflection of the shape of the ecology itself. The learner may engage in attempts to transform the ecology beyond his/her own network. Praxis, as a cyclical process of reflection, experimentation, and action, allows the learner to critically evaluate the tools, processes, and elements of an ecology or network.
Connectivism, as a learning theory, doesn’t need to be confined only to online spaces. I use terms like blogs, wikis, and social bookmarking simply as a means of communicating the value of social online tools. A learner in a physical classroom may well follow a similar process (or taxonomy listed above) of creating their own personal network (though to truly take advantage of the capacity for rapid network-creation or connection-forming, the web is without parallel…the web itself was built on the notion of connection-forming. Learners in a physical space should strive to enrich their own network with online tools and resources). The main intent of network creation is to enable learners to continue to stay current in the face of rapidly developing knowledge. The pipe is more important than the content within the pipe (simply because content changes rapidly). Or, as I’ve stated before, “know where” is more important than “know how” and “know what”.
Ultimately, whether online, face to face, or blended, the learning environment needs to be democratic and diverse. The instructor can provide guided access to new information (and will probably provide some type of evaluation and assessment against desired outcomes or competencies)…or in a training sense, the employee may have a particular target or competence to achieve, so external guidance (particularly at the awareness, connection levels) is important. A critical concept to keep in mind: the network and ecology must both be dynamic and capable of evolving, adapting, and responding to external change. The praxis level ensures that the personal learning network is relevant and current.