Connectivism Taxonomy

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.

  • 11 Responses to “Connectivism Taxonomy”

    1. Randy Nolan says:

      This strikes me as a very valuable implementation and application to contemporary learning of Bernard Lonergan’s theory of cognition, George. His heuristic (experiencing – understanding – judging – deciding) is built on both critical reflection & the kind of hermeneutical circle you’re talking about here. Thomas Groome has used Lonergan to talk about shared praxis, though his may be more of a psychological perspective than the direction you’re going.

    2. Brad Hoge says:

      I would suggest involving metacognition as early as “connection-forming”.

    3. Jack Vinson says:

      I would think of these levels as a pyramid (or iceberg) of deeper and deeper understanding. The iceberg works nicely because it conveys the idea that much of the understanding goes on “below the surface.” For a more organic model, maybe a forest of trees with interconnecting roots, where the connections made at the deeper levels can sprout new formations. (Stretching the analogy a bit.)

    4. I really like Jack Vinson’s image. Also, as I recall, there was a period in my exploration of the conversational web that I was connecting to people through my aggregator, but I didn’t hadn’t started thinking about it as a personal learning network. It seems that the realization of a personally managed network of conversational knowledge might be an important threshold in it growing value.
      I like your progression!

    5. Avi Charkham says:

      Let me start with a quote by Nobel prize winner Herbert A. Simon.
      ”What we must avoid above all is designing technologically sophisticated hammers and then wandering around to find nails that we can hit with them.”

      For the last few years I’ve been making a living by designing and producing “e-learning” products and platforms. One thing keeps bothering me and the constant buzz in my head keeps growing during the last few months. This is it:
      It’s been more than 25 years since I first laid my hands on a computer (Sinclair 21) as a teenager…

      • How does one explain the fact that my son learning environment hasn’t changes in 25 years and that he learns in the exact same way I did 25 years ago?
      • Why has e-learning haven’t effected his learning experience (in school)?
      • Where is the correlation between the amazing advancement is computing and the advancement of e-learning?

      I Keep thinking, and I hope I don’t sound funny here, that we are dealing too much with the “E” of e-learning and to little with the “learning”. The slogan that keeps echoing in my mind is lets “let’s forget the T in ICT” (at least for a moment).
      The basic premise that guides me when designing a new product is that to go from point A to Point B effectively I need to take the staircase. If there is too much distance between point A and B to the extent that I need an “elevator” to reach from one point to the other I have a problem!
      In the case of E-learning the staircase is the teacher. I think that most e-learning theories are “elevator” theories. They describe point B but do not provide us with a staircase for reaching it. If we want e-learning to start kicking we need to change the focus (at least for a few years) to e-teaching and focus all our innovation on the integration of e-learning in existing environments and not on the invention of “future” environments. There is no future without a present and at the present we have a problem at the teacher level.
      So George what I’m trying to say, and I know this sounds weird, is that what I find missing in the current taxonomy is the teacher and how is role will be assimilated in the environment you are describing.

    6. Tony Berkeley says:

      I find this work useful in trying to adapt Bloom’s taxonomy to a contemporary (digital) context. I like the use of Praxis as a top level as it conveys the relationship with society and culture more obviously than Bloom’s evaluation or synthesis (is the debate over as to which is higher?) Indeed the fundamental social dimension of learning seems far more appreciable in your taxonomy. This raises intersting ideas e.g of applying it to “informal” learning e.g. use of text or internet messaging so prevalent with our “digital natives”. In terms of metacognition – I think I would share your positioning at a high level rather than Brad Hoge’s comment that it might appear as early as connection-forming. I am currently ploughing through your other writing and very grateful for your insights

    7. Meg Ormiston says:

      My thoughts turn to professional development. As I read along I thought of a group I worked with last week. One side of the room hummed along producing some really amazing things in a short time. Zipping here and there, looking for an expert or different tools as needed. Although the tools were new to them the process of putting the pieces together was no problem for them.
      The other side of the room were the digital dinosaurs who wanted everything step by step and threw up there arms at the slightest snag. From one side I heard this is so cool, the other side “this is so frustrating”. Maybe your model will help me think through how best to connect with the diverse learners.
      Keep working on it, I would like to know more!

    8. David Justice says:

      Although very attracted to Connectivism, I wonder if it might not benefit from some incorporation of the writing of David Kolb, whose book, Experiential Learning, has drawn upon the writing of Dewey, Piaget and others. It articulates a flexible, but structured theory of learning that recognizes the differences among individuals’ “learning styles” while bringing coherence to the various ways we engage in learning. The taxonomy articulated here feels a bit heirarchial, not unlike the academic disciplines which seem to evolve taxonomies that become increasingly rigid and prescriptive in terms of how one “learns” within the discipline.

    9. corrie says:

      The distinctions between the levels seem a bit blurred – it’s not clear where one might classify a particular activity. I agree that metacognition – or at least the awareness of hteneedfor it – needs to be at a lower level. There also seems to be quite a jump from the first to the second level.
      (As a tongue-in-cheek aside, where does the Glass Bead Game fit in? Somewhere above Praxis? :-D )

    10. Sui Fai John Mak says:

      George, great to learn about this taxonomy.
      Your taxonomy prompted me to reflect upon Bloom’s Hypothesis:
      1. A normal person can learn anything that teachers can teach
      2. Under favourable learning conditions the effects of individual differences will approach vanishing point, while under unfavourable learning conditions the effects of individual differences will be greatly exaggerated
      3. Individual learning needs vary greatly
      4. Uncorrected learning errors are responsible for most learning difficulties
      Under Bloom’s model, instead of trying to bend the learner to suit the method of teaching, Bloom’s approach sees the task of educators being to tailor the teaching process to suit the learning needs of the individual.
      Since I learnt the above model in 1985, I witnessed great changes in the learning approaches, and that most of the hypothesis set out by Bloom needed modification if we are to consider a similar behavioural approach in teaching in this digital age.
      For instance, hypothesis 1 doesn’t fit the on-line learner, as any normal person can learn anything even without the teachers. In hypothesis 2, Bloom contends that the most important factors influencing learning in the individual child are the interactions that occur between the child and its parents on the one hand and between the child and the teaching process on the other. Again, such hypothesis is no longer true in an on-line environment where the emphasis is no other just on the teaching process, and that the learner is not merely relying on the teaching process, rather the learner will consider his/her learning style in his learning(David Kobb’s learning style seems to be more useful in an on-line or connectivism approach).
      Also an experiential approach is often preferred amongst adults in an on-line environment.
      In your connectivism taxonomy – you have proposed 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).
      My comments are: As connectivism is operating in an open system model, would such a simple taxonomy approach be good enough? I am doubtful if learning could be viewed in a linear manner in a connective environment, and am unsure if one could describe a staged view of how learners and explore learning in a networked/ecological manner that reflects the reality?
      Once we define such staged views of learners, we may have assumed that a learner is learning in distinct stages, and that we can measure competency in a discrete manner – i.e. there are units of competency, elements and performance criteria clearly articulated.
      But if I reflect on the chaos and fuzzy dynamic environment any learner is facing nowadays, the reality is that competency of an on-line learner can no learner be based on those defined units of competency. It must include a fuzzy set of continuum variables which are attributes transcending beyond the semantics, or linguistics – this includes emotional elements (i.e. EQ – emotional control, self awareness, self confidence, motivation, social skills and interpersonal skills, social elements (social awareness, ethics, intellectual property awareness etc.) which are very difficult to define in terms of competency. Even if can define all these emotional, social elements, there would be difficulties in drawing a map between all these dynamic factors or competencies, which could all change due to other factors such as culture, equity and learner’s access to technology.
      In this respect, it would be imperative to develop hypothesis that are robust enough to take all those factors into consideration.
      1. So what are the hypothesis behind this connectivism taxonomy?
      2. Will such hypothesis be fluid or static? I would be interested to know if a further change in some of the technologies or learning environment would change the hypothesis.
      3. Is a taxonomy good enough reflection of the staged views of learner.
      4. Is such a taxonomy able to generalise under different learning circumstances?
      In conclusion,
      I am uncertain if a rigid taxonomy would be appropriate in building up a model on connectivism.
      My suggestion:
      I think a dynamic n-dimensional (or mxn matrix) model of taxonomy would be more appropriate and reflective of the reality. An adaptation of a Quality Function Deployment approach may be useful (ie. the voice of the learners on the left columnn and and the enablers and process of learning on the row of a matrix): i.e. With a matrix of What versus How in the the learning hierarchy/taxonomy. The “what” aspects would include What the learner’s needs are in a hierachical form and the How’s aspects would include the teaching/learning process, the enablers such as the technologies (Web 2.0 etc.)the networks,and other important enablers of learning such as support, mentoring, etc.
      3. This might also take the form of a network, though such network may be in the form of a mind map superimposed by the what and how aspects of learning.
      I would be interested in conducting research in this area to further explore about the theory of connectivism. Please contact me if you think such an approach might be useful to you.

      Looking forward to learn your views.