The fourth principle of Connectivism

The fourth principle of connectivism, as proposed by Siemens (2005), is the capacity to know is more critical than what is currently known. In this principle, the idea is not about knowing more of what one already knows, but instead using the information available to think critically about what they know and why they think they know it. Having more knowledge is no longer enough; we need the skills to acquire, analyze, and validate the information that we have.

 Currently, gaining information or knowledge is just at the tip of the learners’ finger. When a teacher asks their students to go and look for information on climate in Malaysia, as an example, students may just turn to the internet, look up the climate in Malaysia in Google Search, and present the data as is to the teacher and the classroom. The internet is a treasure trove of data and information. However, one still needs the skills to look for the right information, critically analyze it and the source, and validate the data. Not all data and information gotten from the internet is valid and reliable. Thus, I think that it is vital for learners to learn how to conduct proper research online, from getting data from reputable sources and on how to analyze and validate their findings.  

For example, the teacher could get the learners to look for information from books and articles first and then to search for supporting data or information from the internet, as a supplement to sources such as books. This could help to lessen the over-reliance of unverifiable details from the internet. Besides that, the teacher could teach the learners on how to do an internet search effectively, such as using the Boolean operator and learn to use command such “site:” so that information can be collected from reputable sites. In the rapid development of information and technology nowadays, learners need to learn and unlearn effectively as things that they know today may become obsolete and no longer reliable tomorrow.


Community of practice

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger proposed the community of practice as a group of people who share a concern or passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. The characteristics of CoP can be divided into three, which are domain, community and practice. The domain represents area of shared interests or common ground between its members. The community creates the social aspect of learning. A strong community fosters interaction and encourages a willingness to share ideas. The practice represents the specific focus around which the community develops.

There are differences between a common community of interest and community of practice. In a community of interest groups, members are not necessarily experts or practitioners of the topic around the interest. For example, a Facebook group consisting of those who like gardening can just be a community of interest as they share a common hobby and not particularly having members who are expert botanists. A community of practice, in contrast, is a group of people who are active practitioners.

If it’s in the usual way, I would try to reflect and propose some suggestions on how to implement the learning theories in a classroom setting. But I find it a bit hard to link CoP into regular learning in the classroom. As learners in the classroom are not subject-matter specialists or practitioners of the same area of interest. Nevertheless, I will try to relate this to the teaching profession. With the development of technology and increasing interest in social media apps, teachers have found ways to build their community as a place to share knowledge and trade opinions and insight. There are many groups in Telegram app that cater to almost every subject available and acts as a basis of community of practice. For example, for English language teachers, the Telegram group “ group” has quite a large number of teachers in it. As of now, this group has more than 39,000 teachers sharing teaching materials and provide help to one another. I think that this group fits the three characteristics of CoP as all the teachers share the same domain or area of interest, a strong community that interacts and helps each other on matters such as lesson planning or teaching materials and the practice that represent the specific focus of the group, which is a platform to share materials or idea on teaching the English Language.    


Thought on cognitive apprenticeship

A teenager wants to learn on how to make table and chair. He apprenticed himself to a master carpenter to learn about the trade. In the workshop, the master carpenter taught the teenager the how-to in furniture making and over the time, the teenager managed to learn how to make table and chair.

The scenario above is a simple example of an apprenticeship. In 1987, Brown, Collins and Newman developed the cognitive apprenticeship model. Brown et al (1989) stated that cognitive apprenticeship supports learning in a domain by enabling students to acquire, develop, and use cognitive tools in authentic domain activity. Thus, not only learning uses a real-world context, it also allows learners to witness how the master or practitioner solves problem and ways to handle task.

Brown et al developed six teaching methods under cognitive apprenticeship: modelling, coaching, scaffolding, articulation, reflection and exploration.

1. Modeling — the teacher or expert models or demonstrates the desired knowledge and skill for the learner; this is typically necessary with new learners in a domain and can be repeated at various learning stages.

2. Coaching — the teacher or expert observes a learner’s performance, and provides feedback aimed at helping the learning improve and become aware of specific aspects requiring improvement.

3. Scaffolding — the designer or instructor deploys various support mechanisms for learners; these typically become less explicit and less supportive as learners gain competence and confidence.

4. Articulation — the teacher encourages a student to talk about what he or she is doing or knows with regard to a particular task; this can occur at many points in an instructional sequence.

5. Reflection — a teacher encourages a student to compare his or her response to a problem situation with that of an expert or possibly with that of another student as a way to draw attention to differences for purposes of developing understanding and insight.

6. Exploration — a teacher provides students with opportunities to explore new problems and perhaps different types of problems requiring alternative problem-solving strategies.

Based on my understanding of cognitive apprenticeship, I can see some of the aspects of CA being applied in the classroom setting. Let us look at the teaching methods as proposed by Brown et al (1989). Modelling is not a novelty idea in teaching and learning in the classroom. For example, if I want the learners to improve on their speaking skills, I as a teacher need to show an example by using the language. In the coaching stage, I will provide feedback on their progress and help to improve on the technical aspect such as grammar and sentence building. Support activities such as pair work to practice speaking can provide scaffolding and acts as a platform to articulate their skills. Learners are then encouraged to continuously reflect on their progress as to promote and solidify their understanding. Under exploration, I can provide opportunities to the learners to further improve their skills such as by participating in speaker’s corner or public speaking.  


On connectivism

The growth of technology has spiked in the last few decades. In current time, technology has changed the way we live, communicate and learn. Siemens (2004) stated that some of the significant trends that happened in learning such as informal learning are a significant aspect of our learning experience. Formal education no longer comprises the majority of our learning. Learning now occurs in a variety of ways—through communities of practice, personal networks, and through completion of work-related tasks.

In 2005, Siemens proposed a new learning theory called connectivism, to address the limitations of the older theory such as behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism. Siemens (2004) stated that most learning theories revolved on learning occur in a person. These theories do not address learning that happens outside of a person i.e. Learning that is stored and manipulated by technology. In connectivism, the starting point for learning occurs when knowledge is actuated through the process of a learner connecting to and feeding information into a learning community. In the connectivism model, a learning community is described as a node, which is always part of a larger network. Nodes arise out of the connection points that are found on a network. Nodes may also be organizations, libraries, web sites, journals, databases, or any other sources of information (Gerard and Goldie, 2016).

Currently, there is still a debate regarding the position of connectivism as a learning theory. Nevertheless, I feel that there are some points in connectivism that can be inferred and practiced in a classroom. Learners are provided the opportunities to make choices about their learning. There are many nodes available and with the help of technology nowadays, learners have more options in collecting knowledge. For example, discussion board and wiki can be the platform to promote collaborative work and exchanging ideas and knowledge. Learners no longer confined within the boundary of the classroom but can make connections with multiple nodes around the world. One of the principles of connectivism is the capacity to know is more critical than what is currently known. I think that this principle is quite applicable in the current world’s situation. As time progressed, new knowledge emerged and what we learn today may become obsolete in 10 or 20 years later. So, I think that it is important for learners to know how to learn and relearn to keep up to date with the ever-progressing information.