The perfect learning ecology?

Is there something like that at all? In a discussion yesterday, an important point was made by a participant – we don’t want perfect environments to be created for our learners, even if we could create them.

Why is this important to discuss? Everywhere around us there are “frictional” forces that impede or obscure – could be authority, access, lack of infrastructure or others – the learning process.

The ability to learn to cope with these forces becomes equally critical as the process of sense-making or wayfinding in a connectivist paradigm.

What is this ability?  The best way to place this ability in stark contrast is to assume a limiting factor. Let us say the individual has no access to (say) Web 2.0 technology. Specifically, the ability to form online networks / inter-personal relationships and instant online collaboration does not exist for this individual.

For her, sense-making would be based in a world of books & letters, local resources, chance encounters and possibly luck in tems of finding the right connections for her purpose. She would then possibly compensate for this frictional force in many other ways and an important factor here would be individual agency, apart from environmental facilitation and personal skill. She would actively seek and pursue opportunities that allow her to overcome this frictional force in a unique manner.

This ability to innovate & learn within physical world and personal constraints is equally important as the process of learning itself – maybe an inseparable aspect.

Connectivism makes the negotiation of information an important aspect of the learning ability, maybe it should include negotiation of real world constraints as well.

2 thoughts on “The perfect learning ecology?

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  1. Hi Viplav,

    You hit on some important issues here. One is something I’ve been wrestling with since last fall– my sense that elements significant to connective learning (and maybe connective learning itself) have always existed in some form; maybe it’s just that technology broadens the potential reach and makes connective exchanges more obvious to populations or cultures that have not learned this way before. I see that you’re calling the local learning in this example “sense-making,” rather than connective… do you think that connective learning can be local and offline as well as global and online? Or is this too dichotomous a question? In any case, for me, your example raises the question as to whether we need to be cautious about viewing technology-based connective learning as somehow “better.” As far creating ideal ecologies– I’d suggest (and maybe this is what you’re saying, too?) that in trying to create an “ideal learning ecology” for someone else, one may inadvertently disempower the learner.

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  2. Hi Carmen,

    Thanks for your comments! When I asked the question in Week 1/2, “is Connectivism universal?”, or dependent on technology, Stephen commented that it is like the principles (say) behind the steam engine – the fact that you do not have access to technology does not mean the principles do not exist. That set the tone for my explorations into Connectivism, because since then I have been trying to find out what makes it so universal. The answers I have got are interesting. Firstly, technology enables, but is not necessary. Secondly, knowledge is associative (“connective”) in nature, therefore independent of tools (or even language). Thirdly, networks exist not only at the inter-personal level (social), but also at the intra-personal level (neural, conceptual). Fourthly, necessary conditions for connectivism include the effect of ecologies and changing the roles of educators. Fifthly, we make sense (“learn”) through evolving patterns of knowledge. And so on.

    So if we were to ask ourselves, for example, how would we learn if we were marooned alone in an island (i.e. exclude the social network dimension) or if we were neurologically learning disabled (exclude the neural/conceptual dimension) – would the principles of connectivism still stand valid? I think they will, if only because knowledge is connective and the process of learning is by making connections. So to ask if connectivist styles of learning can exist local and offline – I guess I would have to say yes!

    Whether technology enabled learning is “better”, I feel that learners not using technology, have some specific disadvantages such as perhaps lack of access to timely information, global reach, capability to sift through large amounts of information and to stay current. But I would cringe if someone told me I could not learn without technology.

    You put it much better than me when you state that we may disempower the learner inadvertently in our quest to design the perfect ecology. I think the risk is high there particularly to people without access, to people with elearning barriers towards technology per se and to those who get “excluded” even while leveraging technology (introverts, for example, have a challenge in a socially negotiated world).

    Thanks for your thoughts!
    Regards,
    Viplav

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