It’s where we know, not what we know’ (George Siemens)
George Siemens Connecting learners: Technology, change and higher education (47 mins:03 seconds) Hosted by YouTube video
Siemens (2013) comments that traditionally lecturers and learning designers have done the work for learners by connecting knowledge pieces together ‘…choreographed in learning management systems.’
Constructivist theories assert that learning is not a passive activity (Gagnon & Collay). Learners actively construct and co-construct their learning and meaning making socially (ibid). Siemens in this presentation at the University of the Sunshine Coast says that learning is messy and learners are more likely to purse their own learning interests (Siemens, 2013). He also asserts that learning is violent. The very act of learning is restructuring our brains as we receive new information. This new information often challenges our paradigms and belief systems.
If as Siemens comments, real-life, authentic learning is complex and messy at times, then lecturers and learning designers need to create environments that reflect these tensions and prepare learners for these tensions and ambiguities for life long learning. Neatly pre-digested packets of information no longer reflect the dynamic world of knowledge and information creation and sharing that learners navigate.
Gonzalez (2004) discusses the challenges faced by learners today due to the ‘half-life’ of knowledge. Rapidly expanding knowledge results in knowledge which is also rapidly becoming obsolete. This dynamic state of knowledge drives the need for learners to be skilled in evaluating the authenticity, currency and relevancy of information and information sources. This ‘meta-skill’ needs to take place before learning because the ‘…ability to synthesise and recognise connections and patterns is a valuable skill’ (Siemens 2004).
Knowledge acquisition through the lens of technological advancement and innovation
As learning designers and educationalists we need to view knowledge acquisition through the lens of technological advancements and innovation and become comfortable to challenge ourselves to ensure our design and curriculum are relevant by asking ourselves:
- How can we design and deliver learning experiences that move learners out of learning environments (LMS, classrooms, training rooms) and invite them to ‘forage’ beyond the confines of these environments?
- How can we deliver learning experiences that provide learners with the skills to navigate and evaluate information in a rapidly changing information landscape with a ‘shrinking half life of knowledge’.
- How can we purposefully and intentionally deliver learning experiences that are immersed in the rich interconnections offered by differing fields of knowledge?
- How can we meet the demand for real world authentic learning that meets the needs and demands of education and work in the 21st century?
Part of the answer may lie with Rocha’s definition of ‘self-organisation’ as the ‘…spontaneous formation of well organised systems.’ Learning environments and learners need to be open and responsive to self-organise in order to adapt to the rapid changes in knowledge and information systems.
The other part of the answer may life with Siemens theory of connectivism which states that learning takes place in ‘… nebulous environments of shifting core elements …’ . This environment cannot be completing controlled by either educator or learner. Connections to information sources and repositories become more important than the knowledge that any one individual or organisation can hold. This poses interesting challenges for the educator and learning designer who need to shift from traditional models of practice where the learner ‘received’ information to practices which intentionally provoke the learner to ‘forage’ and connect with information beyond the learning environment.
Brown (2006) also examines the web’s evolving potential to ‘…create a new kind of information fabric in which learning, working, and playing co-mingle…’ . His observations of what it means to grow up in a digital world explores the web’s capacity to also immerse the learner in global communities of practice connecting the learner to real-world, authentic experiences of what it means to be a professional in a given field of expertise. For example, interactions and collaborations are facilitated with tools such as Googledocs and Google hangout where the novice and expert can meet and review and share information in virtual communities. Content curation sites allow anyone to harvest and share information anywhere, anytime.
Technology and the tools it has spawned has opened the way for the educationalist and the learning designer to join the elaborate dance of collaboration and co-creation in the new knowledge ecologies in which ‘…its where we know, not what we know’ that is paramount to learning digitally.
Brown, J.S. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education and the ways people learn. Change, March/April. Retrieved from http://www.johnseelybrown.com/Growing_up_digital.pdf
Gagnon, G.W. & Collay, M. (n.d.) Constructivist learning design. http://www.prainbow.com/cld/cldp.html
Gonzalez, C. (2004). The role of blended learning in the world of technology. Retrieved from https://www.unt.edu/benchmarks/archives/2004/september04/eis.htm
Rocha, L. M. (1998). Selected Self-Organization and the Semiotics of Evolutionary Systems. Retrieved December 10, 2004 from http://informatics.indiana.edu/rocha/ises.html.
Siemens, G. (2004). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm
Siemens, G. (2013). Connecting learners: technology, change and higher education. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/PoGg-O4vLIo