Digital Learning, Connectivism and the Role of the Teacher.

Material authored by Louise Starkey (Starkey 2011), and the YouTube Interview with George Siemens (Siemens 2013), reinforces the obvious; that is, access to the World Wide Web has greatly increased the opportunities for students adopt multiple learning pathways when engaging with the curriculum. Learning is now an iterative process which requires moving back and forth across knowledge numerous digital networks including engagement with Google Groups, following a person on Twitter, viewing YouTube videos, accessing information via Flipboard and Zite, discovering forums on Pinterest, discussions via Online Forums and a multitude other knowledge nodes.

Siemens’ interview had most impact on me. He acknowledged that education can be personalized “but learning comes through discourse and conversation with peers”, highlighting the importance of collaboration. Furthermore, he affirms the constructionist approach to “generate knowledge through playing with it” which then allows for “different uses of that knowledge.” 

For me, the above supports my strong affection for student-centred learning where students are active agents who are engaged in collaborative projects that are relevant to their real word, or where they are involved with sustained investigations that generate new ideas by extending upon the ideas of others. However, for this to become a reality, teachers need to see themselves as a facilitator of learning with the approach of a coach (Wang 2006).

I am the first to acknowledge that one constraint of the mandated curriculum is that it limits the potential for teachers to adopt the role of facilitator. However, a shift in the teacher role to that of a facilitator assists with the development of contemporary skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving; all skills required for the 21st century learning (Fullan and Smith 2000; BECTA 2004; Lyons 2007). To do this, the teacher “supports the students in their search and supply of relevant material, coordinates the students’ presentations of individual milestones of their projects, moderates discussions, consults in all kinds of problem-solving and seeking for solutions, lectures on topics that are selected in plenary discussions with the students and conforms to the curriculum” (Motschnig-Pitrik and Holzinger 2002).

With this in mind, and after my engagement with the above-mentioned authors, it is not enough for teachers to become facilitators. Facilitators must now understand that ‘connectivism’ is an essential part of contemporary pedagogy. For me, connectivism in a digital world is when a learner accesses information through a number of connections and uses that information to construct knowledge, often through those same networks.

I am fortunate to work in a learning community where teachers understand, respect and capitlaise upon the relative advantages of connectivism in a digital world. Through them I witness students utilising a range of digital technologies to access information and share that information through various learning platforms. I then see students connecting and collaborating with each other in a seamless manner where they then demonstrate their learning with the use of new ‘apps’ that they (more than likely) have discovered through their virtual learning network.

The willingness of teachers to engage with the connectivism of digital technology assists students to create knowledge and understand concepts through their participation of the digitally enhanced learning environment they access each and every day.



BECTA (2004). A Review on the Research Literature on the Barriers to the take up of ICT by Teachers: 29.

Fullan, M. and G. Smith (2000). “Technology and the problem of change.” Curriculum Matters: 2-5.

Lyons, T. (2007). “The Professional Development, Resource and Support Needs of Rural and Urban ICT Teachers.” Australian Educational Computing 22(2) , p. 22-31.

Motschnig-Pitrik, R. and A. Holzinger (2002). “Student-centered teaching meets new media: Concept and case study. .” Educational Technology & Society 5(4): 160-172.

Siemens, G. (2013). “Changing Schools, Changing Knowledge.” The Agenda with Steve Paiken. Retrieved 30/03/2014, from

Starkey, L. (2011). “Evaluating learning in the 21st century: a digital age learning matrix.” Technology, Pedagogy and Education 20(1): 19-39.

Wang, Y. (2006). “Technology projects as a vehicle to empower students.” Educational Media International 43(4): 315-330.


3 thoughts on “Digital Learning, Connectivism and the Role of the Teacher.

  1. I’m glad you appreciated the Sieman’s interview. You also helped me reflect on the topic of mandated curriculum and teacher as facilitator. I have struggled with that at times, and found that teacher as facilitator can still work well, where the school allows a teacher to be flexible in delivering a syllabus tailored to a students’ needs. But if a department locks things down week by week – then the ability to work with connectivism in mind does become devilishly impossible. Thanks for the post!

  2. I have revisited this post a couple of times as, apart from being beautifully written, like many 21st century educators I struggle to work with a mandated curriculum; especially when school interpretations are very rigid in what outcomes should be obtained and when. You might enjoy the comments in the clip by DMLResearchHub (2012) by Connie Yowell (The Macarthur Foundation) where she questions an outcomes approach to education. Of course any learning does need to be outcomes based but my interpretation of this is mandated outcomes that perhaps ignore the current context of the youth in our classrooms. At times mandated outcomes do get in the way of student engagement.

    Thanks for your professional writings.

    DMLResearchHub. (2012, September 19) Connected Learning: Interest, Peer Culture, Academics. Retrieved April 25, 2014, from

    • Hello Simon,
      Thanks for taking the time to write. I really enjoyed listening to Connie. She is eloquent in her reflections. I also enjoyed Nicole Pinkard, in particular, her statement that we need to completely overhaul education.
      Regards and Thanks,

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