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Criticism of Connectivism
"Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself." The Matrix.

A Learning Theory? Are You Kidding?

Wikipedia states, "connectivism is a learning theory used in computer science which is based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than simply in the head of an individual." Although Wikipedia is a good source to begin our research, it states exactly what we are arguing it is NOT--a theory.
Rovy Branson argues that "It might be more appropriate to call this a theory of information management, or knowledge management rather than a learning theory. Learning theories describe how learning occurs but not how learning is facilitated."

Connectivism could arguably be a pedagogical view at the curricular level, meaning what is taught and why it is taught, rather than a learning theory. Connectivism can also be defined as a strategy implemented in teaching to teach research and higher level analytical skills. Siemens (2004) argues connectivism is a theory, meaning the level of instruction, in which students take learning and extend it through networks above and beyond the classroom, while Verhagen (2006) states it constitutes a view in which students need to connect content to extend outside the classroom with the prescribed curriculum. Siemens further explains this "theory" is made up of nodes and connections of learning outside of the mind, rather than the actual performance within the students. Putting connectivism into frame of pedagogical view, one can surmise this skill of connecting information to tie it into long term memory and application is a lifelong skill in which students and educators can transfer and build on skills related to and encompassing technology. Finally, theory is a term used to define what is happening inside the mind of a student, while connectivism directly relates to the phenomenon occurring around the student.

Connectivism is Irrelevant!

To be considered relevant, connectivism must be analyzed by the teacher, taking into consideration his or her students. Assuming connectivism is a strategy, it is concluded learning happens, employing the different modes of learning, including visual, auditory, kinesthetic, inter and intrapersonal, and spatial. Therefore, connectivism can be classified as a strategy incorporating multiple modes of learning. Therefore, adopting connectivism as a theory of learning into a classroom would be to eliminate alternate individual modes of learning. It should be viewed as an enhancement to traditional theory and practice, rather than put into effect as a sole way to engage students.

Connections need to form naturally, and cannot be forced. Educators need to recognize this and acknowledge student social skills before forcing connections, as they would not do this in other educational social situations.

And, the blogger Paul Justice serves as an example of how many educators find the theory, that of a big bunch of fancy words by a theorist who is only concerned about putting out a big bunch of fancy words, not actually helping education.

Can Connectivism Connect Students?

What student does not love the social aspects of the Internet? However, to depend on students to create their own web of knowledge based on their friend network or social connections is ludicrous, not to mention impractical. In connectivism knowledge is built upon and developed. An individual's knowledge base is theirs. They can hear or read other works, but the foundation of the learning comes from their own understanding of the world.
  • How will this "theory" affect young children who thrive and learn through physical interaction and movement? If students are connecting on the computer, how will they learn how to connect in person (aka social skills)?
  • According to Hunt, "Teaching … is essentially a transformational activity, which aims to get students to take charge of their learning and to make deeply informed judgments about the world."

Are Parts of the Theory More Compelling or Relevant?
What happens to the individual? Recently there was a speaker who told his audience that memorization was done. Everything is available to be looked up. Although this mostly true, memorization is vital. Imagine not knowing your address or phone number. Relying on the Internet too much for information can have terrible effects. What happens when the Internet isn't available? The human brain is complex and wired to retain much knowledge. It doesn't have finite memory space. Ok, band of brothers... Its nice to think learning could build simply on everyone's interpretation, but when are facts just that? You cannot change when the Titanic sank. You cannot change how Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. When does this theory ever cover the idea of true learning?
According to Wang (2008), "everyone keeps learning every waking minute, using different learning theories." This is not a one size fits all world! this theory many be compelling for some, but the theory cannot assume all people will beneft from this type of learning.
It is clear that the definition implies group knowledge gains, so "what happens with personal motivation for leaning, because the organizational learning aims to ensure the organization survives and the learning through the organizational network aims to meet the organizational goals, instead of worker needs and interests." This is also a dangerous premise sounding more like a communist or dictator view instead of a free democratic viewpoint for learning.

Are there Parts of the Theory Which You Find Confusing?
Kerr (2006) says that "networks are important but haven't changed learning so much that we need to throw away all of the established learning theories and replace them with a brand new one" (A challenge to connectivism). Kerr lists three criteria for a good learning theory, including the requirement that it should result in learning reform. Connectivism does not lead to learning reform, however, because its language is too generalized. In addition, Kerr finds the connectivism theory lacks credibility, as a result of misrepresentations of existing theories,such as constructivism, behaviorism and cognitivism (A challenge to connectivism).
Another confusing feature is whether or not this theory is designed for all students all places. Darrow(2009) concludes that this is a knowledge base of practical applications for the college level, Instructional Technology classroom. The half-life of knowledge is shrinking, especially in the field of Instructional Technology; connectivism helps to ensure students remain current by facilitating the building of active connections, utilizing intelligent social networking and encouraging student-generated curricula. Connectivism allows the future of education to be viewed in an optimistic, almost utopian perspective, as individuals co-create knowledge in a global, networked environment." Therefore, this theory primarily focuses on the older, advanced, mature student in theory.
What happens to learning because of the digital divide? Many countries across the globe barely have food and clothes let alone technology. How will these people/students get their information or contribute to the societal learning? Gutierrez (2008) mention that "accessing to online services is a primary need in Connectivism. However, it is well known that the access to the technologies, particularly the access to the Internet is not equalitarian."
Downes (2008) points out that "the connectivist approach can pretty reliably lead to chaos. But this is because we believe that learning it is not structured, controlled or processed. And we expect students to be able to manage complex and rapidly changing environment – in other words, to be able to manage through just the sort of chaos we are creating."
Further research is need on this "theory" before any educator sees this a primary focus for their teaching.



Branson, Roxy (2005).Connectivism: Interesting, Not Sure It's a Learning Theory. elearnspace. Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Retrieved April 14, 2012 from http://www.situativity.org/archives/000141.html

Downes (2008 September 18).Connectivism and its Critics: What Connectivism Is Not. Retrieved April 14, 2012 from

Darrow (2009). Connectivism Learning Theory: Instructional Tools for College Courses. Retrieved April 12, 2012 from

Gutierrez, Luis (2008). Connectivism as a learning theory: Concepts, Ideas and possible limitations. Retrieved April 14, 2012 from http://t4tl.wikispaces.com/file/view/Connectivism+luis+gutierrez's+paper.pdf

Hunt, Cameron. Constructivism. Retrieved April 10,2012. http://connectivism.tumblr.com

Justice, Paul. (2006 November 16). Chill Out George. Retrieved April 10, 2012 from

Kerr, B. (2006, December 26). A challenge to connectivism. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from Bill Kerr Web site: http://billkerr2.blogspot.com/2006/12/challenge-to-connectivism.html

Rickert, Paul R. (2007, October 1). A Presuppostional Critique of Connectivism. Retrieved April 10, 2012 from http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1041&context=gov_fac_pubs&sei-redir=1&referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2Furl%3Fsa%3Dt%26rct%3Dj%26q%3Drefuting%2520constructivism%2520theory%26source%3Dweb%26cd%3D1%26ved%3D0CCsQFjAA%26url%3Dhttp%253A%252F%252Fdigitalcommons.liberty.edu%252Fcgi%252Fviewcontent.cgi%253Farticle%253D1041%2526context%253Dgov_fac_pubs%26ei%3DqX2JT_eWEoWw8ASS9rnjCQ%26usg%3DAFQjCNFWwhp1mIVPdn0BYKraO0-RvXDUsA%26sig2%3DJQK0moWj-uX-BfdVNxcTdA#search=%22refuting%20constructivism%20theory%22

Siemens, George (2004, December 12). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved April 12, 2012, from eLearnspace Web site: http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm.

Siemans, George. (2011 Decembe 14). Connectivism: A Learning Theory for Today’s Learner. Retreived April 10, 2012 from http://www.connectivism.ca/

Verhagen. Bijdrage van Plrn (2006 Nov 11) . "Connectivism: a new learning theory?" e-learning Themasite. Retrieved April 10 , 2012 from http://elearning.surf.nl/e-learning/english/3793

Wang (2006). Fundamentals of Learning Theory. Retrieved April 14, 2012 from