Saturday, October 25, 2008

what is knowledge; then what is learning; then what might be the shape of teaching CCK08

"Knowledge is, on this theory, literally the set of connections formed by actions and experience." (Kop & Hill, 2008)

This is a very actor-network way of thinking.
That knowledge happens in relation; in connection.

If we accept this as true, then how might we reconfigure teaching?
What is it we need to teach?

What becomes important?
The ability to discern the networks inside of which 'knowledge' is constructed.
The abilities to judge 'knowledge' in terms of how it explains or stands up in various applications.
The ability to cross networks.

These are contentious teaching and learning skills.
And more.
Power becomes central.

Foucault's knowledge/power inside of learning theory?
Bruno Latour's actor-network theory put to teaching about learning?

This has potential for radical transformation of education as we know it.
What would be taught would be critical engagement.
There is no need for learning facts, the emphasis shifts to what can be done with knowledge in relationship and how is that knowledge constructed in relationships.

Chaos and anarchy and power and control.

At its most base, a connectivist approach emphsises
"its not what you know, but who you know."
This is not tongue in cheek.
This is a radical approach to take on teaching and learning.

Who you connect with, what happens in those connections has been described in the writing of Johansson, F. (2006). The Medici effect. What elephants and epidemics can teach us about innovation. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.
Crossing networks creating opportunities for new knowledge to occur.

But what is truly radical here is the critical engagement with how knowledge is constructed and maintained. This is about power.
As such a connectivist theory of learning would, to my mind, be positioned within critical educational pedagogy.

I find myself disagreeing with Kop and Hill (2008). In their conclusion they argue,
"A paradigm shift, indeed, may be occurring in educational theory, and a new epistemology may be emerging, but it does not seem that connectivism’s contributions to the new paradigm warrant it being treated as a separate learning theory in and of its own right. Connectivism, however, continues to play an important role in the development and emergence of new pedagogies, where control is shifting from the tutor to an increasingly more autonomous learner."
What I think they have failed to take into account is the very serious business of what happens when knowledge is seen as and taught as being constructed in relations, applied in relations, and that this occurs inside and outside of formal educational institutions.
There is potential in this for a paradigmatic shift.
The balance of power gets shifted, or at least shaken, for a start.

This was brought on after an almost two week break from engaging in CCK08, and a very light reading of the paper by Kop and Hill
I could be totally wrong.
But its worth thinking about.


  1. Hi Ailsa

    "its not what you know, but who you know."

    This is a well recognised saying - but I'm not sure that I agree. Who you know might be useful for initial contact, but ultimately what you know determines whether the contact is sustainable.

    I think this is very evident in this course.

    Didn't someone once say that knowledge is power?

  2. Yes, its usually a derogatory comment , one that smells of nepotism. Here though it is turned over, a provocation. If what we know is constructed through connecting, then we can choose to restrict or enlarge the liklihood of connections (as was done in the nedici effect described by Johansson. We can also see the power play that keeps certain knowledges stable and the gate holding that restricts, shapes and or shares knowledge.
    A connectivist argument would say what you know is only formed in association, it is not for forever, it is not 'fact'. Who you are in contact with sustains or refutes such knowledge. This would be the reverse of your argument.

    I am poorly read in Foucault (a summer wasted) but I understand he did not differentiate between knowledge and power; they are the same; hence knowledge/power.

  3. Hi Ailsa,
    When your thesis is complete and published, I think it will make an important contribution to thinking about network theories and education. There do not seem to be many ANT studies in education from what I can see.

  4. thanks for the supportive comments Frances, I look forward to getting it there :)

  5. Hi Ailsa, re: your final comments,I don’t think that you’re totally wrong, and I do agree that your points are very much worth thinking about. I can’t speak for Rita, but personally I strongly believe that critical pedagogy ought to play a central role in educational discourse and practice.

    Since co-authoring the article, my views regarding Connectivism’s status as a learning theory have not changed significantly. However, even more than when I was working on the article, I have come to see how the parameters of research-based educational theory can actually limit and inhibit our ability to think in connected ways. I am interested in learning more about action and design-based research, and how they expand the notion of what applied research can look like. I remain skeptical of the extent to which scientific methodology is as purely applied to research as at least some scientists would purport, as well as the extent to which scientific methodology applies to educational research. Though I’m not convinced that Connectism is saying anything new, I do think that what we already know is being communicated differently in terms of the breadth and depth of the material that Connectivism attempts to explain on an epistemological level.

    Certainly, there is room for Connectivism to contribute to a paradigmatic shift, and this course would suggest that the movement may be well underfoot. Nonetheless, in my opinion the language and vocabulary used to make sense of the Connectivist framework in educational terms remains a work in progress, in particular in developmental terms.

    Theory aside, I think that Connectivism’s application to traditional classroom learning remains challenging, to say the least. This is not to suggest, however, that traditional classroom learning is either handling the advent of new technologies effectively, nor (in my opinion) that it necessarily ought to try. New avenues are required, and I believe that it is time for the traditional educational model to shed its skin.

    With respect,


    P.S. I love your prose-poetry. Beautiful.

  6. Thankyou for responding to my limited critique of your work. We concur on many of the concerns identified.
    I, too, find some of the language of a coonectivist approach difficult - i remain unconvinced of the group/network division. The newness is still open to interpretation, I dont see the newness, but i do see a new application of a networked approach to learning being espoused.
    It is this networked approach that holds huge potential as knowledge can be deconstructed, and experienced as a product of situated understanding. Lastly, schools and educational institutions are consistently not designed for learning.
    Thankyou again for showing interest and for the positive contribution to my blog.