It seems to me that one of the points of having a theory of learning is to be able to apply it, that is, to be able to find skillful ways to support and nurture learning. Many people in our MOOC who are teachers keep asking these kinds of questions, and I’m unclear whether we’re settling on answers.
For instance, let’s talk about proximity to those people (nodes) that keep you firing. One of the high points in CCK2011 so far has been the Elluminate sessions that I can attend “live.” It’s all virtual, of course; most of us aren’t in the same room. But because we’re in the same virtual space (that is, creating that space) at the same time, there’s an energy there that is not available to me when, well, for instance, now as I’m just typing a blog post. Last week I opened by saying I thought it was kinda neat that we all shared our weather reports: sure, I learn what weather is like all over, but there’s more of an indefinable firing of the property of “humanness” (trying to speak in connectivist terms here) that gets activated in me. We are not in the same room, but my sense that you are (you exist) is heightened.
All this talk of energy and such is probably beyond the interests of many people in the course, but I’m interested in field theory in biology and physics. Think of an undifferentiated new cell, a stem cell. They can become anything, really, but mostly they become what the others cells around them become (an arm, an eye). Rupert Sheldrake and others posit the existence of biological “organizing fields” that “impose patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity” (prior link has this quote). The concept of network that connectivism relies on seems as though it could be enhanced with some thinking around this concept. Could bring in some quantum mechanics and nonlocality, too.
It kind of harkens back to a blog post I wrote previously, about hidden nodes. In many equations, a random error or hidden variable is included to account for stuff that the rest of the equation isn’t interested in or cannot account for. (And forgive me: just a writer and editor here, not a mathematician or economist or physicist.) Similarly, the role of the “granny clouds” (prior post) in children’s ability to traverse networks (learn) seems to me unquantifiable but undeniably there. I’m thinking that some of this might be helpful to the learning theory of connectivism to help formulate something more satisfying to me that accounts for the humanness element of some nodes; a je ne sais quoi that contributes to the field, the context, and thus the resonance. For me as a learner, it would explain why I still value the creation of a space of learning, virtual or otherwise; for me as a teacher, it would help explain why I still value that role. But that’s just me; how would it be helpful to the theory? Could we design an experiment whereby we measure learning within a network with stronger connections (and there I’d mean, connecting on the property of humanness) versus weaker?
Why do I seem to end all of these posts with questions?