Imperatives of Connectivism: Connected Specialization & ‘Bridging’ Social Capital
Posted by Simon on January 24, 2011
Connectivism is a new learning theory that supersedes – doesn’t completely replace – traditional theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism. The claim is that it is more suited to the increasingly fast, complex, informationally explosive and digitally wired world we live in. Seems a good enough reason for a new learning theory!
Keith Hamon, in the second live session of CCK11 last Friday wrote in the chat: “I think the growth of specialized expertise has increased the need for a theory of connectivism if society is to avoid devolving into discrete silos of “blind knowledge,” disconnected from the environment that needs and uses that knowledge.”
I completely agree with him and think it’s an important aspect of Connectivism to keep probing. I sense that Connectivism proposes an imperative that people and groups stay connected with different people and groups. It’s an imperative, not an inevitability. I hear a lot of idealists say that if we’re connected, if physical or technological barriers are broken down, then this wonderful global community will appear. Well of course that ain’t gonna happen while actual human beings are involved. Silos of “blind knowledge”, or groupthink ironically have more potential to arise as access to networks enables people choose their one source of news and information and are fed and led via engines to their own preferences.
So there’s an imperative for deep specialization – that comes tight focus in one field – to apply itself to the wider context of the world in which it exists.
Since we’re still dealing with human beings here (I hope!), it may be instructive to look at the research into social capital, and the distinctives of ‘bonding’ and ‘bridging’ social capital. Those concepts may help us assess the health of those ‘siloed’ groups of connected individuals, and also the health of the wider network of groups. “Health” will have to be defined in some ways, of course, and that may already be a departure from Connectivism which seems happy just with the mere existence of connectedness and says nothing about the quality of that connectedness.