Connectivism seems a fancy word these days and is said to be as a new learning theory. I like the idea behind it. But when I was reading an article by Stephen Downes on Connectivism as a learning theory, I couldn’t help thinking: why do we need to have learning theories? Learning is such a complex process and the mechanism how human being’s brain works is so sophisticated. Can we simply put a name on each type of learning method?
Behaviorism, Instructivism, Constructionism, Constructivism…, now Connectivism. I asked myself this morning: why do we need to “create” these of learning theories? In “hard” sciences, theories usually either lead to improving human being’s living standards or lead to discovery of undiscovered matter of facts in the universe. For example, theories related electricity helped thousands of inventions in household appliances. Bing Bang theory may help astrologists discover dark matters in the space, etc. What are the purposes of having learning theories? To interpret the learning process? To predict learning outcomes? To better design and assist people’s learning in the future?
I can’t help but wondering: Is it possible and/or necessary to have learning theories?
First of all, can one set of learning theories interpret all the aspects of human being’s learning process?
My answer is: no. The mechanism of the way how human being’s mind is probably the most complicated and unpredictable process in the universe. Fields such as neural science, machine learning have achieved vast progress on understanding and simulating the process of human learning. However, we all have to admit that the results we’ve achieved thus far are merely the tip of the iceberg.
My opinion is: human beings learn in such a complex and unpredictable way that there is no single learning theory that can depict and summarize how human learn. Sometimes the way we learn can be interpreted with behaviorism, such as a child learning saying “thank you” after receiving help (maybe you as the reader could provide a better example). Sometimes the way we learn can be interpreted with the framework of instructivism, such as learning from teachers in the classroom. Sometimes it can be interpreted with constructivism, such as we build our conception of social etiquette. Sometimes we learn by connecting with others, such as learning new programing skills by asking questions on a programming online forum. But there is no single learning theory that can summarize all learning patterns and results.
Next, is that necessary to have learning theories, in order to design/support more effective/enjoyable learning experiences? How are various ways of learning with technology supported by each learning theory?
I don’t have an answer for this one yet, but the following is what I came up to help myself comb through my thoughts:
My next question: what the row of “Connectivism” will look like in the graph above?