CCK08 Short Paper 1: Your position on Connectivism

To read about connectivism is somewhat funny for me. Something like …

       what I was feeling to know
                                 that knowledge is not propositional
       in some non-propositional way
in propositional form

My position on connectivism is in some way instinctive. With a physical sciences background it is difficult to cope with all the discussions focused on accepting connectivism or need to prove it.

In physical sciences theories are tested against experience. Experiences are done reconstructing the physical context in laboratory, whenever possible.

In life sciences theories are tested against experience but it is more difficult because of complexity of systems. Experiences are done reconstructing the biological context in laboratory but often it is not possible. To test the behaviour of a drug, after a very long and painful laboratory and pre-clinical experimental path, all we can do is to try the drug and a placebo on two carefully selected populations and use statistics to analyze the effects.

In all these cases, researchers struggle a great deal to get answers from Nature.

Thus, what is a theory in social sciences? Naive question for many of you, perhaps, but a difficult one for me.

No way to ask Nature? I figure out only this way: just wait. Time will tell us if a theory, for instance a learning theory, made some sense.

If this is true, I would say that in this kind of context a new theory is just a description and the most useful thing we can do is to try to experiment actions that are somewhat aligned with that description. To accept the theory or to ask to prove it does not make sense to me.

This is the main reason why in this course I prefer (blog and forum) posts where real life experiences are reported, such as Through a different lens — that of shades of grey, instead of those plenty of discussions about learning theories.

Now back to my claim of an instinctual perception of connectivism.

Knowledge is not propositional and it is not confined to our minds.

I felt the meaning of this proposition so many times in my research work well before knowing about connectivism, being stumbled the first time on Stephen Downes and George Siemens work just one year ago while following David Wiley’s course on OER.

Looking retrospectively to some successful ideas (just few in the life of a normal human being), I always had a sharp feeling that the ideas flourished because the context was mature. Very often I was even not aware of the context while trying to solve the problem and I learned afterwards, that in some part of the world that context was well known: I did not know the context in a propositional form but I found a solution. I remember that when discussing  with a top scientist from the Berkeley University about a solution I found, we were both surprised by the fact that the solution was found without knowing the formal context, a mathematical context in that case.

From this and some other episodes I developed the feeling that we are very sensitive to a myriad of inputs that shape in some way our way of thinking. Even social events have influence on this, political events and mainstream thinking in the communities where we live. Looking retrospectively to some solved problems, it gave me the somewhat puzzling feeling that it was not entirely my merit.

We have a psychological resistance to the idea that what we think to be our knowledge does not reside entirely in our minds. We have difficulty in placing something we believe to own outside the control of our consciousness.

To be clear, nothing to do with the Internet. The experiences I’m referring to are all in no-Internet times.

Therefore, I believe that knowledge is not something you have but something you are. Yes, for me to know is to learn because to know implies a transformation and such transformation is learning. In contrast to what it was said, for instance, in A (not-so) Satirical View of C = BR:

Knowledge is the same as learning. This is somewhat revolutionary, in the world of learning theory. Knowledge has been kept separate from learning, being more of a ‘thing that you get’ (knowledge) than a ‘thing that you do’ (learn). Why equate them?

Knowledge is not something you have but something you are. And you are not alone. It is fascinating the hint given in Autism – Networks when talking about Autism:

These people have an expert level of knowledge or skill in one particular area. Did this quality come from the sky? Or are they plugged into the network somehow?

11 thoughts on “CCK08 Short Paper 1: Your position on Connectivism

  1. deadvocate ha detto:


    Thanks for correcting me. I think that skill is the “know how” aspect of knowledge that the connectivists see as more important than the “know what” aspect of knowledge that you refer to.

    I may have been trapped momentarily in the connectivist ideology. Thanks again!

  2. iamarf ha detto:

    @ruthdemitroff Oh yes. You made really a good point. Scientific literature is heavily flawed today. I remember articles in journals such as The Economist where authors described the concern for biased scientific literature. Only successful papers are published. The situation is made worse in those fields where heavy funding are required, such as the biomedical one. Research funding are so high that are provided by pharmaceuticals companies that do not like to invest in negative results.

    It’s a huge problem.

    I totally agree “that form of scientific connectivism sounds promising if the goal is to speed up the process of discovering what does and does not work.”

  3. iamarf ha detto:

    @deadvocate I believe that knowledge is much more than skill. There are persons that are wery wise and that can give very meaniningful advices to others without having particular skills. I know old peasants, whose skills may appear limited by nowadays standard, that have a deep knowledge of life.

    This kind of knowledge is beatiful. This kind of knowledge is peculiar of humans. This kind of knowledge makes a human at the very end.

    Oh no, is not just skill. The reduction of knowledge to a set of skills is a degeneration of society.

  4. ruthdemitroff ha detto:

    Some scientists are planning to put their lab notes online. It would provide more information about what didn’t work rather than just publishing a final paper about what was successful.
    I’m not sure how that would affect grants and patents but to a non-scientist, that form of scientific connectivism sounds promising if the goal is to speed up the process of discovering what does and does not work.

  5. deadvocate ha detto:

    Hello. I think I disagree with you. I would suggest that knowledge is something you acquire (e.g. a skill) through the process of learning. What you may become is knowledgeable, but you are not knowledge.

    Knowledge is the skill acquired. You are something more than that.


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