Coltivare le connessioni

Ho trasformato la trilogia di post Coltivare le connessioni in un pamphlet dove ho incluso anche i commenti fatti dagli studenti ed altri “contaminatori”.

CCK08: learning lines

(For students: Translation in Italian, please book yourself before beginning the translation)

Yesterday in a classroom I was trying to explain the rationale of our courses and it happened to me to sketch some sort of learning lines. The sketches seemed to be of some use.

Here you have a somewhat refined versions.


In conventional classroom work, activities are time constrained. There is a tight schedule and a sort of photo finish with final ranking. Time constraining prepares the students for modern hectic life, this is true, however the learning process is vastly sup-optimal.

I could have written Learning on the ordinate but the term is abused. I prefer Familiarity with the subject of the course, it’s more akin to what I have in mind.


The idea here is to forget about time and focus on a sort of quality constrain.  Students wander through the topics/activities suggested by the teacher who is available to help and give advices.

Of course, everyone starts from its own preexisting Familiarity with the subject but everybody will finish around the given mininum familiarity, with a certain margin to do better if they like. That is, the teacher informs a student, when asked: “You are at C, if you want to improve your grade, you can work further”. It is the student who determines the end of the course.

What about time?

learning3Everyone has its own time, that’s why I’ve dropped the time constrain. If you require more time to achieve the minimum required familiarity with the subject, it does not means that you are worse than others, it simply means that this is the time you need given all the other activities and problems (may be headache …?) you may have in your life. These contingecies should not hamper the quality of your learning.

CCK08: let’s go for a walk in a wood and relax …

It seems, perhaps not surprisingly, that many appear to be puzzled and sometimes annoyed by the chaotic structure of the course, even some of my italian classmates of the LTEver community.

Well, let’so go for a walk in a wood and relax …

What does it mean to know a wood?

  • to know its name?
  • to know the region where it is located?
  • to know all the paths in the wood so as to be able to find the way back from any place and in any condition?
  • to know the kinds of trees, plants and animals that are populating it?
  • to know it so that you can hunt wild animals there?
  • to know that in a certain place there is water flowing under the soil?
  • to know where and when one can find good mushrooms there?
  • to know a relevant historical fact that took place there?
  • to know that a famous poet found inspiration there?
  • to know it because you felt in love there?

Oh, there are so many ways to know that wood, some of them achieved in an entire life and some in very short times.

However, nobody would assume that in order to know that wood one has to know exactly every tree, one by one, its shape, age and location. Every plant. Every leave of every plant. Every animal and where every animal is and what every animal is doing at any instant. Every stone. Every particle.

Of course not! It is just too much and after all, would this kind of knowledge be desirable? No, this thorough and crazy knowledge appears to be less desirable than one of the previous ones.

No, what we need is to find our own way to know that wood. There are unlimited ways to now it and everyone has a different system (network?) of concepts to connect to it. Even the same person at different times has a different system of concepts to connect to it.

At any rate, which is the best way to achieve that peculiar knowledge? Just enjoing a walk in the wood, one, two, many times and go where you see something you like. With the passing of time you will know that wood in your own way.

So, let’s go far a walk in this course and relax …

CCK08: Does Learning Grow or Is it Built?

The vision proposed by Stephen Downes …

Hence, in connectivism, there is no real concept of transferring knowledge, making knowledge, or building knowledge. Rather, the activities we undertake when we conduct practices in order to learn are more like growing or developing ourselves and our society in certain (connected) ways.

In What Connectivism Is

and by George Siemens

Connections create meaning

in What is connectivism

explain all my learning experience. Just an example.

As a students in Physics I got A in a course based on the Fourier Transform, a basic, wonderful and ubiquitous mathematical instrument.

Later on, when working on my thesis I was glad to see that the Fourier Transform was needed to work with digital medical images: “Finally, I can use something of that I have studied!” I thought.

It was a shock when I discovered that the (scholastic) knowledge of the theorems and the related demonstrations, of the Fourier Transform was almost useless: I missed completely the basic concept.

Successively, I realized that I missed a lot of connections and that without those connections the idea of Fourier Transform (together with the theorems and the demonstrations) was just an asteroid lost in the space of all the possibilities.

I missed even the more general concept of mathematical transformation.

I missed the essence of mathematics, despite my former good grades.

Probably, from my teachers point of view, knowledge of the Fourier Transform was successfully transferred in my mind but in my later experience I began to realize its essence and usefulness only when trying to find connections in a real context in order to solve a real problem that I strived to solve. I began to feel comprehension just waiting in face of my problem and letting connections come out, spontaneously. This part of my understanding was absolutely spontaneous, it had to grow. It took time.

Afterwards, I was able to look at this mathematical device as at a wonderful toy useful to describe an incredible number of phenomena. I was also able to see the beauty of symmetries and how the perception of such symmetries were useful to find other new connections.

The propositional knowledge of the Fourier Transform is partial and by no ways sufficient to use it in real life. A more effective knowledge, and a never thorough one, needs a system of connections with other concepts, some abstract and some real, and this system of connections can obly grow in your mind because you have to experience it.