As participant in ETMOOC this week I listened to Alec Couros’ talk about connected learning. As I am always skeptical about claims that there is something new in learning I thought a bit about those two words: connected and learning.
Connected seems to be a good word to describe the whole idea of connected learning. Clearly the people in ETMOOC and other MOOC’s are connected to each other. So whats bugging me is the other word: learning.
How do we know that what takes place in activities like ETMOOC can be qualified as learning. The set up is that there is limited direction and that “the majority of interactions are likely to occur within groups & networks” Furthermore participants are encouraged to have their own blog for “continuous reflection, creativity, and resource sharing”. So basically you put your thoughts, ideas, opinions out there and in return hopefully you get comments on what you post and you could even react on those comments. In this cycle of posting, getting comments, reacting to them the learning should occur.
I have no doubt that in this cycle people will learn new things. But how to distinguish between “true facts” or at least scientific sound facts and opinions? In a more traditional setting you know that your teacher has been well educated and that the knowledge she/he is teaching you can be considered to be true. In other words the teacher has authority in the field of knowledge she/he is teaching about. In connected learning the whole concept of a teacher is vague or put differently people are teacher and learner at the same time. David Cormier takes it a step further by saying that in connected learning “curriculum is not driven by predefined inputs from experts; it is constructed and negotiated in real time by the contributions of those engaged in the learning process“.
This construction and negotiation takes place in the Web 2.0 world we live in. But in that world I see a lot of people that either search for people with the same opinions and beliefs they have and form groups with them or on the other side of the spectrum people that seek out other people they vehemently disagree with or simply dislike and abuse them. Both for me have the same source: A lot of people search for their own realm of reality and implicitly (form groups with soul mates) or explicitly (abuse people with different ideas) choose to stay there. Its comforting for people to be right all the time.
The same mechanisms as described above will be at work in a connected learning setting. Combined with the lack of an authority figure connected learning could end up as Andrew Keen described his critic of WEB 2.0: “what the Web 2.0 revolution is really delivering is superficial observations of the world around us rather than deep analysis, shrill opinion rather than considered judgment.”