The purpose of the forest

I’m still trying to get my head around what it is about connectivism as a learning theory that is different. Can’t put my finger on it, but something seems to be missing. I think its something to do with the status of people as individuals in the learning process and to do with learning as a social process that happens between people as individuals – and probably also something to do with identity (identity of the individual and of the network).

Stephen really likes the forest metaphor. He likes to see the network as a whole and doesn’t think that any individual tree within the forest has individual significance. Learning is a property of networks rather than something you get from networks. Stephen is interested in how networks as a whole learn.

George on the other hand sees learning as coming through a network and sees the individual trees. He sees the connections between individuals as being more significant than the whole.

I may have completely misunderstood this (despite listening to the Ustream session twice ;-)) – in which case apologies to GS and SD.  But whether or not we view learning from the perspective of the forest as a whole or from the perspective of individual trees within the forest seems to me immaterial if we haven’t identified a purpose for the learning. So asking the question what is the purpose of the forest – we could get the answers – to provide oxgen, or a wood supply, or a picnic area, or to prevent soil erosion etc? Determing the purpose will determine the learning itself, whether it be at neuronal, conceptual or social levels – and whether it be for the forest as a whole or for individual trees.

There has to be some ‘meaning’ in all this.  I don’t think I’ll get my head round this until I have more idea about how a learning theory of connectivism might be applied in practice. At the moment it’s all too abstract.

This is a thinking aloud post!

One thought on “The purpose of the forest

  1. suifaijohnmak October 9, 2008 / 1:22 pm

    Hi Jenny,
    I enjoy reading your reflection journal.

    That’s interesting. Which is more important? The trees or the forrest.

    For me, if you don’t nurture a tree, you could never get a forrest of trees.
    So, my philosophy is: look after the individual trees first, but be aware of the impact of trees to the environment (the forest). Otherwise, if there is a bush fire, we will burn down both a forest and destroy individual trees.

    So, we need trees to make up a forest. Both is important!

    So, it’s just like looking at a coin, it has 2 sides in order to make it up.

    Back to learning, I think individual learning is important, (tree) but without the support of networks, (forest), the trees can grow too far.

    That’s my interpretation.


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