Connectivism in schools

The question has been raised again (by Allan Quartly in the Change11 Facebook group ) about whether connectivism applies to schools.

I was wondering whether anyone has been thinking about this course from a school’s perspective. From what I can see, a lot of the research seems to come from “adult” learning environments and then questions asked about why it isn’t being implemented in schools.

I first started thinking about this in 2008 and blogged about it here –

Stephen Downes once said in a live MOOC session (I cannot find the reference now, so I may not have this absolutely right), that the application of connectivism to the classroom is not what its all about. I remember at the time thinking – and possibly even saying – that many people who attend MOOCs are school teachers, who are looking for ways to improve their practice and the learning of the children they teach.

It seems to me that applying the principles of connectivism to teaching practice, could make a significant difference to a child’s experience. If it makes a difference to us as adults learning in MOOCs, why could it not be similar for children in classrooms? But it would mean that the teacher would need to understand and adopt the principles of autonomy, diversity, openness and connectedness/interactivity.

The last time I taught in a classroom was about 7 years ago (I was at the time a teacher trainer) – but even then the best teachers intuitively adopted these principles. In their classrooms there was lots of negotiation and choice (autonomy), children were encouraged to connect with children in other schools either within the UK or abroad (diversity), they were encouraged to make good use of the internet to find information (diversity of resources), collaborative working on projects where information and learning was pooled was common (openness) and on and offline interaction and communication was central to the learning process.

Of course, this does not include the ‘massive’ element associated with connectivism – but if children are supported in becoming autonomous, open and interactive learners who embrace diversity, then when they do finally encounter the ‘massive’ nature of online connectivity, they will be better equipped to learn in these environments. I don’t think we need to take an  ‘all or nothing’ approach to connectivism or MOOCs.

It would be great to hear from teachers who are applying these principles in their classrooms.

9 thoughts on “Connectivism in schools

  1. Bon September 27, 2011 / 1:32 pm

    Jenny, i come up against this too in my own research: i’m looking at the practices that constitute social media identity – they involve parallel themes of openness, distribution, diversity and autonomy – and their implications for educational practices. but while i don’t intend to posit the two as diametrically opposed, the deeper i get into our cultural concepts of educational practice, especially at a system level, the more i find that they seem to be.

    individual teachers frequently enable autonomous, self-directed learning. but the discourse of the “system” doesn’t seem to account for that well, or to be able to value it except with lip service.

    so if people have thoughts about ways in which they are or could be implementing MOOC-style practices in traditional classrooms, within the expectations of the system, i’m keen to hear about it.

  2. jennymackness September 27, 2011 / 2:50 pm

    Bon – thanks for your comment. I don’t think I have quite understood you. When you write:

    but while i don’t intend to posit the two as diametrically opposed, the deeper i get into our cultural concepts of educational practice, especially at a system level, the more i find that they seem to be

    …. which ‘two’ are you talking about? The teacher and the system?

    It seems to me that what we need is more teachers and learners who know how to manage change. Perhaps the management of change should be a subject on every school curriculum. I think its possible for teachers to manage change in their own classrooms, even if it means being subversive (Dead Poets Society comes to mind), but, for many teachers – low down in the pecking order – it is more difficult to influence change outside of the classroom. But modelling, demonstrating, showcasing and generally sharing practice and making good use of dissemination strategies can help.

    It’s obviously not easy, otherwise we would see more teachers experimenting and more teachers being recognised and rewarded for doing this. I too would be interested to hear from teachers who are managing to implement MOOC practices within the system or from Headteachers who promote this type of experimentation.

  3. jennymackness September 28, 2011 / 8:43 pm

    Eduardo – many thanks for your link. It’s really helpful to be reminded of those posts 🙂 Jenny

  4. jennymackness March 2, 2013 / 7:18 am

    Hi Verena – many thanks for sharing your article and posting the link here. Things have certainly moved on since I wrote this post, so it is very useful to have your perspective.


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