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Massive Connectivism

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-12-32-46-pmSo while my term/concept — connectivism-has nothing to do with Super Mario Brothers– well maybe on second thought it does I couldn’t help think of it as I read the discussion of the evolving generations of e-learning.   When the author, Stephen Downes was discussing the various generations  of e -learning and his mention of predictable games– I couldn’t help but laugh. While I never was a “gamer” one of the greatest stress relievers we had in college was a Nintendo 64 with the Super Mario cartridge– while it did nothing for my GPA it did allow for a great deal of connectivity with friends.  By the time we mastered the game we certainly knew well which bricks to jump under to reveal coins, tunnels etc.  and it did indeed allow for a number of great memories along the way– particularly where the favorite college beverage was involved.  But I digress. …….

Downes and the other mentions of MOOC’s fascinated me and then when you overlay the concept of connectivism with this I have to say I am awed by the power of what these two concepts evoke.  I googled both and the first thing I stumbled on was a list of all the MOOC’s available– MIND BLOWN— if you don’t need to pay for the certificates you can learn about almost anything and enhance your business and technological skill set in countless ways.   Then I went to an ed-x site that listed another crazy number of courses you can take—– free knowledge— jackpot for a bargain shopper with insatiable curiosity.  So the idea of giving away knowledge admittedly had me thinking of beautiful children who simply by their birthplace can’t access education and then Downes throws in the concept of connectivism and well frankly this church going girl was so excited about the idea that you could make learning free and allow people to know each other better and feel more connected– I almost wanted to write a sermon so I could preach the gospel of why this is an almost God ordained pursuit—- sorry can you tell I liked it and  I have missed church too many Sundays in a row thanks to baseball tournaments???? And again I digress……. but that’s often how I tell my best stories.

Connectivism and connectivist theory are Wow educational thoughts and the idea of people pursuing education just because they want to and making human connections and extensions because of it is exciting and powerful and then……. you have to wonder about how this fits in our crazy system that values all things standardized, normalized, certified………..cookie cuttered—– (not a word— I realize– but definitely a concept anyone in education can fully comprehend.  If we go crazy and design instruction and let diminish structure so people pursue that which excites and moves them— how will College Board, Pearson, Princeton Review, etc ever make it??????? How do we determine the construct of when someone has met an educational milestone like earning a diploma??? I am sure we are likely many many many years away from fully embracing this Montessori -esque approach to learning and since the Educational-Industrial Complex is as real as the Military-Industrial Complex, I am sure many barriers can be erected to delay it becoming a part of “formalized– financially backbreaking education”— but suffice it to say I am grateful to now know that this platform of free material exists in MOOC’s and that there are forward thinkers out their tying people together for the great purpose of learning greater things– the power of this in the medical research field alone is awe inspiring.  My daughter has been the beneficiary of medical education connectivism.  She was born with a ridiculously rare congenital heart defect — (the doctor who broke the news to us — used the phrase– you are more likely to win the lottery than have this defect) and this disease has  few experts  (and none in the Richmond area) and though the use technology, and teleconferencing many  discussions of her case and heart structure have occurred among doctors all over the country and gratefully in some of the greatest centers of research around.  Because of this conference of cardiologists– she lives and thrives and the things they gleaned from her case can be shared knowledge that helps better inform the cases like hers that follow. So my experience with connectivism– if I understand it correctly-  suggests that it is an incredibly positive aspect of online/distance education that can enhance and also create knowledge for learner’s and the larger community.   Well after all those deep thoughts– I am off to the Wii for some Super Mario brothers……….




  1. As you and I discussed the other day, I believe that the power of knowledge and connectivity on a worldwide scale is mind blowing. Also the thought of learning for knowledge sake not just a certificate is refreshing. An educated population is the key to tolerance and acceptance in this world. Now we have a platform for sharing knowledge on a grand scale. Amazing!

  2. Such a great post!

    It’s funny, our course is totally open. I tell everyone that. Anyone can read what we do and learn alongside of us, for free, and I have told that to people before, but only registered students (as far as I know) seem to utilize these resources. I think a lot of the issue , is that people need some form of credential, at least for recert points, currently. I see that changing.

    Glad you got so much out of the reading

    • Christy Thomas Christy Thomas


      I agree with you, it seems that people only want to learn if they think they are going to get something out of it…. like credit or points…. What happened to the joy of learning?

      • The world/companies/industries have come to the notion that you can’t truly know something without a piece of paper to back it up– but it may not be a new idea– they tell the story at W and M that back when Thomas Jefferson was there the requirement was that you had to study for 4 years to get a degree. Because he was such an avid reader, he literally had exhausted the curriculum and all courses in about 2 years and refused to stay the remaining two just to get a degree…….. it wasn’t until many years later that the bureacratic powers at W and M decided Jefferson may actually have earned his degree…..

        • Thats funny, but not sure how much things have really changed in higher ed if you think about it

  3. Sharon Shadrach Sharon Shadrach

    I loved your post! I have always told my husband that I don’t care where we retire (no time soon), but I need access to a good library and a college where I could sit in on courses. I never want to stop learning. And now, thanks to MOOCs, and all the other free courses, all I will require is a good computer and internet connection. Technology never ceases to amaze me!

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