Connect-Austin Higgs

I think the theory (or non-theory, apparently the jury is still out) of connectivism resonates with my ideals of community retention of knowledge. In my previous classes, we learned mostly about behaviorism and constructivism which are two very individual-based theories of learning. The idea of connectivism is more of individual learning through networking with others. I think that the main difference that is significant to me is that most theories focus on the learning or the content of knowledge, but connectivism seems to focus on the pathways of access to knowledge, and that in itself is learning. Maybe learning is not the retention of knowledge, but internalizing how to get to it when needed. The difference is a slight nuance, but the implications could be impactful. I would like to be a part of a community where people are valued for whatever they bring to the table. I think that inequity arise when we devalue the experiences and knowledge of entire groups of people

I think that the teachings and assumptions introduced in connectivism will be integral to my project. Because my project will focus on capacity building in the domain of inclusive communications, the course would leverage the exchange of thoughts, feelings, blind-spots, and experiences of many different people. In its conceptualization, my project would create a network of people that would use each other as a resource perpetually. The course would not necessarily only focus on transferring set of knowledge and skills to the participants , but would instead emphasize a much more long-term resource: a diverse portfolio of advisers. I want to leverage technology to connect people who would otherwise never get the chance to interact

I do not so much see challenges in connectism itself but I certainly have concerns about implementing it well. I think that my chosen domain of diversity and inclusion (D&I) work requires constant efforts in empathy and humanization. D&I work is highly impacted by participants’ body language, intonation, eye-contact, gestures which help convey intention. Intention is vital to transparency and transparency is vital of D&I work. My concern is bridging the gaps in perceived intention in lieu of visible cues, OR find a way to incorporate these perceptible cues via technology. In a previous post I thought of voice recorded discussions. The concern of anonymity came up, and I thought that it might be helpful to employ voice masking technology in the voice recordings, but would not want tone to be affected. These are some of the things I am working out still.

I definitely see the influence of connectivism in this course. I think the fact that I am writing this all in blog form exemplifies the connectivity ideals. The fact that we are all given various materials to review and respond to in public forums allows us to use one another to stretch our ideas of reality. I am still getting used to connecting to disembodied personalities over such personal thoughts. I think it is effective but I am usually careful about surrounding myself with peers that I know and trust. This platform is different, it bursts my bubble, but in doing so exposes me to ideas I might have unintentionally cut myself off from. I eager to see how this model progresses how I learn, compared to my more conventional classes.




12 thoughts on “Connect-Austin Higgs

  1. I think you hit the nail on the head when you state, ” it bursts my bubble, but in doing so exposes me to ideas I might have unintentionally cut myself off from.” Part of the difficult and unpredictable part is being open to different perspectives which may not be ones we agree with, but it allows for dialogue which many times leads to the beginning of understanding between two groups.

  2. Hi Austin,
    I really like your simplistic summary of connectivism- individual learning through networking with others. I found the review of the VCU Alt Lab website of the different forms available to help guide one through using this model helpful and dutifully noted one mentioning technology acclamation. I do think this is a factor with our learners no matter the age of the person because if the learner doesn’t know how to use the technology, connections may not occur or happen as intended.
    The concept of your plan exemplifies connectivism. The thought of having a diverse portfolio of advisors is awesome! So many times, I think as students and faculty, we don’t seize this opportunity enough! Whether it be face to face or online classes. Thanks for mentioning this!
    With respect to your project, I wanted to see if you’ve dabbled any with the Second Life virtual environment? Several years ago, I took a technology class that only provided an introduction to this but at the time, I thought it was phenomenal. It was somewhat complicated back then. I’m hoping that has improved. The concept is building avatars that represents a person, profession, community and development from there is unlimited. Here’s a link for this in case your interested. Second Life
    I wish you the best with your project and thanks again for your post!

  3. I agree that when implementing online courses figuring out how to create the same feeling of a conversation (facial expressions, body language, etc.) is something a lot of people think about. I do think you have a GREAT platform for networking on that particular topic. Online you can really spread that network in so many ways through Connectivism, as you described. I think it would also be a great opportunity to explore diversity and inclusion online as well. Many conversations about this occur via social media that don’t always include facial expressions or gestures. So, perhaps that can be explored further as well. For the gestures and facial expressions could you utilize video conferencing or use video taping for certain aspects of it or for that one topic? I am looking forward to hearing more about your topic!

  4. You are really focused on an aspect of virtual learning that most feel is problematic. I just had a conversation today with a K12 teacher about the “unpersonable, non face to face” communication in a virtual environment. It seems like it is more important for your project due to the nature of the content. I think this is something you should focus on, and in doing so it will help all of us. I like the idea of incorporating video (just need to be careful about the privacy issues, but I feel like either privacy or personal communication is going to suffer, unless you can really come up with an innovative idea). I wonder if there is research on this? I may ask around on twitter. I’m excited to see your project progress.

    You know if you had a group that trusted one another (big if), google hangouts could be utilized. Just a thought. Where are you in your thinking about this currently?

    1. I like the idea of hangouts but am wondering if I could employed a shared Snapchat story in which learners make profiles (with consistent yet disguised accounts) where I ask them to creatively post snaps on thoughts, questions, feelings, and concerns. I might suggest doing a voice-over with a stuffed animal and a snap filter that also includes a voice changer. I want my learners to be bold in their discussion while being respectful and sincere. What do you think?

      1. I love the idea of posting snaps on thoughts, feelings, etc. I think this is just a really unique way for people to be able to express themselves outside o simple text. But it does introduce the problem of how others interpret their representations. We are kind of going into the realm of art here. People mis-interpret text (emails, texts, etc.) so imagine the problems with using pictures. I like the idea though, just need to be careful and provide some parameters.

        I am less with you on the stuffed animal/voice changing stuff. Primarily because of what I learned from you in an earlier post about the power of hearing someones “voice”. I got it, and agree. So, every step we take away from that, I feel like loses something. You know what I mean?

        1. I totally hear you, and I know that my idea takes a lot more explaining and I honestly wish I could use snapchat video to explain it because writing is not my preferred medium of communication.

          The snapchat would only be to use videos, and the voice changer only changes your timbre and not your intonation, which is why I thought it would be great for anonymity and conveying nuance. Snapchat it more of a alternative that is definitely experimental, but I truly believe things like this can be reconsidered for these applications. Of course I’m not married to the idea of using snapchat but want to clarify my application better.

          I made an example video in about 30seconds. Check this out and let me know what you think. I you still don’t see a proper use, I will definitely take that note, but I wanted you to really see what I was thinking.

          Thank you for your great feedback and forcing me to think through my ideas more!

          1. I think if you want you can post audio or video recordings on your blog instead of writing, which is fine with me. I havent had a student do that before, but it might be interesting to see how it works.

            I watched the video, it is interesting. I get the voice thing now. You’re right. But what does the fake head provide, aside from anonymity?

          2. To me the anonymity is the sole value. I am trying to facilitate true and sincere conversation that builds compassion and equity. I want to incorporate peer-discussion in this course. It’s important for learners to be exposed to real and diverse opinions. I am more thinking that this is an option I will offer as an alternative form of response to text (which does not convey intonation), if students feel that they cannot ask burning questions that could get to meaningful learnings. This is not to be used necessarily as the only means of response. This option to me, would helps build a climate of openness in the class. I Think that as I was presenting this idea I put too much emphasis on this when it’s more of an anti-deterrent to transparency. In all of my facilitation experience, people’s number-one hinderance is fearing the reaction to deeply held beliefs. In my line of work, defensiveness has to be combatted I’m some way, and this would be my innovation to this problem using a technology that almost learners are already using.

            Hoping this is makes a little more sense.

  5. Hi Austin,
    I wonder if you’ve ever heard of the work of Paulo Friere? His seminal work was Pedagogy of the Oppressed. I think you might find it interesting. You can learn more about him on the website for the Friere Institute:

    I’m really interested in what you come up with since community building is an important part of my project as well.

    Ruth Anne

  6. I totally agree with you on this statement: “Maybe learning is not the retention of knowledge, but internalizing how to get to it when needed.” As a Gen X-er, I am constantly overwhelmed by the shift in information volume available and the speed at which I am required to sift through it. I struggle to avoid rabbit-holes constantly. Your insight made me think about the necessity of knowing how to find our resources when we need them, since pretty much everything is now at our fingertips. Perhaps some discernment is necessary in selecting which information we should focus on committing to quick mental access and which we should simply know how to locate…

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