The Connectivism and Connective Knowledge online course, facilitated and coordinated by George Siemens and Stephen Downes started yesterday and I would like to take this opportunity to present my own viewpoint on connectivism by discussing what I would call the Learning as a Network (LaaN) perspective, which represents a knowledge ecological approach to learning.
The LaaN view is built upon four premises:
- Knowledge and learning are two sides of the same coin.
- Knowledge and learning are fundamentally social in nature.
- Knowledge is in the network, or even more knowledge is the network.
- Learning is a matter of knowledge networking within knowledge ecologies.
LaaN starts from the individual learner and focuses on her personal knowledge network (PKN) as the unit of analysis. A PKN is comprised of a myriad of knowledge nodes with complex connections. A distinction that is often cited in the literature is made between explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge (or information) is systematic knowledge that is easily codified in formal language and objective. In contrast, tacit knowledge is hard to formalize, difficult to communicate and subjective (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Consequently, we have two types of knowledge nodes: (a) explicit knowledge nodes are different explicit knowledge assets available in a variety of forms such as texts, images, sounds, videos and captured in distributed information repositories such as blogs, wikis, pod/vodcasts etc. and (b) tacit knowledge nodes are people performing in diverse, frequently overlapping social forms.
LaaN views learning as the personal networking of knowledge nodes. In order to learn, we extend our PKN with new explicit/tacit knowledge nodes and when needed we activate the nodes that we believe are able to help us in mastering a learning situation. What we are trying to do all the time is either to pull together explicit knowledge nodes from more than one source, reflect, detect patterns, remix and assemble it to form a new explicit knowledge asset or to expand our personal social networks with new tacit knowledge nodes by connecting to different social domains to create and share tacit knowledge in a collaborative way, through participation, dialogue, discussion, observation, and imitation.
Within a LaaN perspective, everyone is treated as a knowledge networker, one who has the ability to:
- Create, harness, nurture, maintain, and extend her PKN.
- Identify connections, recognize patterns, and make sense between different knowledge nodes.
- Locate the knowledge node that can help achieving better results.
- Cross boundaries, connect and collaborate.
- Navigate and learn across multiple knowledge networks.
At the heart of the LaaN perspective lie knowledge ecologies.