Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Letter to Stephen Downes regarding his “halfanhour blog.” Entitled: What Connectivism is

Dear Stephen, 

I feel that I have just lost two hours of my life wading through your halfanhour blog. I approached this with an open mind willing to reflect and learn…but in the end my objectivity was overwhelmed by irritation and frustration. You point out in the penultimate paragraph of your blog that emotion precedes the cognitive. Well, initially, it didn’t with me…but emotion did overwhelm my objectivity in the end!

Well, apart from a feeling that your pompous postulations had an air of ‘emperor’s new clothes’ about them, your responses to Tony and Bill finally finished me off.…..
I wonder if you’re aware of how transparent you became in those replies?

A few examples:
You did not bother to respond to Tony’s suggestion that he is not sure ‘constructivism applies only to propositional learning’.
You responded to your own misinterpretation of this, “I think it would be ..difficult to draw out any…theory of constructivism that is not based on a system with linguistic or propositional characteristics” Neither do you bother to explain ‘why’ either. I guess we must just trust your unimpeachable judgement.
Tony continues, "Connectivism should still address the hard struggle within of deep thinking, of creating understanding. This is more than the process of making connections."
You refute this, “No. It is not more than the process of making connections.” Then you go on to make sweeping statements about learning, suggesting that the ‘learning’ process experienced by animals and infants will be identical. Really?  Surely not? So, presumably you believe that the infant hedgehog learns in the same way as a human infant?
If that’s the case I’ll be first in the queue to teach at ‘hedgehog school’.

Deep level thinking
You also use the example of a chess player, to highlight how we make connections at a deeper level by seeing ‘subtle patterns’. This is based upon the response and interpretation of one chess player…surely a  little tautological: – he says it’s true, therefore, it is true, ummm, because he says so!
Perhaps we can also make connections in highly individualistic ways…mine might be through sound patterns, others might be through association…etc.
Later on, you accuse Bill Kerr’s point about the need to ensure that theories have practical application  as being ‘absurd’…..you do this with reference to engineers and bridges…but again this is not what Kerr appears to be saying at all.  I can only wonder at what really is the point or use of a theory that has no practical application and cannot be tested?
“It’s not my fault”…..I didn’t make humans” – Is this the voice of a learned academician or a whinging 7yr old? When did anyone say it was your fault?

I am also impressed with your modesty, ”…I have described…the principles that characterize successful networks…These follow from the theory I describe and inform many of the considerations people like George Siemens have rendered into practical applications…” So George, did you know that you owe it all to Stephen?
You then attempt to come out with a half-baked theory of practice: “To teach is to model…to learn is to practice and reflect” this is not a theory, it is as you originally suggested Stephen – simply a “slogan”.  Tut tut, this is shoddy work for someone who appears to be quite scathing of other people’s work and ideas (when you disagree with them).
You then say it is “hardly a theory” – correct again! This is followed by an admittance that it is “Not very original…that too is not my fault.” Oh dear, I strongly suggest you get over this egocentric ‘not my fault’ issue. Move on, please!

My learning (however that may be interpreted).
From this tortured reading, I have gleaned that connectivist networks are “grown like a plant.” That in a ‘connected’ state new meanings can be created for individuals, not by knowledge transference but by the individual learner’s own interpretation, participation, interaction and experience of being ‘connected.’
 “Basic words and concepts acquire new meaning when viewed from the connectivist perspective”

 I seem to have developed an allergy towards Mr Downs but I suppose I didn’t waste the entire two hours from my life!



1 comment: