In ‘What Connectivism Is’, Stephen Downes says that connectivism is different from other theories of learning in not being ‘grounded in language and logic’. I think I understand what he means when he says the properties and constraints of linguistic structures are not the properties and constraints of connectivism. But it never occurred to me that they *would* be the same; I guess I see all theories of learning and knowledge as an attempt to put very complex ideas into words, and it’s extremely difficult to do this. One of the feelings I came away from this piece with is that connectivism, as a theory, is not quite as earth-shatteringly distinct from other theories of learning as Stephen makes out.
Tony Forster’s comment resonated with me: “I am not sure that Constructivism applies only to propositional learning, nor that all the symbol systems that we think with have linguistic or propositional characteristics.” Stephen’s response – that it would be “very difficult to draw out any coherent theory of constructivism that is not based on a system with linguistic or propositional characteristics”, is true – but doesn’t address the point Tony is making. How would *anyone* go about explaining something with no linguistic or propositional characteristics? Without language and logic, how do we communicate?
If Stephen is serious about this then perhaps he should offer up his argument in something other than the written form…? I would quite like to see that. Perhaps he’ll concede then that without a representational system or a syntax you don’t get a coherent *anything*.
I’m glad George and Stephen have joined forces to offer this course; they have different ideas and ways of explaining connectivism and, while I find George’s words easier to make sense of, I get plenty of fun out of grappling with Stephen’s. The notion that as soon as we make learning a deliberate process, it becomes harder to understand, is brilliant.