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The Difference Between Connectivism and Constructivism

Both connectivism and constructivism are learning theories which are learner focused and link present with past knowledge. However, connectivism gives more emphasis on the impact of technology and networks. The following discussions further delve into their distinctions. 

What is Connectivism? 

Connectivism is a learning theory which acknowledges the impact of technology, society, personal networks, and work-related activities. Basically, it is a social learning that is networked (Duke, et al., 2013). This was developed by George Siemens, a writer, speaker, researcher, and a pioneer in the development of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Siemens suggests that learning is a network process, we connect previous knowledge with present information to create new meanings and understandings. Also, Stephen Downes, a philosopher, author, and commentator, worked closely with Siemens. He wrote the ebook, “Connectivism and Connective Knowledge”.  Connectivism is an alternate theory to behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism which were developed during a time when learning was not markedly influenced by technology.

The principles of connectivism include (Siemens): 

  • The learning process is a connection of information sources. 

This may be illustrated by Siemens’ experience as a blogger. The concepts which he wrote were a product of his previous readings and his current knowledge.  

  • Technology can significantly influence learning.

Siemens’ article is entitled: “Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age”.  Learning which is defined as “actionable knowledge” largely occurs externally and that it is stored and facilitated by technology.  

  • The diversity of opinions can result to learning. 

Being exposed to varied views can lead to insights; individuals can connect their current know-how with that of others. 

  • A core skill is detecting connections between ideas. 

Being able to connect and classify such opinions can pave the way for more hypotheses or conclusions.  

  • Learning takes place when one makes decisions. 

We are bombarded with various information from equally diverse sources and platforms. Choosing which one to learn and how to apply it manifests actionable knowledge. What is right today may be wrong tomorrow. Since learning is not anymore an internal and individualistic process, our knowledge is greatly impacted by the changes in society and the introduction of new tools. 

  • The capability to know more is more crucial than what is presently known.  

A learner who is equipped with technology has the advantage specially when it comes to current information. Also, the capacity to know about what is needed in the future is more helpful that what is already known. 

  • Current and accurate knowledge is the goal of connectivism learning activities. 

For genuine learning to occur, we must choose to delve into truthful and up-to-date information; our insights should be based on factual knowledge. 

  • Continual learning can be achieved by nurturing connections. 

Being able to continually access diverse ideas leads to constant enrichment. 

What is Constructivism?

Constructivism is a theory which suggests that learning is an active process; learners create, synthesize, and apply new concepts based on their current and past knowledge.  It was a response to behaviorism’s focus on observable behavior; constructivists sought to emphasize what went on inside the learner’s mind. The principles of constructivism include the following (McLeod, 2019): 

  • Knowledge is constructed 

Individuals create new knowledge based on previous learning; also, learners socially construct from experiences with others. Rather than an abstract concept, learning is something which is done and shared.  

  • Learning is an active process

Instead of viewing learners as “empty vessels”, they are seen as active agents who benefit from experiments and other real-world problem-solving activities. Though information may be passively received, the understanding process is active since meaningful connections must be made between past and present knowledge. 

  • Knowledge is personal 

Each individual has a unique point of view; hence, learners may have different interpretations from the same experience. 

  • Learning occurs in the mind 

Learners construct their own interpretation of experiences; they are continually developing their mental models of reality. 

The following are some of the types of constructivism: 

  • Cognitive Constructivism

This theory states that knowledge is constructed based on existing cognitive structures; hence, learning is dependent on the current level of cognitive development. Jean Piaget, a Swiss child psychologist, proposed that learners create and test their own theories. One of his concepts is “equilibration”, the force behind cognitive development. Equilibrium is achieved when new information is fitted into existing schemas. For instance, we feel uncomfortable when presented with an information that we do not understand; such as the difference between constructivism and connectionism. Hence, we read more about it and achieve equilibrium when we finally understand their differences by incorporating new information with our current knowledge. 

  • Radical Constructivism 

This theory posits that all learning must be constructed and that teacher-centered learning has no utility. “Radical constructivism” was coined by Ernst von Glasersfeld in 1974. Glasersfeld stated that what we make of experience is the only reality we are conscious of. He emphasized that it is essential for constructivism to be complete, thus radical, to prevent “fancy realism” (Riegler, 2001).

  • Social Constructivism 

This theory is a variant of cognitive constructivism; it was developed by Lev Vygotsky, a Soviet psychologist. He argued that cognitive functions are a product of social interactions; ergo, learning is a process of integration into a knowledge community. One of his concepts is the zone of proximal development, the range of abilities that a learner can perform with the assistance of a more knowledgeable other.    

Difference between Connectivism and Constructivism

Definition 

Connectivism is a learning theory which acknowledges the impact of technology, society, personal networks, and work-related activities. It asserts that learning has changed with the advent of web browsers, search engines, social media, etc. As for constructivism, it is a theory which suggests that learning is an active process; learners create, synthesize, and apply new concepts based on their current and past knowledge.  

A response to…

Connectivism denounces boundaries of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism (Duke et al., 2013). In comparison, constructivism was a response to behaviorism’s focus on observable behavior; constructivists sought to emphasize what went on inside the learner’s mind (McLeod, 2019).

Technology

Connectivism gives more emphasis on the impact of technology and networks (Heick, 2017) while constructivism was developed during a time when learning was not significantly influenced by the “digital world”.

Proponent 

Connectivism was developed by George Siemens and Stephen Downes while constructivism was developed by Jean Piaget, Ernst von Glasersfeld, and Lev Vygotsky among others. 

Types

Unlike connectivism, constructivism has types which include cognitive constructivism, radical constructivism, and social constructivism. 

Connectivism vs Constructivism

Summary 

  • Connectivism gives more emphasis on the impact of technology and networks.
  • Connectivism was developed by Siemens while constructivism was developed by Piaget, Glasersfeld, and Vygotsky among others.
  • Unlike connectivism, constructivism has types (cognitive, radical, social, etc.). 


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References :


[0]Duke, B., Harper, G., & Johnston, M. (2013). Connectivism as a digital age learning theory. https://www.hetl.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/HETLReview2013SpecialIssueArticle1.pdf

[1]Heick, T. (2017). The difference between instructivism, constructivism, and connectivism. Teach Thought. https://www.teachthought.com/learning/the-difference-between-instructivism-constructivism-and-connectivism/

[2]McLeod, S. (2019). Constructivism as a theory for teaching and learning. Simply Psychology. https://www.simplypsychology.org/constructivism.html

[3]Riegler, A. (2001). Towards a radical constructivist understanding of science. Foundations of Science, special issue on "The Impact of Radical Constructivism on Science" 6(1):1-30.

[4]Siemens, G. (n.d.) Connectivism. Press Books. https://lidtfoundations.pressbooks.com/chapter/connectivism-a-learning-theory-for-the-digital-age/

[5]Image credit: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/c7/Corris-12_Rules_from_the_Collection_of_the_Artist%2C_2005.jpg

[6]Image credit: https://live.staticflickr.com/1888/43782250375_860c0d248e_b.jpg

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