I have to admit that there is no question that I am learning differently now than I was five or ten years ago. For one, I was able to complete my Master’s degree from a Chicago university, after moving to Boston, by completing three online courses. This was nearly five years ago and that wasn’t even my first foray into online learning. The blossoming of the internet into a faster and easier vehicle for communication has changed much of how everyone learns. Have a question, search for an answer. Depending on the question, the answer may be a fraction of a second away from appearing – fraction of a second! This now mundane fact of life still manages to astound me. The deepest well of resources in the history of mankind, for many, is literally in the palm of hand. Immediacy of that kind has stunningly powerful consequences for both life and learning.
I have always been a fairly voracious reader. However, the volume I read has increased exponentially over the last ten years. I still love books. My house is filled with them. However, I recently lamented about how few I have read cover to cover recently. I still read some books that way but the way I read has changed, which is why I now love books even more when they are available in some digital form. When this is the case, they become more than books, more than the sum of their parts because the parts are so much more available, pliable, usable. In fact, my very notion of what a book is has morphed into something that is more aligned with the abstract notion of a text, something readable.
My learning has grown even more personal since the time I was a student. Of course some of this is a function of maturity, but the availability and accessibility of indulging my research interests is a kind of fuel for learning. Better still is the immediacy of available information. Much of this has made for a far more immersed in information experience, the kind that I craved as a student but is now so much more available, can go deeper and broader. Also, with greater volumes of digital content and search recall is not quite as labor intensive as it once was. I now embrace the messiness of learning with much greater relish as a result of the technology innovations.
Another way my learning has changed relates well to connectivism, in that the number and quality of available connections has increased substantially. If I am investigating something I have greater unfiltered access to sources of information than ever before. So, I can attempt to contact someone with the expertise I am seeking with greater ease and probably a better chance of success. The technology has facilitated connections with data sources that simply were not nearly as readily available in the past. In fact, I would submit that the technology encourages contact with these data sources. This might be one of the first resonances I see with the learning theory.
Additionally, the relation to brain function and neuroscience has my interest peaked in terms of resonance. It seems to me, that regardless of whether or not the theory holds up as a legitimate one worthy of academic research and life , it does offer a valid framework through which to view learning. For my purposes this is enough. It may be a theory for the now, but from what I can tell that is all that is reasonable. As perceptions and knowledge change with new discoveries this theory may become more brittle, but that is proving all too common and doesn’t necessarily invalidate it. For one, I am still stuggling with where there is room for developing knowledge and understanding independently or in isolation. So even my own understanding of connectivism is evolving but I certainly recognize it possibly offers some serious insights.