This was written as a comment on April Hayman’s post comparing Legos and Magnetix as metaphors for constructivism and connectivism. One of her readers, Plain_Gillian, said she was struggling to verbalize the difference between the two learning theories. My response is below, but you should go check out the original post and discussion there too.
I think the table comparing learning theories to connectivism is a good way to start. I admit though that even having gone through CCK08 and having done all this reading that I struggle to summarize connectivism in a sentence or two the way I could crystallize the point of constructivism.
If the idea of the difference between building knowledge with pieces and connecting ideas isn’t significant enough to really help you visualize it, think instead about how you would deal with a really, really complex overabundance of information. In the constructivist view, you would take little pieces out of that overabundance and build them into something new. If you’re thinking more social constructivist, you probably socially negotiate what’s important out of the river of information. But does either of those methods of learning really give you an overall picture of the trends or substance of something really big?
From a connectivist standpoint, the response to a huge amount of information isn’t to look at the individual pieces, but to look at the patterns. The human brain is designed to look for patterns, and that’s a big part of connectivist theory. If you analyze a large text sentence by sentence, deconstructing it and reconstructing a new analysis, that’s a constructivist response. If you analyze a large text with a word cloud to look for trends, that’s a connectivist approach.
Does that help at all? This isn’t all the aspects of the theory (which is part of why it’s hard to summarize in a sentence or two), but you might find it easier to think just about one part of it at a time. (And yes, that is sort of a constructivist approach to understanding connectivism.)
If you’re having trouble verbalizing it, then go with some other medium makes sense. If wrestling with these ideas inspires you to paint or draw or make a mind map or play with Play-Doh, then do that. Connectivism is a complex theory because it’s designed to work best for complex, rapidly changing knowledge. There isn’t a single best way to approach understanding it.