The learning theories of behaviorism, cognitivism and constructivism regularly inform pedagogy and pedagogical practices (Barnett et al 2013). However, these theories do not address how technology affects learning or how learning occurs within groups (Siemens, 2005). To bridge this gap George Siemens (2005) and Stephen Downes have proposed a contested (Duke et al, 2013) learning theory termed connectivism as one that addresses learning in the digital age in which technology enhances and supports learning by permitting the formation, connection and expansion of networks that foster learning. The implications of this theory disrupt traditional views of the teacher’s role as an expert who formulates clear learning goals to one of a facilitator who guides learners in their understanding of connections made and that these require evaluation for learning now and beyond. Furthermore, since the knowledge shared by the crowd (the learners) outweighs that of the teacher alone the connections facilitated by technology allow for a democratic, class-driven approach to the acquisition, sharing, evaluation and augmentation of knowledge (Barnett et al, 2013).
This case study seeks to investigate the value of connectivism and how it can foster digital literacies by harnessing the power of the crowd through collaborative and connectivist learning. Google Classroom, a product offered as part of the Google Apps for Education suite, is used to bring order to the chaos that the digital age brings in terms of sourcing, organizing and evaluating information online by providing a freer, semi-open VLE where learners and tutors can collaborate and share the responsibility of learning and teaching.
Two groups of learners are involved in this pilot project:
students studying English as a foreign language for academic purposes at a UK university on a pre-sessional English language course. This type of course prepares students whose first language is not English by equipping them with wide-ranging knowledge and skills required in order to progress onto a degree-level course of study.
teaching professionals on a leadership MBA in the same institution studying in a blended learning environment.
The project will evaluate the use of the Google Classroom within these two cohorts through a series of surveys and structured interviews with the participants. It is hoped that the experience of using this mode of learning will support the application of connectivist learning while providing a positive learning experience.
Barnett, J., McPherson, V., & Sandieson, R. M. (2013). Connected teaching and learning: The uses and implications of connectivism in an online class.Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(5).
Duke, B., Harper, G., & Johnston, M. (2013). Connectivism as a digital age learning theory. The International HETL Review, 4-13.
Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age. International journal of instructional technology and distance learning, 2(1), 3-10.