Recently I posted about my current research into connectivism and my belief that it is more pedagogial than theoretical. I noted that my understanding of connectivism (something I consider integral to the discussions in #cfhe12) remains limited, and continued field use of the term would help me gain a broader understanding and perhaps come to different conclusions. I didn’t realize such an opportunity would arise so soon as today while caring for my toddler.
I watch my son with ample fascination as he engages tools and content and works to make sense of it. I have seen him learn patterns, utilize scaffolding, even be a part of a zone of proximal development. I have seen how peripheral participation and social opportunities change his interactions, and I have see how the meaning of tools and artifacts are heavily environmental. Such observations lend credence to behaviroism, cognition and constructivism as learning theories, as each example I listed emulates behaviors and actions consistent with those ideas.
I have also seen him utilize technology, and it is amazing that he understands not only how to operate digital artifacts, but that the digital is separate from the real. He understands input devices like keyboards and joysticks, and wonders why the television is not a touch screen. I think it is fair to say that his brain is different because of his exposure to technology, and this is the sort of thing that should be followed with keen interest rather than dire prognostication.
That being said, I don’t see unique learning interaction with technology because it’s technology. You might say that’s because he’s a toddler, but being young or having limited cognitive capabilities was not a limitation on the other theories (moreso, it perhaps strengthens them). If connectivism is about networks, organizations and appliance learning, it negates the developing human who needs pre-existing skill to get there. When I see my son interact with a digital and networked artifact, his externalization and internalization of the interaction/content/knowledge/learned stuff is no different than when he interacts with a tangible, physical artifact.
I think the connection between Internet networks and neural networks is a fascinating part of connectivism, and such a postulate really deserves hard scientific study. If neuroscientists have invested a great deal of time into studying the connection between brain function and learning disabilities, I think there is a subset of neuroscientists with an interest in education who would jump at the chance to connect the brain’s evolution through digital networks. Perhaps a coalition of educators and scientists could determine where knowledge rests physically or biologically.
Until then, my son will continue to explore his world, both with and without technology, and I will watch with wonder.