Connectivism and Decision Making

Decision-making is itself a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality. While there is a right answer now, it may be wrong tomorrow due to alterations in the information climate affecting the decision.

(G. Siemens, 2004)

While planning for our current G 3 UoI “Decisions” I thought about these words of George Siemens. In the process of pondering how the theory of connectivism can facilitate our teaching during this unit (given that decision making is a key learning process in connectivism), I decided that one of the main goals of this unit will be to develop the ability of our students to critically examine situations and new data and make intelligent decisions at their level.

Our central idea is “The decisions we make together impact how we cooperate and organize ourselves”. With this in mind, I created a sorting out collaborative learning activity for my students.

First we talked about our right and ability to make decision and discussed the situations when our decisions were different from other people’s. Here is a video that I found very helpful.

Next we started talking about universal moral values and how our good or our poor decisions affect others. How we can become part of a great team or loose all our friends because of our choice of actions. I used a story “Jamaica’s Find” to provoke a discussion on decisions and consequences.

Photo on 8-15-16 at 12.52 PM

During our next class I offered my students the sorting out activity mentioned above. All my students worked in groups of 3 (mixed ability). I wrote the 8 steps of the decision-making process on cards and gave them a couple of blank cards (in case some of my high-flyers wanted to add their own steps), mixed up all the cards and asked the students to sequence them from first to last.


Finally the most interesting Photo on 8-15-16 at 12.51 PM #2part of the activity began: the presentations. I did not assign the roles and they all chose the presenters without my guidance. It was very insightful to observe the group collaboration and dynamics. Each group had to present their order of steps of the decision -making process considering the diversity of opinions and maintaining connections and cultivating new ones (two other main principles of connectivism). Needless to say they all did it at their age group level, however, it was obvious that some students were ahead of others and enjoyed exploring the decision making steps, while others were passive and expected to follow the suggested option.

This activity highlighted the needs of my students. Those children who did not have any thinking experience in decision-making and probably got used to just doing what they were told immediately stood out. Hopefully these students will begin to realize that that it is an important life skill to be able to change roles in academic and social environments, and often challenging yourself serves you better than playing safe.



Unpacking Connectivism for Myself

In order to meet the learning needs of our students the best way we can, educators constantly have to explore new theories in our field and face the challenges  associated with integrating these in the classroom.

When I first heard about connectivism, I immediately wanted to learn more about it, consider all pros and cons and find out what was my colleagues experience with it.

The first question that I had was what connectivism means for teaching and learning.

The answer to this was that: “Knowledge doesn’t exist “in the heads” of learners or instructors but through networked connections.”

Another interesting point for me is that the process of learning becomes more important than the final product. I witnessed the tremendous advantages of such an approach, while my own daughter happily sailed on the IB ship through the sea of 12 unforgettable years. The most amazing skill that she acquired was learning how to learn and that skill had never failed her in her life.

The second question I had was what qualities/skills I need to develop to become a valued team member of the connectivism community. I found the answer on George Siemens’ blog “Elearnspace”  where he defines six key skills today’s educators need:

  1. Technical Competence—Proactively engaging new educational technologies. “Using any tool well requires a blend of technical competence and awareness of pedagogical opportunities.”
  2. Experimentation—Blending and borrowing teaching methods and tools. “Educators should constantly be experimenting with new technologies and pedagogies, refining their learning approach to constantly changing contexts.”
  3. Autonomy—Providing learners with an autonomous learning space. “Much like every educator is a researcher, every student needs to be a teacher –exploring, engaging, defining her/his own learning.”
  4. Creation—Learners need to create to engage in active learning. “Creation does two things:  1) Ideas morph when they are implemented. 2) Learner-produced creations re-center learning activity in a course.”
  5. Play—Exploring big ideas. “Simple exploration with loose boundaries.”
  6. Developing a capacity for complexity—Adaptability in the face of uncertainty. “Most answers don’t exist in advance of engaging with the phenomenon. Answers and questions are not like lego-blocks that need to be clicked together. Instead, answers are more like a painting or canvas in response to a problem landscape.”

The third question that I had was what my action plan will be if I decide to experiment and explore.

After reading several blogs and learning about what other teachers around the world are doing the action plan was formed in my head. The great thing is that I have already made the first steps and have come along on the journey to adapting connectivism to my learning environment for the development of my students and myself. My future plan consists, at the moment, of the three most important steps:

1. Continue blogging;

2. Join Twitter;

3. Join MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) Such courses most closely embody the theory within connectivism. In my case, to begin with, it is “SPELTAC”.

I decided to share my thinking and unpack my personal learning process in my first blog post as I am sure some of my colleagues may have the same questions and I will be glad if they find this post helpful.