After reading the article “Connectivism: A Learning Theory of the Digital Age” I felt that the author missed the duality inherent in online learning. I remember being a student at UC Berkeley in 1984 when the internet was still called the ARPANET which connected only universities and defense department facilities. There were many connections that made up the ARPANET but having a connection was not very useful if you were not a researcher or a defense department employee. This all changed when hyperlinks were invented along with the first web browser, Mosaic. All of a sudden people were creating websites with content of interest to users who were neither researchers or defense department employees.
The key to the evolution of ARPANET into the internet was due to the dual nature of connections and content. Without content to interest the common person in acquiring an ARPANET connection the online world grew slowly. When Mosaic and hyperlinks made connections between content that interested everyone ARPANET became the internet which grew exponentially. Connections and content are dependent on each other. A connection without useful content is as uninteresting as listening to a phone’s dial tone.
The article overemphasizes the importance of connections alone. It does not matter how many Twitter feeds, Facebook friends or blog followers a student maintains if new concepts, skills and ideas are not being transmitted. Students learn using social media connections when they are confronted with new information and not just the echo chamber of opinions and knowledge from their peers.
To encourage students to expand their online horizons they should use technology to create. Students that write software, produce videos and write e-books must not only make connections between ideas and concepts they find on the internet but also with ideas and concepts they have created themselves. Creating content to be shared through the interet’s connections should be the top of any online Bloom’s taxonomy.
A recent New York Times article on the innovations from Bell Labs illustrates the idea that learning is not just about making connections but by making connections between people that are creating new ideas. (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/innovation-and-the-bell-labs-miracle.html) The content from the innovations at Bell Labs formed the basis for the hyper connected world we have today.