Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Kolb v Siemens: Dawn of eLearning

Whenever we talk about any teaching/learning approach, applying some sort of principle to your approach is generally expected. We often tend to "stick" to a principle(s), or, for the purposes of this post, a theory(or theories) that seem to work or resonate. In (re) reading Kolb' Experiential Learning and being newly introduced to Siemens' Connectivism, I was reminded of another theory which I've referred to in other contexts involving technology application in education: Constructionism. Given the amount of creation that is going on in this class thus far, I thought it relevant to bring this theory in to this post.

Seymour Papert has used the term “constructionism” to describe the process of knowledge construction resulting from constructing objects. When learners function as designers of objects, they learn more about those objects than they would from studying about them. “Constructionism… shares contructivism’s view of learning as ‘building knowledge structures’ through progressive internalization of actions… It then adds the idea that this happens especially felicitously in a context where the learner is consciously engaged in constructing a public entity, whether it’s a sand castle on the beach or a theory of the universe” (Papert & Harel, 1991, p.1). “Because of its greater focus on learning through making rather than overall cognitive potentials, Papert’s approach helps us understand how ideas get formed and transformed when expressed through different media, when actualized in particular contexts, when worked out by individual minds. The emphasis shifts from universals to individual learners’ conversation with their own favorite representations, artifacts, or objects-to-think with” (Ackerman, 2001, p. 4).

Contextualizing instruction is important for learning, particularly in specialized fields of education. Teachers need to be able to apply their own skills and learning directly to the contexts in which they work. Teaching someone how to create a Smart Notebook lesson without considering the need to adapt such a lesson to specialized situations, like, for example, the special education classroom, can lead to inadequate applications of the technology. Additionally, technology in education often involves creating something tangible (digital or physical) for the use of others. Technology integration training often includes instruction on how to use very software or hardware, with the goal of creating (or constructing) a final product or project, whether it be a class wiki, or website, or blog.

Kolb’s (1984) experiential learning theory presents a four stage cycle of learning that considers concrete experience (doing - similar to Papert), reflective observation, abstract conceptualization (learning from experience), and active experimental (trying what was learned - also similar to Papert). According to Kolb, learning involves the acquisition of abstract concepts that can be applied in different situations. Over the course of time, we can use these situations to challenge our assumptions, thereby allowing learning to occur at the “interplay between expectation and experience” (p. 28). Every time a person experiences any sort of event, there is potential for learning to occur. One can draw connections between belief systems, reflect on the new information acquired, and apply learning in attitudes moving forward.

Siemens’ (2005) connectivism acknowledges that learning occurs outside of the individual and is influenced mainly by the learner’s connection with a wider network. So while connectivism still begins with the individual, “personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to provide learning to individual” (p. 6). Connectivsm’s knowledge cycle of knowledge involves not only individuals but their network and the organizations in which they are positioned. Connectivism lends itself to how learning occurs within the Internet and online classrooms because “We can no longer personally experience and acquire learning that we need to act. We derive our competence from forming connections” (p.4). Additionally, connectivism explores the question of not only the process of learning that occurs but the value of what is being learned. Siemens explains that “In a networked world, the very manner of information that we acquire is worth exploring” (p. 3). I believe examining the manner of how we acquire information is an important part of the learning process since there is an increase in the multiple ways that people can now access information.

I believe experiential learning theory and connectivism are not mutually exclusive since they both view learning as a process occurring within particlulr contexts. However, connectivism accounts for learning that moves beyond the individual learner by linking the individual to a network and organizations that are essentially their own unique learning objects.


Ackerman, E. (2001). Piaget's constructivism, Papert's constructionism: What's the difference? Future of Learning. Available: http://learning.media.mit.edu/content/publications/EA.Piaget%20_%20Papert.pdf

Kolb, D.A. (1984): Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development

Papert, S. & I. Harel (1991), Situating constructionism. Chapter 1 of Constructionism. Available: http://www.papert.org/articles/SituatingConstructionism.html.

Siemens, G. (2005) Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age

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