For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about a new philosophy that might aptly describe the generation of today. Millenials and Generation Z’ers are the digital natives we see in our schools and in our streets today, holding their cellphones, always updated on their friends’ activities, taking selfies and posting them, and the list goes on and on. Then, I happen to see an article by George Siemens written in 2005 entitled Connectivisim: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age. Trying to understand the article, I was directed to this paper by Klinger, titled ‘Connectivism’ – A new paradigm for the mathematics anxiety challenge?, addressing a paradigm shift to reduce mathematics anxiety through this theory.
“Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories.” Since new information is continually being acquired, it is driven by the understanding that decisions are based on rapidly altering foundation. In connection to learning, some of its principles are that learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions, learning is a process of connecting specialized information sources, capacity to know more is more critical that what is currently known, and that ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill. Having an accurate but up-to-date knowledge is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
Now, how will this theory address mathematics anxiety? The author focused on one of its aspects stated thus as “the act of learning is largely one of forming a diverse network of connections and recognizing patterns”. Recognizing mathematics as a language, students may establish a link that would allow a one-to-one correspondence between mathematical concepts and their numerous abilities and understandings of the world. The learners already knows a lot of things around them and utilizing this idea, an approach or pedagogy could be reframed if they are mathematically anxious. Building on the principle that every new mathematics learning activity should be approached from a language perspective, teachers should identify a common base of understanding with which students can connect so that concepts can be discussed more easily before going formal over definitions and symbols. Emphasize that any mathematics that are written and read makes sense; that is, there is connection in either direction, translating mathematics language to the natural language and vice versa.
“Connectivism is the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, and complexity and self-organization theories.”
In addition, new mathematical ideas can be introduced by referring to what the prior of the students are and capitalizing on the non-mathematical everyday domains in identifying parallel or analogous ideas. By creating familiarity to existing knowledge network, the learners will be able to achieve a cognitive phase transition that transforms information into knowledge and eventually, understanding.
Indeed, this addition to the new set of “-isms” invoked that property of network connectivity in understanding complex system, such as a human’s brain. As a teacher, it is my continuing desire to connect new mathematical information to the existing knowledge-base of my students. Nevertheless, more research must be done to explore further this learning theory.