Addendum to Stephen Downes presentation

There were two things I forgot to mention in my post about Stephen’s presentation.

1) When Stephen was introducing the concept of connectivist learning, he used an example of the knowledge that “Paris is the capital of France” to talk about symbolic versus connectivist learning. He described the propositional version of declarative knowledge, and countered with the idea that we have a cloud of connections around the idea of Paris, and around what we mean by France and that, in fact, there is not a sentence in the head declaring Paris is the capital of France, but there are instead a whole host of connections that embody that information (or something along those lines). I couldn’t help but think that the example was a poor one because to me, X is the capital of Y is quintessentially the sort of declarative knowledge people have with absolutely no other understanding of Paris, of France and of the notion of “is the capital of” (economically? politically? socially? is the biggest? is the most well known?). I know many people who know the all the captials of all the small african nations without even knowing where the country is on a map, who lives there, or anything else about the notion, because either they learnt it at school, or they know it for trivia quiz nights.

2) The other example Stephen used was of flying a jumbo jet from New York to Melbourne. He commented that flying a jumbo jet was so incredibly complex that one couldn’t possibly consider it to be a set of declarative propositions (or something like that – he was way more eloquent in his connectivist description of Paris and flying jets). What stood out for me, as a result of having thought about military pilot training for the past two years, is that the airline industry is the most proceduralised industry in the world, and there are checklists and procedures for every foreseeable situation. That is to say, there has been a concerted effort to write down every step of the process of flying a jet from New York to Melbourne, including every possible error-situation or event that may happen …

Anyhow – I’m not sure that knowledge carves up neatly between declarative, procedural, connectivist or symbolic. I suspect they are different levels of analysis and apply in different contexts, depending on what entrenched position is being challenged.

2 thoughts on “Addendum to Stephen Downes presentation”

  1. This is not really the point but–“having thought about military pilot training for the past two years”–?!

  2. I’m back being a cognitive scientist rather than a web-developer / online learning person. Surprisingly, pilot training, especially in the air combat domain, is a natural progression in my academic career. My neurophys stuff was on spatial coding and orienting behaviour, then I went into online learning and ed tech, which led to simulations in training. But the most interesting stuff in pilot training is the 4D space stuff, which is also ties in beautifully with martial arts. The interconnectedness of the universe continues to amaze me 🙂

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