Yesterday my five year old daughter did something that started me thinking about Connectivism, a theory of learning based on the premise that knowledge exists in the world rather than in the head of an individual. It’s a theory that takes into account the effect technology has had on how people live, communicate, and learn.
My daughter wanted to buy our dog Sooty a dog bed like her friend’s dog Tiki. I said that first I’d need to see whether the bed offered value for money.
“Do you know where to buy it?” I asked.
“Yes. It’s at Pet Stock,” she said.
“Ok,” I said. “We can ask them the price when we go to town tomorrow.”
“I can check it now,” she said. “There’s a Pet Stock website.”
She quickly googled “pet stock”, found the website, found the item and found the price.
I was struck by the fact that her immediate inclination was to search for the answer online, whereas mine was to wait until I could walk into a store and ask someone a question. Along the way she also learned that ‘canine’ refers to dogs, ‘feline’ to cats and ‘equine’ to horses (See website image below). Her learning happened without talking or communicating with another person. The answer to her question – along with other interesting information – was retrieved through a simple Google search followed by the successful navigation of a website.
Her behaviour reminded me of the suggestion made by Will Richardson of PLPnetwork that 21st century schools need to concentrate on teaching students know-how of the know-where kind rather than the know-what kind. There’s simply too much knowledge in the world to cram into our heads, but if we know where to access it, we can find it when we need it.
The development of writing, Gutenberg’s printing press, and now computer technologies have brought about major knowledge revolutions in human history. Today, the greatest repositories of knowledge are digital, and many of these repositories are accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.
Unfortunately, at $79.95, we decided the dog bed was a bit expensive, so Sooty is still sleeping on his old cushion.